Before we cover eating around Helsinki, I want to talk about Tallinn. It turns out that Estonia's capital is no more than a two-hour boat ride from Helsinki and our airbnb hosts and Michael's Finnish colleagues urged us to take a day to visit its Old Town. Indeed we were completely charmed by Tallinn's architecture, from its 13th century walls (pictured bottom of post) to the well-maintained pastel-hued shops and the orthodox churches.
Happy Cow also pointed us towards the instructively named Vegan Restoran V for lunch. Even as we arrived at their noon opening their cozy indoor seating was almost booked out - clearly they have a good reputation.
We started out with bubbly drinks in fancy glasses and distinctly Estonian nutty brown bread; Michael made sure this was all gobbled up before our meals arrived and the staff kindly supplied more.
As we picked through the rest of the menu, I wasn't sure what to order. The dips and cashew cheeses of the starters list appealed to me more than the salads, soups and main courses. That is, besides the seitan dish that Michael had already claimed - I wasn't in the mood for barley or quinoa or even a burger.
In the end I followed my instincts and ordered two starters. The beetroot ravioli with cashew cheese (4.90€ ~ AU$7.60) was a lovely little plate with skins of beetroot and generous lashings of tangy cheese garnished with fresh spinach leaves, sprouts and a little pesto.
Even better was the snack platter (7.90€ ~ AU$12.20), where I picked my way through spicy crumbly wedges of tofu, cheese cubes, olives, sundried tomatoes, more sprouts and spinach, and the two best components - grilled zucchini sandwiched with more cashew cheese, and pumpkin hummus on fresh bread. These dips were beautifully seasoned with garlic and salt, and I'd have gladly made a meal of them (and really, I just about did, didn't I?).
Meanwhile Michael took on the grilled seitan with parsnip carrot puree and red wine beetroot sauce (8.70€ ~ AU$13.50). It was a gorgeous, full-flavoured rainbow of a plate with two tender 'steaks', a comforting mash and fruity sauce, lifted by fresh asparagus, cherry tomatoes, radishes and herbs.
As we spied on the meals served to other tables, it was evident that there were no wrong orders from this menu. What didn't quite excite me on the page was consistently vibrant on the plate. The selection of vegan cakes by the counter were cute, too, but we didn't have the appetite or the time (our table had a reservation attached to it).
With English menus, professional staff and favourable prices, we couldn't fault our short lunch at Vegan Restoran V. The restaurant and Tallinn as a whole were unexpected delights that we'd enthusiastically recommend to anyone visiting northern Europe.