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Featured article from: Issue #2, 2016


Helsinki has many great award-winning restaurants but Savoy still spells out one of the finest for Helsinkians. It makes their heart beat a little faster than usual


1. The Alvar Aalto-designed interior has changed little in Savoy’s eight decades.

2. Guests eating outside in the 1930s.

The Finest Dining in Helsinki

Savoy has always been the place for the industrial, business and economic elite, the restaurant for industrial magnates and business moguls. Undoubtedly many a great and far-fetching deal has been brokered in its cabinets. Also, many great personal decisions have traditionally been made at the tables of Savoy in the last eight decades.

—Especially on Fridays and Saturdays people celebrate personal moments in Savoy. People have divorced, celebrated anniversaries and engagements and many marriage proposals have been made here. Love, champagne and rings, Kari Aihinen, chef de cuisine of Savoy tells us.

In the 1930s the A. Ahlström conglomerate, owned by the Ahlström family, was already the biggest industrial company in Finland. It controlled the paper and metal industries and therefore Finnish exports, which gave the company enormous power within the country.

In 1937, when the conglomerate built the Industrial Palace right in the heart of Helsinki on Esplanade, they included a restaurant at the top. Of course.

Everything was carefully planned and finished. The director of A. Ahlström, Harry Gullichsen, commissioned the young Alvar Aalto to design the interior of the 7th and 8th floor restaurant and reception hall of the Industrial Palace.

Cosmopolites Alvar Aalto and Maire Gullichsen (née Ahlström) had founded the progressive Artek just two years earlier. Hence birch was beautifully bent to decorate
the forest conglomerate’s restaurant. Savoy vases designed by Alvar and Aino Aalto stand on all of the tables.
The tablecloths were designed by the young Dora Jung, the daughter of the building’s architect Valter Jung.

The space is perfect. It is Aalto at its most beutiful with perfect lighting and now beautifully patinated surfaces, birch, birch veneer and forms typical of Aalto. The large windows open to old Helsinki, the churches and the sea. The interior is nearly the same as it was in the 30s, timeless and peaceful. It is wonderful to sit on one of the club chairs designed by Aino Aalto while waiting for the next dish to be summoned from the kitchen.

The chef de cuisine Kari Aihinen has been responsible for the kitchen for eleven years. The world is coming together which shows also in Savoy’s menu.

—The main ingredient has to be top-notch, the best you can find. Around that I design all the other flavours. Unfortunately, Finnish ingredients are not enough for that, he says.
Aihinen emphasises that the whole experience is the most important part, what the customer gets and feels.

—I don’t believe that anyone comes into Savoy solely for the food or the pianist. Excellent service, a unique milieu, the sommeliers, the floor staff and the customers make up the Savoy atmosphere, just like a senior butler always used to remark.

Savoy has had many demanding regulars. One of them is above others: Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim. Mannerheim left his heritage: his regular table, the Vorschmack dish and the schnapps that bears his name: vodka, aquavit, gin and vermouth.

Finland and Savoy have come a long way together. Next year Savoy will be 80 years while Finland celebrates its 100th. Aihinen is happy as it looks like a younger generation has found Savoy to close important deals and celebrate life events.

Savoy. Mon–Fri 11:30–15 & 18–24, Sat 18–24. Eteläesplanadi 14. 

1. Savoy’s lighting is exceptionally beautiful.

2. The ingredients must be top notch”, says Kari Aihinen.

3.Marshal Mannerheim overlooking his regular table.