Published in Helsinki Times 5.6.2014
Cafferino Oba is a welcome addition to the Helsinki coffee house scene. Forget about hastily put together, soggy sandwiches and the over-represented caesar salad. This small, cosy tent provides simply delicious food with the perfect surroundings for the tired and stressed to unwind.
Thursday afternoon at Cafferino Oba is quiet as the hectic lunchtime has just passed. I quite enjoy the calm in the middle of my hectic workday although the owner Bayram Baran eagerly awaits for more customers to appear. The interior design of the place is relaxed yet stylish, Southern Europe springs to mind. Colourful cushions and lanterns add an oriental feel, music plays low in the background.
Baran is not a new beginner in the field: he’s had several restaurants in the past.
“Starting Cafferino Oba, I didn’t have a clear image of what it was going to be like but I wanted to do something different to my previous places. And then it all came together as I went. This place offers a mixture of Mediterranean tastes, as the food from that area is light and healthy, yet delicious.”
The menu consists of different salads, filled and grilled pitaninis, soup, sesame bagels, baklava sweets, and a variety of coffees. Baran himself has a very international background, being Turkish and having lived previously in Switzerland and Norway, and has put the menu together combining some of his favourite ingredients. The place has been open only for a couple of months now and is slowly but surely growing its clientele.
“Those who have been here seem to return. Generally, I’ve received really good feedback. I wish I’m going to get a lot more regulars through curious first-timers. This place is, after all, quite close to the centre, once you find it.”
Fittingly, in walks a smiling young couple.
“We came back as it was so nice last time,” the woman gushes.
Baran tells that the most popular choices at Cafferino Oba are pita bread filled with spicy Turkish sausage and mozzarella, and a grilled chèvre salad. He makes everything himself from scratch, using fresh ingredients. For example, he bakes the bread and the baklava cake, smashes chickpeas for the humus paste, and roasts the chicken in the kitchen.
And it all results in a fabulous culinary experience. I start with a latte, which meets my demands in taste, texture and temperature. Soon after, the spicy sausage and mozzarella pitanini with a side salad and a selection of aubergine, tzatziki, and humus pastes arrives on my table. The side salad is a mixture of bulgur, aubergine, roasted peppers, olives, tomatoes, pumpkin seeds and a pomegranate-vinaigrette dressing. The food is an excellent proof of how simple ingredients can make a top quality meal when skilfully put together – I can’t recall last time when I would have been so impressed with food served in a café. Everything is delicious and the meal very filling. So filling that I need to take a half an hour rest before the dessert.
Baran himself is very welcoming and friendly, and happily keeps me company while I digest the pitanini meal. He tells me what it’s like to be an entrepreneur in Finland.
“Being an entrepreneur has a reputation of being difficult in this country. I say it’s not difficult if you’re prepared to do a lot of work. Let’s put it this way: you’re definitely not going to have problems with what to do on your spare time, since there is none! In a long run, with a lot of hard work, you might become successful.”
It’s time to try the baklava. The pastry originates from Turkey and has a very sweet, nutty flavor to it. On top of it is sprinkled something that looks like green powder. Ground pistachio nut, Baran reveals. Baklava is an excellent choice for hard-core dessert lovers, it effortlessly satisfies any sweet cravings one might have.
“Oba is a Turkish word and refers to a small tent, or a cosy home. In the old days, farmers would sometimes be away for months with their herds, and oba would provide them a much needed resting place,” Baran explains.
There is no doubt whether this place could be warmly recommended to anyone fond of good quality, self-made food. The food is great, simply put. And Baran a very good host who looks wonderfully after his guests. Cafferino Oba really lives up to its name: I might not be a farmer but I feel like I have been provided with a well needed rest from the huzzle and buzzle of my everyday life in this cosy café.
Cafferino Oba can be found on both Facebook and Twitter for more information.