Last Saturday 21 May was a historical day in Helsinki. For one day, anyone could start their own pop-up restaurant, anywhere, and regardless of what the rules say. The first ever Ravintolapäivä (Restaudant Day) was a carneval-like celebration in favour of richer food cultures and against rules that sometimes make food such a complicated question. Organised through a Facebook event, small and original restaurants popped up just for a few hours – on the streets, parks, clothing shops or homes, offering tapas, drinks, smoothies, popsicles and even fancy dinners served at home in the evening.
We started the restaurant tour in the afternoon, after visiting a cosy courtyard flea market in the picturesque wooden neighborhood of Vallila, where Soup King, one of the pop-ups, served soup, advising its customers to buy plates at the flea.
We rode the bikes with friends to the container square at the Kalasatama harbour, where I had the most original pizza of my life. The Forager Baker kitchen offered tasty dough and wild herbs picked from the forest in the morning: nettle, fireweed, dandelion buds and other greens. Everyone could make their own pizza with their choice of ingredients, baked in a stone oven that was built in the harbour last summer by a group of activists. The stone baked crusty pastry had a delicious earthy flavor, and even better enjoyed in the sun with some French music and a glass of Riesling from the bicycle bar that had also stopped by at the harbour.
On the way to Kalasatama we stopped by in Kallio, to see a most original restaurant idea: a sandwhich bar offering bread from a 3rd floor apartment window, carried down to the street in a basket. Of course, we were too late to enjoy the offerings, as the idea had attracted people to queue on the street already from the morging. Even all the main TV channels visited the man behind the sandwich basket.
The Restaurant Day was a welcome idea, celebrated by many, and rumours tell there will be a re-run in August. Most surprising of all, even the authorities welcomed the food actions. As one of the organisers told on Facebook, they received a message from the restaurant authorities, wishing a sunny day and just reminding the pop-up chefs to “keep cold as cold, hot as hot, hands clean and trash in the bin”. I rubbed my eyes a few times reading this.
“I can’t believe we’re in Finland. Finnish people are never like this”, commented Akiko from Japan, on MTV3.fi. Well, weren’t we all happily surprised of this inspiring, happy and relaxed day.
Personally, I got so carried away by the wild herb pizza, that I went on my own foraging ride on Sunday to pick some nettles for my bread rolls and vegetable stew. Mmm! Plenty of time now to plan our own Ravintola for the next carnival in August.