An authentic taste of Lapland, in the middle of Helsinki
From the outside, it’s quite easy to miss Restaurant Lappi; once inside it’s even easier to forget that you are still in the middle of Helsinki and not in deep in the Arctic Circle.
Tarja Oja and her brother, both born and bred in the Heart of Muonio, Finnish Lapland, decided to open the restaurant back in the mid-nineties, the first of its kind in Helsinki. Soon passers-by walking along Annankatu were wondering about the piles of timber that were beginning to pile up on the pavement. Inside a traditional stone fireplace was being installed, the walls were disappearing behind authentic wooden cladding and the hefty furniture, handmade from thick Finnish pine, was being heaved into place.
This is not a theme restaurant, this is a bona fide Lappish restaurant transported, furniture, food, owners and all, a thousand kilometres from the heart of Lapland. The open fire (in Winter), the rough panelling on the walls, the hefty pine tables, the solid tree trunk stools, the traditional Kuksa cups finely carved from birch tree burls, everything is real and so is the atmosphere, the aroma and the cosiness.
As well as the decor, Restaurant Lappi also brings the best ingredients from Lapland: reindeer from the northern fells, fish from The Baltic and lingonberries and mushrooms from the Finnish forests: fresh ingredients from nature’s larder made into hearty meals by their chef Harri Savolainen. Particularly recommended are the Lappish Plate, a selection of appetizers, and the Game Selection, traditional meats with the chef’s special brandy sauce (reduced for 5 days), both dishes were famously enjoyed by Anthony Bourdain when he visited the restaurant in 2012.
Be sure to try the Reindeer’s tear, a ‘cocktail’ of vodka with lingonberries whose origins come from the time when schnapps could only be served with food but by adding a single lingonberry (now three) the drink became a cocktail and therefore could be served alone.
If you come to Helsinki but don’t have time to visit Lapland, then restaurant Lappi is a great way to see, feel and taste the traditional Lapland culture.