Feel Finnair Foodies Flies Business Class – A fabulous foodie fun-filled two days in Helsinki, Finland with Finnair, and just a couple of hours from London. I flew Business Class with Finnair to the World’s happiest country, where I stayed in a beautiful “new” old hotel, and enjoyed Michelin star class food.
Finnair for Foodies Press Trip
Last week I flew to the happiest country in the world, Finland, on their national carrier as part of a Finnair for Foodies press trip, and what a wonderful experience it was too. I was part of a small group of bloggers, journalists and food writers from all over Europe, who were invited to enjoy two days of fine food (and wine) in Helsinki, the capital city of this vibrant and uber cool Nordic country. I flew Business Class from London Heathrow with Finnair in one of their new A350’s, which is the new breed of two engine wide-body planes from the Airbus stable. The very comfortable and sleek A350 boasts one of the *lowest fuel consumption in a modern commercial passenger plane, as well as having a low environmental impact.
*The A350 has a 25% better fuel efficiency compared to current-generation aircrafts due to a decrease in weight enabled by composite materials, refined aerodynamics, and new, fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines.
My Nordic Business Class ticket included priority check-in, boarding and security, access to their business lounges (this the fabulous Cathay Pacific Lounge in Terminal 3 flying out to Helsinki, which is part of the One World Alliance). You are allowed two or three pieces of baggage (maximum weight 32 kg/70 lb each) and exclusive Business Class meals and drinks. Breakfast on board was a cooked meal with traditional Finnish pastries, bread and their signature Bilberry (blueberry) juice, which I was more than slightly addicted too! Fresh fruit and yogurt accompanied the meal along with coffee or tea. On the way home, I was treated to a delicious dinner, which comprised Finnish style gravlax salmon starter with salad, fresh cod with potato puree and vegetables, a slice of decadent chocolate cake all served with Finnish bread and champagne of course, and all served in and on specially designed Marimekko tableware. All cold drinks are served in the stunning Finnish designed Tapio Wirkkala Iittala glassware, which is just beautiful and brings a sense of Finland to all the passengers.
On landing in Helsinki, I was transferred to my home-away-from-home, St George Hotel, which is conveniently situated in the centre of the city. This elegant and unique hotel is new, having only been open for less than a year, and is in a beautiful old building next to the Old Church park. My room was the epitome of Nordic chic, with a fabulous view. The hotel has a spa and gym, as well as a popular restaurant, bar and its own bakery with cafe. St. George Bakery & Bar serves freshly baked bread, sweet pastries, sandwiches, salads, smoothies, wine – and of course fantastic coffee and is part of the hotel, so you don’t need to leave the building to enjoy any cake or coffee in its cafe.
My room was a Serenity Studio, and was light and airy with a large en-suite shower room. The Serenity Studios feature classic designer furniture from Danish companies &tradition and Sibast, Poulsen lighting fixtures and a comfortable writing desk. Select rooms also include a sofa bed, making them spacious family rooms. The walls of the Serenity Studios are adorned with lithographs from Finnish abstract art pioneers such as Juhana Blomstedt, Ernst Mether Borgström and Lars-Gunnar Nordström. Well-being is a vital element of St. George. The Hintsa Performance Experience enhances your well-being by offering a biomechanics guide for in-room exercises. We also hope that you will enjoy refreshing and healthy Finnish water, straight from the tap – or make it extra refreshing with the complimentary SodaStream. It was a wonderful place to base myself for my short stay.
I asked to arrive earlier than the rest of the Finnair for Foodies group, so I could explore Helsinki, as it was my first time in this city, or country. The hotel was only about ten minutes walk from the harbour and market place, and as I wandered along the snowy streets I marvelled at the beautiful gracefulness of this elegant city. The architecture reminded me of Germany and Austria, with a little bit of Paris added here and there – large, grandiose buildings flanked the wide tree-line streets and there was an obvious “street cafe” atmosphere, although all of the tables and chairs were covered in snow and stacked to one side. The harbour basked in white, bright and sparkling sunshine with large areas of the Baltic Sea still frozen. I made my way to The Old Market Hall, which is next to the harbour, and is a very striking brick and stone building with the most gorgeous windows and glass work. Inside the market hall, I decided to warm up with a cup of fresh coffee (the Finns have a strong coffee culture) and a local delicacy called a Laskiaispulla, which is similar to a Swedish Semla bun. Mine was filled with marzipan and cream and topped with flaked almonds.
Late that day, after a hot show and a sauna in the Hotel’s Spa, I met up with all my fellow Finnair for Foodies. We were going to walk for our dinner, in the manner of a “Safari Supper” – the first course was at Restaurant NUDE. Restaurant Nude is a casual living room for proper wine and food lovers in Helsinki. You can just pop in or spend the entire evening there, and the food is combined with delicious wines. We enjoyed a bowl of exquisitely prepared fermented turnip in a rich broth with apples and micro herbs and leaves, this was paired with a glass of Pinot Gris. The combination of apple and turnip was surprisingly delicious.
After a short walk through the snow-covered streets, we arrived at Restaurant Olo, where we were having our main course. Here we were treated to freshly made sourdough, which was sat in a skillet proving on the table – as soon as you sat down, the bread was taken away to be baked, what an ingenious idea! The freshly baked sourdough was then brought out baked along with a plate of whipped, smoked butter. Our main course here was Skrei cod with aromatic chicken stock, and it was absolutely divine. The stock was poured over the cod as soon as it was brought to the table. There are several tasting menus you can enjoy at Olo, and they say to allow about three hours for the whole menu. The Shorter menu is five courses long and can be enjoyed in less than two hours. Olo is one of only five Michelin star awarded restaurants in Finland. The Scandinavian menu is built upon Jari Vesivalo’s childhood taste memories, and looks absolutely sumptuous.
