A weekend of eating in Helsinki with a visit to Ravintola Saaga

 

Last weekend I visited the Finnish capital Helsinki for a 70 year birthday party. Since Helsinki is such a short flight from Stockholm (approximately 45 mins) you can go straight from an (almost) full day work and still have a decent evening out. Many airlines fly this route so you’re usually able to score decent priced tickets during campaigns. We flew Norwegian and just barely had times to finish our sparkling wine before landing (not included in ticket). The only gripe is that Helsinki’s an hour ahead, so you’ll lose an hour due to the time difference, although you get it “back” on your return.

 

For our first night I was so lazy so I just scanned google maps for a good-rated restaurant near our hotel Glo Hotel Arts. I managed to find Ravintola Saaga or Saaga restaurant, which is a semi-fancy and sort of touristy Lappish restaurant. We started with a glass of sparkling wine topped with cloudberry liquor and some free nibbles from the kitchen consisting of reindeer jerky on rye crispbread with horseradish cream and pickled onion.

 

For main, fried sea pike with king crab from the Arctic Ocean, roasted butter sauce, cauliflower purée and crisp malt bread. I also had a delicious slow-cooked reindeer shank with mushroom purée as well as pickled mushroom, the picture of it in the dimly lit restaurant however, wasn’t as delicious.

 

For dessert we had iced cranberries in an ice bowl. The bowl was, as the name implies, made out of ice, which was a quite cool (sorry) feature. The caramel-liqourice sauce that came with it was delicious. The main problem with this dish was when the sauce started to cool (sorry) and was poured over the even cooler (sorry) iced cranberries. It of course did not defrost them as the general idea of the dish was, and that meant you had to eat frozen cranberries with cold caramel sauce for the last part of the dessert. Great idea though, and very tasty as long as the sauce was warm. Eat fast in other words.

 

We also tried the Lappish squeeky cheese with a pine-tar cream, cloudberry crumble and cloudberry sorbet. This was also a very clever and unique dessert with the tar flavour shining through the dessert’s different components, giving a tar-y smoky taste, contrasting the sweetness of the cream and sorbet. The cheese did not taste that much but had a nice texture.

Price for a meal €€+

Prices were semi-expensive, but not that bad considering Helsinki is a quite expensive city. We paid about €130 for 2 mains, 2 desserts, 2 glasses of sparkling wine with cloudberry liquor and a bottle of the least expensive wine on the menu.

Service was friendly but a little bit slow.

Website (menus and online booking in English available – through a form)

 

The rest of the trip was spent walking Helsinki (above is the beautiful Helsinki Cathedral) and attending the birthday party.

 

Where we stayed

We stayed at Glo Hotel Art a few blocks from the city center. The rate was about €90 and we had a very small but comfortable room with wifi, motorized bed, shower and flatscreen TV as well as breakfast included.

Website

¡Hola, Gran Canaria!

January, probaby my least favourite month of the year. Mostly because it is usually (very) cold, without the ability to tell yourself to think of it as ‘christmassy’ to make it a bit more bearable. It’s also the starting point of a very long stretch towards Spring which hopefully will happen somewhere in late March/April. In this time we also talk about the seven setbacks. Meaning that when you first think that Spring might actually be happening, a massive snowfall will take you down to earth. And then you relive this moment of agony seven times. That is January to March in Sweden. Hence, I travel.

This time the plan was to visit the Gambia. I recently visited Cape Verde which I really liked, and since I like to visit new places and have a newfound fascination for Africa, Cape Verde’s semi-neighbour Gambia sounded like the right place. The plan was also to visit neighbouring Senegal and possibly, if we were feeling extra adventurous, visit also neighbouring Guinea-Bissau. Then came an election, democracy was on the horizon for Gambia. But unfortunately, to this date that hasn’t happened. The neighbouring states in the Ecowas has threatened Gambia’s incumbent leader with a military intervention if he doesn’t step down. So far he hasn’t and therefore we decided to not go. Instead, we’re on the Canary Islands. The idea was to fly here from Sweden, stay two days and then fly on to Banjul with regional airline Binter Canarias. But now we’re here for ten days instead, and fortunately were able to secure the last room at a very nice hotel. Anyway, below is a couple of pictures from the trip so far.

Food onboard SAS’ Plus class (which is sort of an inbetween of premium economy and business class): brisket, roast root vegetables, horseradish cream and French bubbly (no champagne though) in a nice airplane-adapted glass from Swedish design company Orrefors. Might also have had a small bottle of Italian Zinfandel as well as a Danish Mikkeller craft beer. I really like SAS’ cooperations with Nordic high quality brands to add to the onboard experience. 

Playa del Inglés, where we stayed our first two days at the Sentido Gran Canaria Princess. Great rooms, lousy wifi, decent breakfast and dinner buffet.

Dunas de Maspalomas. A small desert-like area along the beach. We walked there for three hours without sunscreen meaning we are now charmingly pink. Such morons, but we were angry over not being able to go to Gambia so we forgot.

Beach.

The we decided to stop whine and start to wine (sorry). Well, at least drink. Caipirinhas at Sentido’s pool bar.

Buffet dinner at the Sentido GC Princess hotel. Padronés, asparagus and jámon.

Yesterday we met with my sister who is currently living here working. She took us to Misbah, an Indian restaurant in Meloneras where had a really nice Indian dinner as well as a surprisingly good sangria. I tried their murgh makhani, or butter chicken, with naan, pilau rice and mint sauce. Slightly expensive, but in a nice location. Worth a visit if you crave Indian food while visiting Gran Canaria.

To be continued.

