All Images by B. Alter
Last week we had foraged mushrooms served by Italian architects. Tonight we had foraged Finnish food in a pop-up recycled magical forest. The London Design Festival feels more food than design...
Hel Yes! is a temporary restaurant that has been lovingly created for the Festival, with aspen trees from Helsinki, tents, mismatched Finnish pottery and fresh local food, Finnish style.
Pop-up in an Old Warehouse
It looks ramshackle, but it's a fairy land carefully curated and created by Finnish designers, working with the Finnish Institute. They are using nature as their metaphor and their model, with most things being recycled and re-used and the foods all natural and simple.
The diners sit on a set of 403 limited-edition Artek chairs, designed by Alvar Aalto in the '30's. Or at long communal tables with benches made out of unfinished tree trunks. The tables are charming, with wood aspen branches acting as legs. The branches form a sort of hut over the top of the table, reminiscent of ancient yurts. On the side there are tents draped with shawls and textiles to keep drinkers warm.
The cutlery is by Iittala, the plates are second hand Finnish. They were collected earlier in the year through a series of 'Plate Swap' dinner events, organised in Helsinki. Participants were asked to bring their old Iittala or Arabia plates and to trade in their beloved items of china and their stories for a complimentary dinner. One man brought along Arabia plates that used to belong to his grandmother.
The bar is a long open counter, with a big open-plan kitchen behind. The counter is sitting on open shelves full of fresh foods such as locally foraged vegetables and herbs such as wood sorrel, chickweed, polypody root and Finnish lingonberries. which will be used in the meal.
And what about the food: the chef enjoys working with "conceptual ideas and performances relating to eating" and he likes wants to serve "delicacies of primitive Finnish cuisine which is typically more about pure ingredients than restaurant culture."
It's a three course menu: the first course is a choice of seabass tartare, ox tongue or beet root. The main courses are lamb neck or wild mushroom hash and for dessert: licorice custard, wild raspberry manna or sorbet with a shot of vodka.
All of the servings are very simple, not too large and fresh in flavour. The focus is on taste, although each is beautifully presented.
Purple Lumi, Vodka with mixed wild berries, elderberry, cinammon and apple
The Finns love their alcohol. Apparently they say that in Finland a person who doesn't drink is never fully trusted. The beer is called Lapin Kulta and is brewed in Lapland. The other drinks all have a shot of vodka and spring water and wild berry juice.
More on London Design Festival
London Design Festival Gets Cooking with Foraged Mushrooms
Stuart Haygarth Recycles Picture Frames