Another short walk though snowy streets took us to our final destination at Restaurant Emo – dessert was to be served here, and not just one, but two! Our two desserts were Apple sorbet, oat biscuit & yogurt creme and Hazelnut mousse, salted caramel ice cream & cacao crumble, both served with wine and coffee or tea. Emo likes to be known as a Modern European restaurant…..their kitchen prefers to use domestic and Nordic small producers but the primary value is high quality.
After a great night’s sleep, I enjoyed breakfast in the St George Hotel restaurant – overnight oat porridge with full cream milk and Finnish honey, followed by baked cheese and ham fritatta, Finnish smoked sausage, baked cheese and roasted tomatoes from the hot breakfast buffet. There was also:
- Freshly baked bread from the St. George Bakery
- Freshly squeezed juices
- Homemade yogurt
- Daily eggs and other warm dishes made by our chef
- Cold cuts
- Smoked fish
After breakfast we were taken to Finnair’s HQ, where we had a fascinating “behind the scenes” visit around the airline’s kitchens, and where we had lunch. I’ve visited airline kitchen’s before, and I am always utterly overwhelmed at just how efficient they are. There’s the obvious problems of catering for numerous dietary requirements, as well as preparing thousands of meals to look attractive, as well as taste delicious, on the plates too. I was very impressed by Finnair’s drive towards sustainability and recycling, with clear targets for reducing food waste and reducing the use of plastic. Whilst I was there, I witnessed a line of workers sorting out all the waste from flights that had landed, sorting the food waste from glass, tin and plastic and recycling it all. And, it’s always so interesting to see how the meals are prepared in the kitchen.
A fabulous lunch by Finnair Signature Chef TOMMY MYLLYMÄKI followed, with wine. Tommy Myllymäki is a Bocuse D’Or silver and bronze medallist. As one of Sweden’s most celebrated chefs and restaurateurs, Tommy has created Finnair’s new Nordic-inspired Business Class menu for selected long-haul flights from Helsinki. Drawing on his own Nordic heritage, he prepares and combines familiar ingredients in unexpected ways to create flavours that are decidedly Nordic, but with a delightful twist. We were served with some of his winter menu choices for lunch – I had the Salmon Gravlax and Salad with assorted breads, followed by the some amazing smoked Arctic Char, which was a real treat.
One more stop before catching my flight back to London, and that was Maku Brewing, where Finnair’s speciality beer, Blueberry Saison beer is brewed. We met the whole team at Maku Brewery and also imbibed in a tasting session too, including some Blueberry Saison. This small craft brewery offers some really top-class ales, such as Lemon Pale Ale, American Red Ale and a delicious dark Porter. The journey to the brewery was magical as we drove through some of Finland’s forests, with clear blue skies and dancing sunlight, it was breathtakingly beautiful.
My trip was all but over, just the flight back to the UK to enjoy, with some time to relax in Finnair’s Premium Lounges at Helsinki Airport. It was a very quick trip, but it has been a wonderful “taster” for this stunning Nordic country, and I plan to return very soon, I hope, as there is so much more to see and do, as well as lots of local delicacies to enjoy too. I hope you have enjoyed my whistle-stop “virtual” tour, do pop back to read all about my time in Montreal and my stay in a grand old country house in Wales too. Karen
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Finnair and all of my flights, transfers, meals, hotel and related excursions were free. I was not asked to write a favourable review and I retain full and transparent creative editorial rights. With thanks to Manti, Claire and all the team at Finnair and The PC Agency, who looked after me and organised this press trip.
Images: All images are mine, Karen Burns-Booth, unless otherwise stated.
10 interesting facts about airline food:
AT HIGH ALTITUDE, the air pressure and low humidity make it more difficult for passengers to taste different flavours. Studies also show that an airplane’s engine noise can also reduce our sense of taste.
TO COMPENSATE, airline meals may contain slightly higher levels of sodium. Airline food eaten on the ground may taste quite salty.
UMAMI, (one of the five basic tastes) is unaffected by high altitude or cabin pressurisation. This is why drinks and food which are high in umami ingredients, such as tomato juice, are quite popular onboard flights as they are tastier in the sky. This is the reason for the large amount of Bloody Marys consumed up in the skies!
DUE TO the closed space on an aircraft, airline chefs often take into consideration the smell of certain food and ingredients for in-flight meals.
DUE TO the low humidity at high altitudes, airline meals are often accompanied with sauces in order to prevent the food from being too dry.
A PILOT and the co-pilot will eat different meals in order to reduce the risk of food poisoning. If one of them gets sick, the other one should be OK.
THE MOST POPULAR wines on Finnair flights are Riesling (White) and Bordeaux (Red).
FINNAIR SERVES 14,000 meals for its customers every day.
OVER 1,000,000 litres of blueberry juice was served on Finnair flights in 2018.
FINNAIR SERVES a wide-variety of special meals onboard its flights for passengers with special food requests. Over 20 different special meal options are available in business class and over 10 in economy class. The selection of special meals includes options such as vegetarian, low-salt, gluten-free and low-lactose, among others.