A few weeks ago my cousin Jessie sent me an email that she would be coming to Helsinki with her husband, Olivier. It was the beginning to what would become a wonderful day and adventure that did not really go according to plan but turned out so much better. One lesson that I did learn however is that museums in Helsinki are not open on Mondays. My first stop in the morning before meeting up with Jessie and Olivier was to go visit a new coffee roastery called Kluuvikadun kahvipaahtamo, located in the basement level of the Kluuvi shopping center right in the heart of Helsinki. My old friend and colleague Hiski Lapinleimu is the entrepreneur behind the business. All of their coffee is either fair trade or organic and are traced to the source.
On the other side of the room is Armas Keittiö & Viinitupa. After being introduced to their lunch menu, I promised that we would be back. Our original plan with Jessie and Olivier was to visit Suomenlinna which is the fortress on an island just off the coast of Helsinki. The weather had decided otherwise and so we thought to go Kiasma, the museum of contemporary art and see their Marimekko exhibit. As we made it to the door, we noticed it was closed as did quite a few other tourists that would come and then turn around. And so we decided to have lunch. It was the correct decision.
The brains behind their locally sourced fast food concept at Armas Keittiö & Viinitupa is Heikki Ahopelto. Off to the side is a giant wood burning stone oven that is used daily for baking breads. Even their salmon is smoked on site using alder chips. Part of their concept is that the menu is not overly long but everything is made with care and quality ingredients. I had the salmon kebab that comes in a traditional Finnish potato flat bread. The coffee served with the lunch is freshly roasted across the room. I will be returning.
My sister had suggested that we visit Hotelli Torni which is an old historical hotel that was long the tallest building in Helsinki in addition to the church towers. The skyline of Helsinki is not filled with skyscrapers rather it is filled with older decorative buildings. We had luck. Just as we started our walk to Torni the rain stopped and we were able to get our photos of the city without getting wet. We could however see how a new rainfall was rolling in from the east and just as we were leaving the rain began again.
Perhaps we should have learned by now that museums are not open on Mondays, but we were quite persistent. We decided to go see if the National Museum might be open. We walked through Kamppi and decided to peek into the Kamppi Chapel of Silence. Outside there is the sound of constant traffic but inside the atmosphere was peacefully quiet. As we walked in, we noticed music stands and soon found out that because of the Helsinki cultural festival weeks there would be two violinists soon performing pieces by Bach and Bartok. And so we sat down in the silence accompanied by an occasional whisper and waited for a mini mid-day concert. It seemed that the day was full of little unplanned surprises. Aren’t those the best kinds of days?
After the performance we continued our stroll to the museum. On the way we spied a bakery, Kanniston Leipomo, with delicious looking korvapuusti which literally means an ear pull in Finnish but is actually a wonderful cinnamon roll. And so with our korvapuusti in a bag to go, we strolled to the National Museum. It was also closed. This was certainly not going to spoil our day! We slowly made our way to the restaurant that we were planning to meet my sister and husband for dinner when I noticed at text message saying that Ravintola Sipuli was not taking reservations for the evenings and so we went to Ravintola Nokka just around the corner on the harbor full of sailboats. I quickly texted my husband as well with the development of plans as he was planning on joining us as well. It was a day of eating locally sourced food. Each menu item at Ravintola Nokka is named after a town or city where they locally source their ingredients.
The buildings are built with red brick and had served as harbor storage in a previous life. The ceilings are high and typical to the era, the windows are arched. It was a combination of old and new. In between the kitchen and dining area is a glass wall. You could see the chefs working in their stainless steel kitchen. I loved the ambience. And I loved our company.