Deli Café Maya came highly recommended. According to our trusty sources, this cosy little eatery, run by a knowing and hospitable crew out of Punavuori, was worth checking out. Paul, the manager, was very helpful when I emailed him about the available gluten-free options. He also told me the place was quite busy during lunch, so we agreed to meet after 3 for a chat on food, and the concept they offer.


I was first greeted by a very inviting salad bar, from which I could pick roasted carrots, beetroots, peppers, zangy olives, and crunchy roasted, candied pumpkin seeds. There was also a selection of couscous and pasta salad, plus hot soup. I could see why this was said to be a great place for vegetarians, as the salad bar alone offered enough variety for a whole meal. Everything seemed very thoughtfully laid-out.

I was very pleased to have the soup available, as usually most soups are made with flour, but Maya’s is gluten-free, just like their freshly-baked bread. The flavor of the soup was intense. At first I mistook it for mushroom soup, because of the richness, but it was a delicious onion soup.

My order was their signature dish, the home-made sausage. Upon first bite, I wished all sausages tasted like this. It was fresh, with hints of cumin. The texture was chunky, and the sausage flavorful on itself, without the help of extra condiments; rich without feeling salty, or heavy. The sausage came with a side of sweet, Dijon mustard. The mashed potatoes on the side were smooth like mousse, which went really well with the mustard. The crunchy, sweet, and apple-like sauerkraut was excellent, and I finished it first. I was pretty curious about the taste and texture, having just-one-more-bite to try to work out what it was (I failed, so I made a mental note to ask Paul later). It just had a light sweetness, and a fresh, delicious crunchiness.

To top it off, the finisher was a gluten-free chocolate cake. Had the food remotely failed to make me a regular patron of Maya’s from now on, the cake alone would have accomplished this goal.

I highly recommend Deli Cafe Maya for the freshness and potency of the carefully chosen ingredients, and the loving care the owners pour into the food. For quality such as this, lunch prices are more than reasonable. Remember to book in advance, because it is very popular during peak hours!


Tell a bit about your background, Paul.
Well, I’ve worked in the UK for the coffee industry for years and years, for Starbucks and Caffè Nero in training and new store openings. Then I moved to Finland to work in a restaurant, where I met David and Mari. David is a trained chef from Austria, and Mari, a Finn, trained as a pastry chef here and then moved to Spain, where she’s been a pastry chef for eight years. I’m the restaurant manager, and David and Mari own the place. They named it after their daughter, Maya.

A three-person team.
Yeah, because we are actually friends outside. We go on holiday together, still.

That must be nice, working with your friends every day.
Yeah, it can be interesting, I would say.

Mostly nice?
Mostly very good, yeah. We like to leave work at work.

What brought you to Helsinki from the UK? Work?
No, no, no… I got really fed up with the UK and the quality of life there.

The weather? The busyness?
The busyness, really, because I was working for very long hours. I used to come to Helsinki a lot because I have friends here. So I just decided I would learn some Finnish in London, and move over here. And I did (smiles). I’ve been here for five years already.

How good is your Finnish?
I can serve people in Finnish. It’s okay.

Punavuori is a relaxed and cosy neighborhood. Was the location important for you?
Yeah, David and Mari were looking for ages to find the right place. The idea is that we wanted a neighborhood restaurant, and Punavuori is like that: everyone seems to know everyone, people come here very regularly, so we know all about what they like.

They like quality food, and they care about the ingredients.
Yeah, yeah… When we started we were actually going to be a sausage house.

David loves sausages.

Maya is still kind of a sausage house, because the signature dish is the homemade sausage.
Yes, but in the end we had to have four or five vegetarian and vegan dishes, because so many people here are vegetarian and vegan. So we’ve become known as this place for vegetarian food, even though we were meant to be a sausage house.

That’s pretty funny. Is the food from local sources?
It is. And everything we make is fresh. Every day we make our own bread, our own muesli… Pretty much everything we can, we make ourselves. And the meat in the sausages is from Finland.

Do you use organic ingredients?
Whenever we can, yes. The organic thing is more lead by the people, really, as they keep asking about it. I mean, it’s a lot more difficult and expensive in Finland than in the UK to get cheap, organic produce, but whenever we can, we use it.

What ingredients are organic at the moment?
It depends, because the dishes change everyday, but they often include some organic elements. The honey we use for the muesli, the flour, the oats… That kind of thing.

Have you seen change in the food culture in Helsinki over the years?
Definitely. When I came over here for the first time over ten years ago, it reminded me of the UK in the seventies, as there were only a handful of popular, good ethnic restaurants. Now there seems to be a big change towards more diverse ethnic food from around the world, and more relaxed dining. We have Shanghai Cowboy, Fafa’s, Farang, Pueblo, Cholo, Hoku… Finns are getting to know different foods, and becoming more adventurous too.

I really enjoyed the food, by the way. The sausages were really fresh, the texture is great, and you could taste that they are home-made.
It’s because David grinds his own meat. And there are no additives. You have to have some fat in there obviously, but that’s it.

Was there some cumin in there?
I can find out what he put in there today, because he changes it. Let me go ask. (returns) Oregano, thyme, some rosemary, garlic, and onion.

You named this place a Deli, a Cafe, and a Bakery, but the food quality is as good as a restaurant’s. Did you ever think of making this concept as a restaurant?
When we first opened, we tried a few nights. But the problem is there is three of us here, and we are so busy for breakfast and lunch. I mean, three of us can’t be here all the time. Maybe in the future we will, but we don’t need to be at the moment; we are so busy at lunch.

It’s full all the time.
Yeah. And also, this food is good for lunch, but if we opened in the evening we would need a kind of a speciality. Otherwise, why would you come to us? For evenings we would need to pick a cuisine, rather than a mix of foods, and stick with it.

While having the sausage dish, it was interesting that the sauerkraut was crunchy. What inspires you to change classics?
David. He is Austrian, so cabbage is his thing (laughs). Seriously!

He has been experimenting with cabbage forever?
Yes! And he just tried this. He found a recipe where someone had used a ginger dressing. He adapted it and thought it would be great with this red cabbage.

It’s kind of sweet, and apple-sy. I didn’t know what it was…
Yeah, it’s got fresh ginger.

It wasn’t overwhelmingly gingery, because I couldn’t taste the spiciness.
That’s because he’s really good. The sauerkraut is all about the sweet-and-sour, and it’s actually really hard to do. But he’s our sausage and sauerkraut master. I call him the sausage-meister!

How do you design the menus each week? What are the thoughts behind?
Well, David can answer that better, but we have a certain number of things we keep every week. ‘Cause whenever we’ve stopped them, people have come and said “why is this not here?!” Like, we’ve taken this spicy bean burger this week and changed it into a burrito, and we’ve had so many people come and ask “is it coming back? Oh my god!” So he tries things, and if they are popular, we keep doing them, or we change them slightly.

So it’s decided by the public.
Yeah, like we had fish cakes one week, and now so many people have said “can you put them on the menu everyday?” So now we’re having Fishcake Fridays. It’s all to do with the people in the area.

Are fishcakes a Scandinavian thing? What fishcakes are those?
They are kind of… We have the same thing in the UK and Austria: they are potato-and-fresh-fish cakes. But David puts some tarragon and dill in them, so they are a kind of “Scandi-wegian-English-Austrian” mix. People here love them.

I should try them sometime.
Yes! Come for Fishcake Fridays!

Deli Cafe Maya is in Punavuorenkatu 3. This is their website.
Thanks to Nina Kaverinen for the yummy photography!