Sunday, 29 December 2013

Wining and dining in Helsinki: Goce

It's time to focus on the holidays (and ridiculous amounts of chocolate) and start publishing the posts that have been waiting for their turn. Such as the report on Goce, restaurant that I've managed to test on a couple of occasions. 

Getting a dinner reservation for the Independence Day Eve is nothing short of a challenge, especially when you start planning on securing one only the week before. National holidays - they have a way sneaking up on you totally out of the blue. Even though this particular holiday has been a fixture of the Finnish calendar for almost a century. I tried Emo. And Kolo. And a couple of others. But no luck. Emo for instance turned out to be booked solid through the rest  of the year. That's what it's like - dining and wining in Helsinki where everyone is busy trying to get a table at the same restaurant.

I wouldn't have minded finding a quaint little under the radar sort of place the Great Public hasn't yet discovered courtesy of the eagle -eyed food bloggers or the restaurant reviews of the biggest daily. I was even willing to leave my comfort zone (immediate city centre that is) and, if needed, even ready to toy with the idea of using public transportation. 

Quality ingredients were something I, or the date for the evening, a wine-lover visititor from overseas were not willing to compromise on. And since Spanish flavours are so very close to the heart of this blog(ger) a tip I picked up on the weekly supplement of the above mentioned daily about reopening of Goce Bar & Kitchen after a two-year-hiatus couldn't have come at a better time. 

The simple (and oh, so Scandinavian!) decor is very stylish. Restaurant itself is quite dimply lit, which, without a doubt, made me look better than I normally do. The same can't be said about the photos though...

I highly recommend you kick the evening off at their bar. The bartender knows what he's doing and this translates to great drinks. 

One of my favourites is Las Brisas, a drink named after a golf course located near Malaga (and favoured by The One And Only Real Bond). The drink gets its wonderfully summery feel from vodka infused with freshly cut grass (!)

And the only thing better than a tapas is gourmet tapas, claro que si! After trip to Manzanilla in Malaga, run by the formidable, Michelin-decorated Dani Garcia these boys had some serious boots to step into...

The menu looked promising. It's not quite as out there the way Manzanilla was, what with their foie gras millefeuilles, but the iberico-selection was enough to win over this little piggy. Bellota, for instance, that delicacy fed solely acorns, comes in various shapes and forms - for instance as chorizo.

The menu features many classic tapas treats so familiar from the Spanish posts such as croquetas, boquerones and pimientos de padron, but also some more innovative treats such as mussels with Serrano ham and sherry, oxtail with apple and chorizo cooked in cider.

Though the restaurant, according to one of the owners, Thomas Weyerstall, still isn't "entirely Spanish", the menu pays homage to the regional specialities and the wine list reflects their love of Spain, too.  There are a couple of Albariños and five different sherries. Out of the wines sold by the glass this cheerful white from Basque country was our favourite.

We started with Seleccion Iberico, which featured pata negro, and bellota as chorizo, salchichón and lomo.

Seeing how up until now I've always brought back my own cold cuts, I haven't really had to rely on the stuff available in Finland. Pata negra was, however, The Best I've ever had in Finland. Lomo was superb, chorizo was fantastically smoky and full of flavour and nutmeg gave wonderful, spicy warmth to the salchichón.

Artichoke escebeche came in wonderful nutty marinade - both the texture and taste were spot on. 

Pulpo Romesco's octopus was unfortunately dry and rubbery, but romesco sauce was divine.

Ham didn't really taste or show in croquetas, but the texture was excellent. The extra crunchy and coarse breadcrumb coating (panko?) added a nice touch..

Out of the 2 dessert choices Chocolate & Sherry had my name written all over it ( dark chocolate, sweet sherry, orange caramel...) until I discovered that sweet sherry listed in the ingredients was in fact sherry vinegar. This was a bit of a disappointment.

However, the menu featured so many other treats I just had to try, so another visit was needed. This time with a colleague who also accompanied me at Salt in Tallinn

Menu had gone through some changes since the previous visit. For instance oxtail, that Andalusian specialty, had been taken off as its popularity had failed to take off (?!). The cold cuts were also lacking because of problems with availability. Having pretty much consumed my bounty from my previous trip to Spain made me long back even more...

The wine list was plagued with similar problems - our 2 first choices for instance had been sold out.

Mussels with sherry and Serrano ham were truly great.

As were boquerones.

The acidity of the cider cut through the fattiness of the chorizo producing a dish that in its simplicity was just... ¡Muy delicioso!

Duck liver terrine was nice too, though a bit bland. Accompanying sangria granita was a great addition and really cleansed the palate.

Veal cheek with apple sauce which has now replaced oxtail, was a massive disappointment. Texture was excellent and fall-off-the-fork tender but the taste just wasn't there. Like, at all. Apple sauce was good though.

Companion felt the same way about tuna tartar, but I liked its subtlety for which orange gelé provided a nice contrast.

King prawns could have had a bit more (garlicky) bite to them, but at least they weren't those dreadful, pre-cooked, frozen slugs that have absolutely no flavour.

On the whole you can tell they've made an effort with the ingredients. The restaurant itself with its huge room and high ceilings isn't really terribly ideal for tapas restaurant though. For a wallet spoiled by Andalusian counterparts this isn't terribly cheap either: dinner for 2 (with a bottle of wine, another one of mineral water and aperitive cocktails) set us back almost €140. Still, this kicks the ass of my old favourite, Bar Teos. Watch out - there's a new sheriff in town!





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