Helsinki Converts Historic Slaughterhouse into Culinary Hotspot

© Erno Launis. A farmer's market at the Kellohalli, Helsinki's old abattoir.

Helsinki's historical slaughterhouse has become the heart of the city's culinary revival, a movement blending innovation and tradition that integrates local foods, pop-up eateries, and urban gardens.

Built in 1933, the redbrick complex that now houses the "Kellohalli" food venue served as the city's abattoir until 1992. It reopened in September as "a venue for pop-up and short-term restaurants, food festivals, and other food-related programs," according to the City of Helsinki, which has supported the creation of the new foodie hub.

© Teurastamo Helsingfors Helsinki. The Kellohalli complex today.

Businesses producing and selling food are finding homes in the Kellohalli, where restaurateurs can get their steaks and chops from a meat-cutting and packing business still in operation at the site and source produce from an adjacent wholesale market.

Innovation And Tradition
Though traditional seasonal and local ingredients -- fish, berries, mushrooms, wild herbs, root vegetables, game -- are the focus of much of Helsinki's food scene, the grassroots movement's creative streak is evident in events such as Restaurant Day, a quarterly food festival initiated in the city in 2011.

Teurastamo Helsingfors Helsinki/Public Domain. The historical slaughterhouse.

At the most recent Restaurant Day in August, nearly 800 people or teams took the opportunity to open up a temporary restaurant or cafe for the day -- offering anything from treats from the trunk of a van to a six-course dinner in their living room. The next event will be held November 17.

Culinary And Design Events
The redevelopers of the abattoir envision it as "a place for small food-related businesses to try out concepts that have not existed in Helsinki before." From now until December, the space is hosting culinary and design events for World Design Capital Helsinki 2012, including a temporary "pop-down" restaurant 1,000 feet below ground in an old mine.

© Erno Launis. Picnic at the Helsinki Kellohalli.

In addition to food, the abattoir's large public courtyard provides a place for urban culture -- flea markets, plant swaps, block parties, open-air concerts and exhibitions -- to take root. "The idea is to develop the area organically on the basis of open discussion and interaction," says the city, which is revamping the area one building at a time over at least the next five years.

Helsinki's Food Culture Strategy
Gardening bags and boxes in the courtyard that local businesses and residents can use to cultivate plants are part of the city's overall "food culture strategy," which includes cultivation of food in the urban environment; composting and recycling of biowaste; and making sure 50 percent of the foods at city-run day-care center are organic by 2015.

Tags: Finland | Local Food | Urban Life