Vanhankaupungin Ravintola in Kokkola, Finland

Another restaurant review, in Finland.

Vanhankaupungin Ravintola is located in the cute old city of Kokkola, named Neristan, which consists of several old wooden houses. The place is really beautiful, even though it is hardly developed as a touristic attraction. You will find in this restaurant the classical Finnish fish and meat, in a mix of French and Finnish style. The result is a very convincing cuisine, especially since the quality of the products is perfect. I have been visiting this place many times and I noticed that a great improvement with the last seasonal change of menu: the level of the cooking has risen. The preparation are more elaborated, the presentation is better and the meals are pleasant to eat from the first bite to the last one. With these changes, the restaurant reach the level of the very best. However I must say that it sometimes underperforms…

Menu changes every 4 or 6 month, pricing is fair considering the portion: 12€ the starter, 20 to 30€ for the main dish and 11,5€ for the desert. Menu is at 40€. The wine list is short but regularly expanded and improved. Pricing is also very reasonable, from 30 to 150€. Ten wine or so are available by the glass. And that’s it for the facts. Let’s go a bit deeper…

The restaurant is of average size, installed in one of the old houses of Neristan. This gives the very pleasant impression to stay at somebody’s dinning room. Atmosphere is peaceful and relaxed. Service is clean and simple. No particular defect is to be mentioned. Eating there a 3 course meal will be done in less than a couple of hour. The wine service is good unless you have special request (like decanting), I would enjoy more suited glasses for high-end Champagne and a little less thick ones in general but this is a little detail.

Food is very good, nowadays even better than just a few months ago. The style has taken an inventive curve that is for the best, and takes for example the shape of a saffron ice cream with a very fine salt-marinated salmon. Also, the balance of flavor achieved by the Chef has greatly improved. The food is there typically Finnish considering the ingredients: you will find salmon, zander (pike-perch) or reindeer; with inspiration from French technique or aromatic balance like confit or seared meat. The menu itself changes often and offers around fifteen different meals. Right now, I would advise to taste the Jääkellarin lohta, the Confit and the Poronfileetä Wellington.

As I said, the winelist is very good. Wines are picked according to the menu and suggested with each meal. The list also changes during the year. You will find there only very carefully selected products, most of them being exclusive wines. At the moment, the greatest surprise comes from the Jacquesson 1997 a rare champagne which you can enjoy twice cheaper than in any other places I have visited, especially in France. Martin Codax, Schloss Goebelsbourg, Albrecht, Glaetzer, Dom Pérignon are among the names you will find there.


My appreciation: Highly recommended

  • Atmosphere: Formal –, relaxed, quiet, classical
  • Cuisine: Classical, local inspiration, good presentation, generous
  • Wine: Very good selection, around 30 wines, price range: 30-80€,
  • Service: Standard +, friendly, wine service is ok (no decanter).

Extra informations:

  • Internet site: HERE (excellent and comprehensive)
  • Reservation is better but in general not necessary
  • Last visit in May 2012

Jääkellarin lohta, sorte de saumon mariné au sel. Magnifique.

Ravintola Kielo in Joensuu, Finland

Today I introduce a new kind of post, a restaurant review. Since this restaurant is in Finland, it will be in English.

Ravintola Kielo is a very nice restaurant of Joensuu presenting a Karelian-style cuisine. It is fairly priced considering the quality of the products and of the cooking, though a bit high according to Finnish standards. The 3 course menu is at 43,5€, starters around 10€, main meal around 25€ and desert around 8€.  Wine list is short but relevant, ranging from 30 to 60€, with the possibility to order by the glass.

The overall impression is very good. It is a high quality restaurant, highly recommendable. The atmosphere is pleasant and relaxed: the dining room is classy and decorated with taste, but nothing too refined. The idea to create separated table space by using curtains is indeed a good one. This brings more privacy or intimacy, depending on the reasons for your visit.

Service is fast. One can argue that some defects are still visible, such as useless moves or a little awkwardness in accomplishing some tasks (like replacing the dead candle). It is not 3* service but again, this is a job well done and obviously careful enough. Wine service is fine too. Glassware is of very good quality (Spiegelau), service temperature are well managed (which is rare).

Food is very good and the products used of upper quality. At that point, I have to notice that the Chef tends to put too many different things on the plate (this is easily fixed by not eating what does not fit – like the sweet pepper sauce in the lamb dish). However the flavors are delightful and especially the cooking time of the meat is perfect, which means: as it should be to let the flavors express themselves and yet enough for Finnish customers to enjoy the food ;). The menu is interesting and lacks nothing. Desserts must be mentioned specifically well thought: tasty and balanced. As a conclusion I would say that the style of the cuisine is classical and delicate rather than innovative. It is the level of cooking of a 1* Michelin for those who know the guide standards.

Winelist is, as I said, interesting. There are however mistakes on it like the Martin Codax Rioja listed as Rias Baixas (which is strange since only white Albariño is grown over there) and many of the wines offered do not really suit the kind of food offered. True, they are wines that a Finnish customer will enjoy, like a sweet Riesling, but they do not match nicely the delicate style of the Chef. They would require meals stronger in taste. For example, I do not feel that a Pinot Gris Reserve from Alsace a New World off-dry Riesling or an Amarone della Valpolicella are the best choice. Still these are fairly priced wines and good quality ones. Albrecht, Martin Codax or Pieropan are clearly good producer in their respective regions.


My appreciation: Highly recommanded

  • Atmosphere: Formal –, relaxed, quiet
  • Cuisine: Classical, local inspiration, standard presentation
  • Wine: Good and interesting choice, less than 20 wines, range: 30-60€, partially suits the meals
  • Service: Standard +, good overall impression, clumsy in some details, wine service is correct (good temperature management but low skills in opening timing and glass filling)

Extra informations:

  • Internet site: HERE
  • Reservation would be advised Friday evening and Saturday
  • Last visit in January 2011

A very good lamb dish which illustrate the "too much thing going on". The sweet pepper sauce is a mistake. I would think about presenting the dish in a bigger plate to separate clearly the two different cooking styles of the lamb. Lamb as well as wine sauce were extremely good.

NB: This being the first restaurant review, you can expect some evolution around it.