Clarion Helsinki and “the friendly Russian” Troikka

Last weekend we finally got around to spending a night at Clarion Helsinki. The views were stunning and the heated rooftop pool was nice but other than that there was not much to impress me. They need to pay far more attention to detail for me to consider staying there again.

The whole thing went slightly pear-shaped right from the start. The check-in desks are arranged in a very peculiar manner which causes chaos and unclarity as soon as more people are waiting to check in than there are available receptionist. A more traditional set-up with one long desk would work much better. When we got to our room we could not find the robes that were supposed to be in the room but a phone call to the front desk fixed this in no time. The bathroom had a flickering light, which was quite annoying and the hallway lamp outside our door was not working. These are some of the details I would hope a hotel that apparently is classified as a four-star hotel would pay more attention to. I also found it interesting that the room had no place to put your clothes (no wardrobe or dresser, just a place to hang your coat). During a one-night stay this was not a problem but if I was staying even for just two nights I would prefer to unpack my things. The actual room was nicely decorated and had lovely views over the sea and part of the city.

Only place for your clothes in the room
 

After we got the robes and the pool opened we headed up to the 16th floor for a plunge in the rooftop pool. The pool has an open roof and glass walls so it is practically an outdoor pool. The water was warm enough that you could enjoy a dip even in below zero weather. The pool was really nice, the views amazing and taking a swim in the cold weather was invigorating. What I found strange was that the pool was only open in the morning and late afternoon. In my opinion, this is a very Finnish approach to pools that somehow is connected to the saunas that are kept heated only a few hours per day. In my opinion, hotels could keep the pools open even if the sauna is not heated and some hotels in Finland do offer all-day access to their pool. 

Picture from Nordic Choice Hotels site

I had made a reservation for us at a traditional Russian restaurant located in Töölö called Troikka. The restaurant has been operating since the 1920s and I have been visiting it for around 30 years. We started with aperitifs: I had a house-version of a Kir Royale with homemade strawberry juice, citrus liquor and bubbles, and hubby had a classic Bloody Mary. As it is blini season we opted for the blini palette. After we had placed our order we were served a small greeting from the kitchen – a lovely Crème Ninon soup. The blini palette consisted of vendace and burbot roe, onion, sour cream, cold-smoked salmon, tartar of cold-smoked horsemeat, mushroom salad, hardboiled egg whites and yolks, and as many buckwheat blinis as you could eat. We accompanied the meal with a bottle of French sparkling wine. These were by far the best blinis I’ve had and the fillings were delicious. I could only manage to eat two blinis but hubby polished off three. As I still had some room left I decided to have dessert; Strawberries Romanov.

A perfect blini
The roes and salmon, onion & sour cream
Horse tartar, mushroom salad and egg whites & yolks

The following morning we had breakfast in a very busy hotel restaurant.The breakfast was pretty standard with some specialties like over-night oats and a mango smoothie. All in all a nice break, but in future I will continue to prefer the boutique-style hotels in Helsinki.

Found this guy outside the hotel restaurant

One night in Haven & Dinner at Eevert

I had scored a good offer on a suite at Hotel Haven and so in early December we got to spend a luxurious night at the Helsinki Suite. The suite offered a king-size bed, 50 square meters of space, a cozy sofa and chairs, and a dining table. The bathroom had a full-size bathtub and a separate rainshower. We checked in on Saturday afternoon, had some champagne in the room and relaxed for a while before getting ready for dinner.

I had spotted a new restaurant to try out called Eevert that had opened in late October. Eevert is a design restaurant housed in a building designed by Alvar Aalto. The building was completed in 1952 and originally housed Mr. Aalto’s offices. The food philosophy at Eevert is Scandinavian and gets its inspiration from the Finnish seasons and the wonderful tastes and colors Finnish nature has to offer. The menus include a lot of Finnish ingredients like wild berries and mushroom, game, fish and reindeer. Small producers and ecological food are also featured. The restaurant is decorated with furniture, lighting, dishes and decorations form such Finnish designers as Alvar Aalto, Harri Koskinen, Yrjö Kukkapuro, Lars Sonck, Seppo Koho, Oiva Toikka, etc.

