Café Talo: An eatery out of the ordinary
By Jo Iivonen | Photos: Café Talo
L ocated just across the bridge from downtown Helsinki, at the heart of the city’s bohemian Hakaniemi district, Café Talo pulls in urbanities of all ages and walks of life, all drawn in by the bar-cum-theatre-restaurant’s laid-back vibe, ever evolving menu and top-notch produce.
Owing to the Soho-esque feel of the neighbourhood, it’s no surprise that Café Talo – named after the Finnish word for house – is a magnet for artists, but that’s not all. “We’re a living room for absolutely everyone,” says Joakim Stenius, who founded the concept with three friends in 2009. “We go out of our way to source the best food and drink, but we’re also really focused on the ambiance.”
In addition to the two-storey space that’s emerged as the neighbourhood’s favourite home-away-from-home, Café Talo runs three bars at the Arena Theatre just next door. The upstairs area can also be hired for private events, including pre-theatre parties.
Locally-sourced, globally minded
Across the street is Helsinki’s favourite market hall. “We know everyone there and get to sample all ingredients, then pop back into the kitchen and serve everything afresh. That’s really important to us,” says Stenius.
The kitchen takes influences from the Mediterranean in particular. Patatas Bravas is a perennial favourite, as is the antipasti – authenticity guaranteed, thanks to the Naples-born head chef. When it comes to the mains, one dish stands above the rest. “The most popular choice is the burgers, definitely,” says the founder. “There’s always a new take on the good old classic, including vegan and gluten-free versions.”
The drinks list continues to evolve, too. “We like to keep things alive, try new stuff and treat clients to the best we’ve sourced from small producers. We’re always bringing in new craft beers, and our wine list never remains the same for long,” Stenius continues.
The bohemian home
Just like the menu, the décor is far from conventional. Step in, and you’ll be greeted by an eccentric assemblage of vintage tables, mid-century chairs and plump sofas, walls brimming with art brought in and out, freely, by the local community. A Twin Peaks-themed restroom completes the picture, owls and all.
One of the centrepieces is a freestanding clock that doesn’t work – on purpose. “We don’t count the hours here,” the restaurateur laughs. “Whether you’re 19 or 90, this is the spot to grab a bite, a drink and just chill out – for as long as you like.”
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