Established in Helsinki in 2011, Restaurant Day is described on the official website as ‘a worldwide food carnival when anyone can set up a restaurant, café or bar for a day.’ People can sell their wares to the public by setting up a food stall wherever they like: at home, in a park, on the street or at the railway station. They are only limited by their imagination and their cooking skills.
Restaurant Day is now held four times a year in 27 countries around the world. We were lucky enough that the latest was held last Saturday on a bright and sunny spring day. We headed down to Vanhan Kirkon Puisto (Old Church Park) quite early and watched as the first stalls were set up.
My first purchase was from two girls who had set up a stall of home-made baking called Cafe Tivoli. Their chocolate brownie was delicious and a good accompaniment to our morning kahvi (coffee).
Jonny’s brother had a good looking falafel roll from another stand and Jonny bought a wrap from Soul Mamma’s Kitchen. It advertised itself as a vegan stall but he chose a goats cheese wrap from the menu. It came without goats cheese so was at least true to its vegan claim if not the menu.
Apparently food in Helsinki has come a long way in recent years but there is not as large a selection as we have at home. So it was really exciting to see offerings from cuisines as diverse as Korean, Moroccan, Dutch and Russian.
There was also a Brazilian barbecue offering a World Cup special of a main plate with a grilled banana and guarana. The boys were firing up their large open grill with a huge piece of meat on it as well as little chicken hearts on skewers.
Traditional Finnish fare was represented too; one of the most popular stalls we saw was run by a Finnish women’s assocation selling kahvi and pulla (coffee and pastries).
We saw the chef from the Mexican restaurant we had eaten at the night before setting up a stall; apparently Restaurant Day is a good way for people to try new recipes out on the public. I read one interview where a woman who was hoping to open her own Indian restaurant planned on using the day to gauge the popularity of various home-cooked dishes she hoped to put on her menu.
My only regret on this day was having breakfast before we came out. We had to head out to another event around midday so I didn’t quite have the appeptite to try as many things as I would have liked. But I’ll know better for next Restaurant Day, which will be held in mid-August.