Helsinki’s hidden vegetarian restaurant: Zucchini

Photo taken from http://libraloves.blogspot.fi/

Hidden on the Fabianinkatu 4 is Zucchini, a small local vegetarian lunchroom, where there is only 1 meal for everyone, served in an old-school lunchroom style and where strangers eat at shared tables. This was also my first restaurant when coming to Finland, the first, and so far the best. Even though the lunch menu doesn’t offer a lot (either you take the main course with or without the daily soup, or just the soup alone, the menu changes daily) it definitely has a certain charm, eating the very same meal as everyone else around you. On top of that, the restaurant is quite small and popular too, so this means that around noon it gets quite crowded and literally every chair will be taken. Sharing a table with strangers is definitely not something out of the ordinary here. Which amazed me even further; I never visited a restaurant where you shared a table. Picnic tables in the park, sure, but in a restaurant? Nope. To many Finnish people this might sound quite normal, after starting University here I found out that this is also how the lunch at the campus works (but then with 4 different choices instead of just 1). I never experienced anything like this back in the Netherlands, where all we eat during lunch is some slices of bread with something in between (like a slice of cheese or some peanut butter).

Before going to Zucchini I never expected it to be like this, so upon entering the small room, which at that point was quite crowded, we were in for a real surprise(and a bit doubtful too!) But the people behind the counter were incredibly helpful and explained everything clearly. 1 meal: 10 euros: water, bread and butter to your hearts contents, included.

my first meal there(the bread is amazing too)

my first meal there(the bread is amazing too)

After settling at a table, shared with a young couple, we finally got the taste. And what a taste it was! The main meal included 3 different dishes and a salad of some sort, all perfectly attuned to each other. Now I’m not a food expert, nor am I claiming to be one, but the food was delicious and definitely a good price for a restaurant meal in Helsinki!

The two rooms are tiny but very cosy and add even more to the atmosphere of the place. We loved it so much that we actually returned the next day for lunch again. The only downside of the restaurant would be their opening hours; it closes at 3. But it adds to the Finnish culture of eating warm during noon(something I’ve become accustomed to now as well).

Aside from meals they also have some salads, delicious looking pies and cakes that I have yet to try out. Next week, when I’ll be back in Helsinki again with my friend is who visiting from Belgium, I will definitely take her to Zucchini for lunch!

When going there, take a good look at the map, we were walking around for a bit before finally finding it!

A snap shot of Riga, part 2

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Riga has enough to offer to keep you busy for at least a week. There are the main attractions such as the old market halls, the churches and other common tourist spots. But these are things you’ll be able to find yourself quite easily when you go there. So instead I’ll talk about the places you might not think of! Today I’ll focus on one restaurant and one café that are definitely worth visiting.

Folkklubs Ala
If you walk a few streets towards the river from the St. Peter church you might end up in Peldu Iela, a street with quite a few bars and restaurants. And most importantly: Folkklubs Ala, a traditional Latvian tavern. Don’t let the dodgy entrance fool you, after descending down the stairs, walking through a hallway that seems to be used for storage, you will suddenly find yourself in medieval Riga. This underground bar looks, feels and sounds like the old times (but it thankfully doesn’t smell like it!) Dark and scarcely lit, there are a two halls were you can sit down. There’s an area with comfortable couches and low tables, or bars where you can sample one of the local beers. You can also choose to sit down at one of the wooden tables for a real Latvian meal. But what would a folk club be without folk music? Not a folk club obviously. The place has live traditional folk music for about 4 out of the 7 nights, often accompanied by dancing as well. However, for the dancing you might want to shape up before joining, the locals dancing there seem to know their steps pretty well and easily synchronise together to the songs (a sight to see, but intimidating if you were thinking about joining!)

Tims mints
Located on a small square behind the St. Peterschurch is Tims mints; A hidden pearl, recommended to us by blue cow. A small pre-party café owned by three siblings. The place has a nice, cosy atmosphere and you just can’t help but feel at home. We only went there for cocktails, but they have meals during the day as well. As for the cocktails, they don’t have a fixed menu so just tell them what kind of flavours you would like and you will be pleasantly surprised! I myself managed to get an apple cinnamon cocktail served in one of their many iconic jam-jars.

That’s it for today, comments are appreciated!

Next up: in my opinion the best bookshop of Riga, a mysterious case and free tours!