Thomas Cook Airlines’ Sun Class (sort of a review)

Just got back from our trip to Cape Verde. We traveled there with Swedish tour operator Ving, which is part of Thomas Cook Northern Europe. Hence, we flew with Thomas Cook Airlines for our 7 hour trip (actually 6 hours, 40 minutes) to Cape Verde.

I will write more about the actual Cape Verde trip (and the food) in a separate post. UPDATE: Here it is – a guide to what to eat in Sal’s Santa Maria.

Anyway, as the cost for upgrading to Thomas Cook Airlines’ Sun Class was quite affordable (600 kr or about €60) return, we opted to go for it. What it gave us was basically another 10 cms of space and our own front of the plane-cabin. Otherwise food, personal tv screens and service was the same as regular economy. So this “review” pretty much covers that as well, for the interested.

Seats
The whole plane, an Airbus A330-300 felt quite new and clean. The personal screens were HD and was one of the best I’ve seen on any flight. You had to pay to access movies (35 kr/sek) and some of the other content. However using the inflight map, listening to music and viewing some of the other content was free. You could also plug in your own headphones and charge your USB-device through the screen which in my mind is a huge plus.

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Food and drink
I eavesdropped to a conversation about the food between one of my fellow passengers and one of the flight attendants. Apparently Swedish pre-fab food company Dafgårds handles the inflight food catering for Thomas Cook Scandinavia. The food was quite good for being on a plane actually. Everyone was served the same dish which on the outbound trip was chicken salad followed by pannbiffar (Swedish burger patties) with peppercorn-cream sauce and mash as well as a standard airplane dessert. Warm, really fresh (best on a plane I’ve had I think) bread was also served. On the return we had Skagen mix (it’s supposed to be shrimps in mayo – this was more likely surimi or something similarly awful), followed by a really (for an airplane) tasty beef stroganoff. The finale was a tasty but very sweet chocolate mousse.

Drinks were sold, and you could get a small bottle of Pommery Champagne for 90 kr, or a glass of nice New Zealand Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc (3 Wooly sheep) for 65 kr. There was also a less expensive wine as well as a couple of drink packages. We opted for the “Bon Voyage” with one bottle of Pommery Champagne, one bottle of whatever wine you prefered as well as snacks and water for 150 sek.

This meant we got pretty much a Intra-Europe business class experience (with more legroom) at the cost of roughly 1000 kr or €100 extra per person. It was surprisingly nice to be honest and for a total of almost 14 hours in the air, quite a bargain according to me. Now they just need to install wifi, and I’d be thrilled to fly Thomas Cook Airlines’ Sun Class again. 🙂

Thai first class in pictures

We were most fortunate to have saved up on our Eurobonus (Scandinavian Airline’s frequent flier programme) miles last year, and using them we booked a trip that was really, really something. The trip started in Stockholm and continued on to Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Bangkok and finally Manila, Philippines, where our first stop was. We then returned home by flying from Singapore to Bangkok, Paris and finally Stockholm. Without further elaboration (if you want to find out how to do it, read up on Flyertalk.com, Businessclass.co.uk or Swedish version Businessclass.se) below are the pics and some comments from the flight. Read here about the actual trip to Manila, Boracay and Singapore.

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Early morning in Copenhagen, waiting to board Lufthansa’s flight to Frankfurt.
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Tasty breakfast in Lufthansa’s business class.
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Fast forward to Frankfurt airport and a glass of champagne in the Lufthansa Senator lounge.
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Hello spaceship seat. Thai’s A380 first class offer large seats that are converted into a bed when it’s time to pass out after the free-flowing Dom Perignon 2004.
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Decent leg room.
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Small lounge area for first class passengers. No one really used it except for us.
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This friendly guy was head of cabin on both Frankfurt-Bangkok and then Bangkok-Paris on our trip back.
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Starters. Cheese and crayfish mini sandwiches. Crayfish were good, bread a bit soggy.
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The traditional caviar serving. Very delicious.
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Without a doubt is this the best thing I’ve ever had on a plane. Lobster with linguine pasta and cream. The lobster wasn’t even remotely dry, which really surprised me. Washed down with Dom Perignon it was spectacular.
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Dessert.
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Bed’s made, time to pass out.
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After a quick change of planes in Bangkok, we boarded Thai Airways’ Boeing 777 in business class.
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Book-the-cook meal of pad krapow gai wasn’t that exciting.
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Manila, big city.
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After two and half week in Asia it was time to fly back. First up was Singapore Airlines in business class.
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Seats.
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Singapore Airlines intra Asia business class cabin on Boeing 777-200.
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Champagne (the very delicious Charles Heidsieck), water and a Singapore Sling.
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Book the cook lobster thermidor.
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Decent views.
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Thai Airways’ royal first class lounge in Bangkok.
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First class passengers have access to a complimentary 1 hour massage at Bangkok Airport. Opted for a one hour foot massage that was great.
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The first class lounge have an a la carte restaurant that serves a decent club sandwich, among others.
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Cheese platter on the Thai First leg to Paris. In general this flight was less good than the one from Frankfurt to Bangkok. No idea why, but food was mediocre and service not as good.
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Coffee and dessert.
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Went for the eggs benedict for breakfast. A quite hideous experience with eggs so hard boiled/poached that the yolks were crumbly. The hollandaise was some kind of sauce base with artificial lemon flavour, the bacon were fatty and oily, I guess the English muffin was edible. Barely though. I should’ve understood this though, eggs benedict are easy enough to mess up as it is.

All in all though, it was a fantastic experience and I’m hoping to do this as soon as I’ve saved up on the miles again. Won’t be anytime soon though I’m afraid.