Helsinki’s Mediterranean foodie scene is much more than pizzas and feta salads. From Iraqi breakfasts and Middle Eastern street food to Spanish tapas and Turkish style fine dining, here are Helsinki’s 10 must-visit Mediterranean restaurants.
Na’am in Arabic means yes, but in Na’am Kitchen it also means flavoursome Middle Eastern and North African cuisine. Opened in 2016, Na’am Kitchen was selected as the best Helsinki restaurant by locals and has since opened two other city centre locations. The original Na’am is located in the bohemian Punavuori district and with its pink walls and shiny copper lamps the restaurant has an urban hipster vibe. The €11,90 lunch plate is very good value for the money and includes a fresh and crunchy salad, bread and pastes as well as a vegetarian and meat option. Or try the moist and tasty lamb tagine or the mixed salad with hummus, bulgur and borani spinach.
Owned by a bunch of foodie rebels renown for their sassy cocktail bars, Via Tribunali brings the tastes of Napoli to Helsinki. Tucked in a cobblestone street that leads from the Senate Square to the South Harbour, Via Tribunali is a perfect spot for either a quick lunch or a leisurely dinner. After three months of operating, Via Tribunal acquired the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana certificate for its traditionally Neapolitan pizzas. Via Tribunali’s Neapolitann pizza menu includes classics such as margarita and marinara and are quickly flashed in a traditional Valoriani open-fire oven, which burns in over 450 degrees Celsius. The desserts include Italian gelato (although not authentic) and silky smooth ice cream from a local artisanal Ice Cream parlour called Jädelino.
Located in the leafy Boulevard area, Boulevard Social got its inspiration from the colourful Moroccan open markets, picturesque Lebanese sunsets and the turquoise sea in Greece. The flavours of the beautifully balanced ingredients follow the freshness of these images: no wonder Boulevard Social is included both in the Michelin Guide and the White Guide. With its cosy and dimly lit interior and the plates made for sharing, Boulevard Social’s food and atmosphere are best enjoyed with a group of friends. Try the crispy chestnut and date croquettes with lemon mayonnaise, honey-roasted carrots with sesame hummus and crispy chickpeas and the in-house smoked salmon with avocado labneh, trout roe and lemon jam. There is also extensive wine and cocktail lists: try the house Negroni where the bitter has been replaced with the Italian Rovero Barbera Chinatoa wine.
Eerikin Pippuri was serving tasty falafels even before falafels where in fashion. Opened in 1997, the traditional kebab and falafel restaurant has become a late-night snack icon in Helsinki. But sneak in for lunch and you will be served a hefty meal at a very reasonable price by Helsinki’s standards. There are now four Eerikin Pippuri (Erik’s Pepper) restaurants in Helsinki, but try the original one at Eerikinkatu, which is just around the corner from the sleek Kamppi shopping centre and next door to the historic cinema Orion.
Soil Wine Room is a city centre tapas and wine bar with a cosy atmosphere in an urban setting. Apart from impeccable wines, Soil Wine Room also serves a selection of tapas plates. The chef Matti Romppanen used to run a Finnish restaurant in Barcelona for four years until his return to Helsinki, where he started to serve Helsinki’s tastiest tapas. The restaurant imports its ingredients directly from Spain, which guarantees the rich and fresh flavours’ authenticity. Try Soil Wine Room’s version of Barcelona’s classic Iberico ham and Manchego cheese toast, white anchovies from Palamos or the air-dried Iberia Bellota pork ham from Extremadura.
Taverna Zorbas is a classic Greek restaurant that has not changed much since opening in 1981. Entering Zorbas gives you a warm breeze of the traditional Greek cuisine in Helsinki. Located in Alppila, near the trendy Kallio district, you can get the tram 3B from city centre right to Zorbas’s door. The flavours are traditionally Greek – as is the abundantly Greek decor – but most importantly the meat dishes here are worth mentioning. Try the classic moussaka, or arnaki lefitko, rosemary lamb baked in paper wrapping with feta and goat cheese.
Opened a few years ago, Sandro introduced the North African and Middle Eastern cuisine to the larger population of Helsinki and Finland. Sandro’s flavoursome brunches and lunches quickly became a foodie highlight in Helsinki and there are now five Sandro restaurants in Finland. The original restaurant is located in Kallio, just off the immediate city centre, but there is one in Kamppi shopping centre (with fabulous views!) and another in the prestigious Eira district, too. Try the Marrakech Madness Brunch (€29,90), which includes a selection of salads, warm dishes as well as an abundance of sweet treats – not to mention the refreshing glass of Mimosa.
Located in the recently opened luxury hotel St. George, Andrea brings an Anatolian feast to city centre Helsinki. The restaurant is created by the Finnish-Turkish chef Mehmet Gürsin, who also owns Istanbul based Mikla, a restaurant that has been featured on the World’s Top 50 Restaurants Listing on multiple occasions. The menu includes finger foods, slow-cooked meats and flatbread with multiple toppings. Try the cold or warm mezzes, such as calamari with chilli and coriander, or the rack of lamb with spicy tabbouleh and homemade yoghurt.
If you are after Mediterranean street food head to Levant, a vegetarian restaurant serving Middle Eastern flavours. Levant, as the geographical name implies, serves dishes from the eastern corners of the Mediterranean Sea, namely from Libanon. The menu includes various salads, mezes and falafels and many portions are available as vegan and gluten-free meals as well. Try the falafel roll with Baba Ganoush, or the Meze Levant with falafel, hummus, tabbouleh and Baba Ganoush and finish off with a refreshing mint leaf tea.
A true fan of Middle Eastern flavours heads to the suburbs of Helsinki to visit Kirkuk. Located near Itäkeskus Shopping Centre, Kirkuk is just a 20-minute metro ride from central Helsinki. Kirkuk’s style is far from the city centre establishments’ sleek and rustic looks, and so are its food. The restaurant takes pride in cooking its meats on a charcoal grill and you can even order a traditional Iraqi breakfast – half of a lamb’s head. For less unique dishes, try the Turkish style Shish kebab with rice, seasoned with coriander, cinnamon, fennel, nutmeg and cardamom.