HELSINKI ON A PLATE

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE -

• De­sign per­me­ates ev­ery­thing in this city and food is no ex­cep­tion. Set high above the es­planade with a wrap­around ter­race and long views to the white dome of the Lutheran cathe­dral, the leg­endary Savoy restau­rant has changed not a jot since it was de­signed by Fin­land’s most fa­mous ar­chi­tect Al­var Aalto and his wife Aino in 1937. From the chairs to the sculp­tural Aalto vases and the Golden Bell lamps, ev­ery fix­ture w was pur­posed for this long, light-filled room and n noth­ing has been up­dated … ex­cept the ex­cel­lent f food. Think char­grilled pike-perch tar­tar with l lemon ver­bena and smoked white­fish roe or as­para­gus with lob­ster, sor­rel and egg yolk creme. More: rav­in­to­lasavoy.fi.

• Ir­ish­man Sea­mus Holo­han runs the Helsinki Dis­till­ing Com­pany in an old soap fac­tory in the former work­ing class Kal­lio dis­trict, now hip­ster-cen­tral and only 10 min­utes by tram from down­town. Its award-win­ning Helsinki Dry Gin is out­stand­ing; have a tip­ple in the newly opened on-site bar sit­ting at the heart of a rapidly evolv­ing precinct called Teuras­tamo (the city’s old slaugh­ter­house). After­wards grab a hearty lunch with the cool kids at the can­teen-style Palema, of­fer­ing enor­mous work­ers’ por­tions of salmon or sausages with new pota­toes (on Thurs­days there are pan­cakes with jam and cream). More: hdco.fi.

• No-frills haute cui­sine (or “bru­tal bistro”) has been trend­ing for a while across the Nordic re­gion and Helsinki is no ex­cep­tion. You’ll need to book well in ad­vance to snare a ta­ble at the 20-seat, Miche­lin­starred Chef & Som­me­lier in Ul­lan­linna. At Spis on Kasarmikatu (a cou­ple of min­utes from the Es­planade), it’s dis­tressed walls, un­treated floor­boards and ex­posed duct­ing in a din­ing room-cum-kitchen barely larger than a table­cloth (max­i­mum 18 seats). There’s no menu (opt for four or seven cour­ses) and no list for the se­lec­tion of nat­u­ral wines. Em­pha­sis is on veg, herbs and weeds; for ex­am­ple, a soup of false morel and pick­led dan­de­lion; or­ganic eggs with net­tle, topped with crunchy oats; and an am­brosial scal­lop with roasted parsnip puree and sea­weed. And the palate cleanser of tar, birch and smoke is weirdly won­der­ful, tast­ing of men­thol and the for­est. The 48-hour lamb, with pick­led fava beans and some­thing mys­te­ri­ous (much is lost in trans­la­tion) is a high­light. Petit-fours are served on a gi­ant Lego brick. More: spis.fi.

• A gal can’t leave Helsinki with­out a Marimekko frock or two. Make a bee­line for the out­let store at Kirvesmiehenkatu 7 where you can stock up on cloth­ing, home­wares and bolts of dis­con­tin­ued fab­rics at knock­down prices. And the good news is there’s a cafe on-site of­fer­ing very good whole­some fare, Mon­day to Fri­day, to Marimekko’s al­most ex­clu­sively fe­male staff and hordes of bar­gain-hunt­ing vis­i­tors. With any luck the swede and potato pud­ding with egg cheese and chevre will be on the menu. More: marimekko.com; mar­i­tori.ju­uri.fi.

CHRIS­TINE McCABE

Marimekko out­let store in Helsinki offers great bar­gains

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