Those of you who have been following me for a while, may remember a few months ago I attended the bloggers dinner at Olo Garden & Bar (you can check out my previous post here). Since that night I was lucky enough to receive an Olo gift voucher from one of my best friends, so I jumped at the chance to head back there (A quick recap for the uninitiated, Olo is one of the four restaurants in Finland that currently hold a Michelin star. It consists of the main Michelin star rated restaurant, the creative kitchen, where you can watch the Olo chefs prepare food right in front of you and finally the Olo Garden & Bar).
I can honestly say that Olo garden is one of favourite places to eat in Helsinki. The venue itself is unique, an inner courtyard under a high glass ceiling with a Southern European garden like ambiance. However, apart from the amazing food, the atmosphere and service are among the best I have experienced in a long time. I am not a huge fan of stuffy formal restaurants, so felt much more at home in Olo garden’s relaxed atmosphere. The staff, were incredibly attentive, warm and friendly. I have to mention I have in no way been paid to write this post, I simply want to recommend Olo Garden as a destination to any vegans thinking of visiting Finland, or anyone in the city who hasn’t yet had a chance to go.
So on to the food. I opted for the 6 course surprise menu (I had informed the restaurant when making the reservation that I needed a vegan menu). After a palate cleansing hibiscus and lemon tea and pillowy soft buckwheat toast with black garlic and oat creme fraiche, the surprise menu began.
The first plate was a colourful medley of yellow root, carrot and beetroot, with a pea purée, which was simple, but fresh and full of delicate flavour. Next a dish of deep fried cauliflower with pickled seaweed, which has to be one of the best cauliflower dishes I have ever eaten.
The parsnip and pear soup which followed, was one of my personal favourites. I love parsnips and their sweetness matched perfectly with the fruity pear. The soup contained a hidden surprise of velvety pear puree, topped with crispy quinoa which added another texture to the creamy soup. My main course was another highlight. What could be described as simply mushroom and onion buckwheat porridge, was anything but boring. Different varieties of mushroom and onion had been pickled, roasted and sautéed to give the dish different layers of flavour and texture. The buckwheat porridge itself was creamy, earthy and rich. I would love to be able to create something anywhere near as good at home! The first of my two desserts was a blueberry sorbet with aerated smoked chocolate, which was refreshing and light after the rich porridge.
However the second dessert was simply the icing on the cake. A vegan pancake was served with creamy oat creme fraiche marbled with berry puree, sweet caramel apple jam and tangy lychee sorbet. This was the perfect indulgent finish to a fantastic meal.
I should also mention the drinks. The bar has a great range of cocktails (the sea buckthorn is my personal recommendation) and the staff rose to the challenge of our request to pair beer rather than wine with the food. We tasted four different beers from the Malmgård Brewery, which produce a fantastic range of ales and ciders and are based in Loviisa, about an hour away from Helsinki.
The 6 course vegan menu, a cocktail and 4 beers (500 ml bottles shared between 3 people) cost around 105 euros each, which is the normal price you might expect to pay in Helsinki for a dinner with drinks. However for the level of food and service I actually think it is fantastic. Olo offered some of the best vegan food I have eaten. The service was superb and there were so many little extra touches, for instance the head chef took the time out to serve us at least three of the six courses. I really do recommend a visit.
For more information and to make a reservation, visit Olo’s website here