Seating spills outdoors

A breath of genuine South American air arrives in Töölö.

It’s Wednesday evening and restaurant-bar Favela is buzzing. Having been open for only a day, the amount of people is almost surprising. The age span of the clientele seems to stretch from 20-somethings to middle aged and beyond. And most importantly, everyone seems visibly in good spirits.

As the name implies, the new restaurant takes its inspiration from South America. The place is painted in bright colours and spreads into three different rooms, seating around 70 people. In addition, there’s a terrace outside on Mechelininkatu.

“The menu is also influenced by South American tastes,” manager Niko Peltomaa confirms. Favela has replaced his previous fine dining restaurant in this same location. In Peltomaa’s own words, the fine dining has turned into fun dining.

“We wanted to keep it simple this time – relaxed, easy, no fuss. Everyone’s welcome. Also, street food is something different in this part of town. In Kallio there are already lots of places riding the street food wave, but Töölö was still missing its own.”

The Favela menu consists mainly of sandwiches and salads. With the sandwich, there are three different options: beef, salmon and bean. I opt for the beef, which proves to be a great choice. The bread is of great quality: firm, yet soft, and soy-chilli sauce compliments the beef filling wonderfully. A perfect snack for when that late evening hunger hits you, or when you’re out for the night and need something sturdier than just liquids to fill your stomach with.

“We bake the bread here ourselves every morning from a sourdough starter so it’s always fresh,” Peltomaa tells.

Apart from sandwiches, the menu offers beef or crayfish salad, fish soup and a bean and rice dish. Peltomaa specifically recommends the soup.

“It’s got a twist to it, definitely not your average salmon soup.”

And average it is not. The spicy, zesty taste can be tamed with some mint yoghurt that comes alongside the dish with a piece of white bread. With the sandwich and soup priced 6 and 7 euros respectively, I would say the quality easily meets the price. If you also crave for something sweet, there’s a healthy fruit salad for dessert.

“In terms of food, we wanted to bring something different to Töölö. We ourselves like the South American flavours and thought that those cultural vibes would add something fresh to the already quite extensive restaurant scene of Töölö,” Peltomaa says.

Not your average salmon soup

Space for all

A young woman walks in and interrupts us by asking if you are allowed to bring your dog. Peltomaa replies that pets are not a problem here.

“Great, then we will definitely become regulars!” the woman beams.

In the near future, Peltomaa would also like to see live gigs played in Favela.

“We have been thinking about arranging acoustic nights or getting a DJ here at some point.”

Street food has become a bit of a trend in Helsinki of late. Peltomaa observes that the usage of less expensive meat has generally become more popular in restaurants due to the economic situation.

“The recession has definitely played its part in the transition, as the street food style of dining and food making is quicker and more cost effective.”

Mechelininkatu 13, Helsinki
Tues-Thu 15:00-24:00
Fri-Sat 15:00-02:00
Sun-Mon closed
tel. 010 2928090

However, the Favela crew think that calling it a trend is an understatement. Although brought on primarily by the current economic situation, Peltomaa himself sees that the fun dining has come to stay.

“I think that the whole eating out habit has taken a new shape recently. People don’t cook at home so much anymore but go out to eat more regularly. Dining out in Helsinki is not such a big deal anymore as it used to be. People are more relaxed about it and we have responded to that easygoing mentality.”

Mari Storpellinen