The sun returned for Ravintola Päivä.  A tourist arriving in Esplanadi park today would be forgiven for thinking Helsinki is ordinarily a city bustling with street food hawkers vending everything from dim sum, churros, and gulab jamun and that the park would normally be heaving with customers munching their way through a menu worthy of the United Nations. Sadly, a normal Sunday is quite the opposite.

Culinary Helsinki is paradoxical, on one hand there are many celebrated restaurants and dining experiences, but the bulk of Helsinki’s eateries are a bland and disappointing selection of Nepalese and pizza joints, and of course the dreaded kebab shop.

Of course there are natty pizzerias and Mexican restaurants, but also a dearth of bakeries or patisseries. This isn’t Brussels or Paris croissants, tarts and flans are only found either at heart stopping prices in places like Fazer café, or lying dry or lifeless in the bakery section of the supermarket.

The saddest thing of all about eating in Helsinki is the complete absence of anything that could be called Finnish. Barring the ubiquitous rice pie (riisipiirakka), there’s no equivalent of fish and chips or nshima and T-bone. Lunch in the capital is dominated by the all-you-can-eat buffet – Thai, Indian, Chinese. I have seen only one place serving a “workman’s” buffet: sausages, mashed potato, red sauce, brown sauce, mince and other food that could be called Finnish cuisine.

Naturally every city has its own culinary culture and I’m not saying Helsinki should flood its streets with food vendors just to live up to a perceived demand for street food. However, ravintola päivä does remind me of the variety of munchies that are normally impossible to find here at a reasonable price. Moreover, when you throw in good weather and excellent company – it makes a brilliant Sunday.

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