HELSINKI ON A PLATE
• 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.
Marimekko outlet store in Helsinki offers great bargains