Eevert offers three set menus and an à la carte list. We chose Menu 6 that consisted of six courses and also enjoyed the wines paired with the menu. The courses were Homemade buttermilk cheese, beetroot and licorice, Venison, currant and parsnip, Cep, cauliflower and carrot, Arctic char, fennel and crayfish, Cheese, and Licorice, cranberry and oat. My absolute favorites were the venison and the Arctic char. The beetroot and licorice was an interesting combo but as I am not a huge fan of neither licorice nor beetroot it was not really to my taste. The cep was nice enough but quite a big portion that seemed to lack something. Cheese is always good so no complaints there. The dessert was also nice but again with the licorice it had no chance of making my top list. The service was good, and the restaurant space was very nice with interesting features. We will definitely go again when the menu is updated.

On Sunday we opted to have breakfast in our room to avoid the crowds in the restaurant as we were advised that the hotel was fully booked. The breakfast was really good and it was nice to enjoy it in the relaxing atmosphere of our own suite. All in all, a great relaxing weekend with great food.

P.S: Sorry for the half-eaten portions, it seems to become my trademark as I am always so excited to try the food put in front of me I tend to forget to take a picture and only remember halfway through. Well at least you know I actually ate what I am writing about and didn’t just take a picture. 😄

Bday at Haikko Manor

Hubby had his birthday in early October and I decided to pamper him with an overnight stay and dinner at Haikko Manor & Spa. This is one of those places where we return regularly for relaxing minibreaks away from the daily grind. The manor hotel was opened in 1966 and expanded in 1974 when the spa hotel was completed and again in 1983 when the congress center was opened. Today the hotel has over 200 rooms of which 24 are in the manor house and 184 in the spa hotel.

The first historical recording of Haikko manor is from 1362 and the manor was owned by the Stenbock family until 1871 when it was sold to General Sebastian von Etter, whose family owned the manor for nearly 100 years. The manor has housed many famous guests including the grand duke Kirill Vladimirovitš Romanov and his family, painter Albert Edelfelt, and Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim. The current manor house was designed in 1913 when the previous manor house had burned down. Due to the war, the construction was not completed until 1932.

The Mano House, picture from booking.com
Inside the spa, picture from booking.com

We arrived at Haikko on Saturday afternoon and spent time in the spa, after which we withdrew to our room to have some champagne and relax before dinner. Dinner was a four course Menu Nordic  designed by Chef Pekka Terävä, who is the co-owner of the one Michelin star restaurant Olo in Helsinki. The dinner was served at the Manor restaurant, in the main dining room, which was originally planned as a chapel. The restaurant has an historic ambiance of the Russian imperial era.

Manor House entrance hall, picture from booking.com
Dining room, picture from booking.com

We started with an aperitif, I had a G&T and hubby had a Bloody Mary. Then we were served Cep soup with deep fried kale. The soup was lovely with good-sized chunks of mushroom. Next came a Tartar of lamb from Åland served with pickled chanterelles. The meat simply melted in the mouth and the pickled mushrooms provided a nice vinegary contrast to the meat. The main was fish: Roasted trout with horn chanterelle consommé. The fish was very well seasoned and cooked. Dessert was Apple porridge with Kyyttö’s milk ice cream, which was a nice refreshing dessert. With dinner we enjoyed a nice bottle of white wine. The menu was a well though through whole that was very tasty. To round off the meal that left us stuffed we headed to the Manor Club for a night cap. The surroundings were a bit shocking but the whiskey went down well.

In the morning we went for a morning swim, had breakfast in the Romanov Dining Room which is part of the Manor restaurant, and then we headed back home. This was a great way to spend a weekend relaxing in historic surroundings with a cozy spa and delicious dinner. And the best part is it’s only a thirty minute drive from home. We will probably be back again in a few years.