Wholesome menu and stylish surrounds in Kallio.
It's long been known that Kallio is the coolest corner of Helsinki, not because of the height of its hills, but because it has traditionally afforded the cheapest private housing within a kilometre of the main railway station. For years it boasted the cheapest beer in Helsinki, along with the highest density of second-hand shops, hip bars and sundry alternative shops. As residents become more selective it's also increasingly a home to more upmarket businesses.
Originally a video shop, the restaurant Bergga, its name inspired by its location, on one side of the park that is 'the heart of Kallio'; Karhupuisto (Bear Park) – named Bergga in Swedish. It offers quality lunches from 11 am to 3 pm, and assorted snacks and drinks from 10 am to 10 pm, and Sundays until 8 pm. The restaurant sits atop the long cobbled slope of Porthaninkatu up from Toinen Linja just behind Hakaniementori.
Views from The Hill
Four trams (1, 2, 3 and 9) run in front of the cafe, almost touchable through the glass windows. The windows are so large that even the tables at the back have a good view of the petanque players or the Russian bear on its plinth.
The decor is functional, industrial-chic I was told, but stylish with the drinks displayed on a blackboard beside the bar. Don't be confused by its second section, hidden just round the corner, where the wines are listed!
Lunch cook Emma Wistrand serves a choice of three main courses on weekdays, ranging from Pike Fishcakes to Spinach Soup. One of them is always a veggie dish. "Everything is produced with my cutting knife and ladles – there are no ready-prepared plastic bags in my kitchen," says Wistrand.
Baker Lloyd Polack is often on hand to introduce you to his range of vegetarian snacks and tarts produced daily on the premises. He has been a familiar face on the Helsinki vegetarian food scene for longer than he cares to remember, but still he relishes teasing his customers' taste buds with his Caribbean-tinged food as much as their ears with his Birmingham humour.
The man behind the project is owner Jarkko Laitinen, who has now been in business on these premises for nearly 10 years, having started with the video shop in 2005. Turning the place into an eatery required a total rebuild, giving him the chance to redesign the café, starting from the sewage system and finishing at the spice racks. He had originally intended a lighter menu, with the selection displayed in the glass vitrine. But the ample kitchen gave rise to a broader lunchtime concept which kicked off after the opening in June this year, making the middle of the day their busiest hour.
Food for all seasons
Since then the customer base has built up from local passersby to diners from all around. The park area hosts a variety of restaurants, from a traditional Chinese to a rainbow cafe. But Bergga is alone in providing a wholesome modern menu with a decidedly stylish environment. With its young staff it is determined to offer a varied and reliable eating experience, tailored to its customers as much as to the season. Let's see what they come up with through the dark winter days ahead.