Back in March, we posted a first sneak peek of Helsinki’s Hotel St. George, set to open in February 2018, where we told you a bit about the hotel’s art program and street-facing gallery, which will feature a large-scale sculpture by the iconic Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Now we’re ready to reveal the next chapter in the story: Restaurant Andrea.
Situated on the Lönnrotinkatu side of the landmark building housing Hotel St. George, the street-level Andrea will offer “fascinating taste encounters” dreamed up by its Finnish-Turkish chef duo, Antto Melasniemi and Mehmet Gürs, both superstars in their respective culinary scenes. This recently released short film gives a sense of their culinary vision, translating the feelings they want to evoke with Andrea into sound and image.
“We’ll mostly be cooking from local ingredients. I like my food to travel less than I do,” says Gürs, whose Istanbul restaurant, Mikla, has been listed as one of the 50 best restaurants in the world. “But the olive oils and spices I’ll be bringing from Turkey, of course, and we will also have a brick oven and charcoal barbeque.”
In Turkey, Gürs’ family company has founded a total of 14 restaurants, three coffee shops, and a coffee roastery. The 47-year-old has also had his own cooking program on television. Born in Tammisaari, Finland, Gürs grew up in Stockholm, studied in the United States, and has lived his adult life in Istanbul. He takes pride in sourcing supplies for his restaurants from small local producers, with the help of the company’s dedicated food anthropologist.
“Without small farms and farmers there is no food, and without food there is no future,” says Gürs. “Every bite we take is a choice of how we want to live—what kind of an environment and world we want to have.”
The other half of the Andrea team, Antto Melasniemi, is a food industry visionary, who’s known for his four successful Helsinki restaurants: Kuurna, Ateljé Finne, Putte’s, and KOM. The ex-keyboardist of the band HIM, Melasniemi has been an ambassador for Finnish food culture abroad—cooking, for example, with solar panels in Milan. He’s also been involved in promoting Finnish art and design in London and Stockholm with his ground-breaking HEL YES restaurant, and he’s helped turn Helsinki’s beloved Flow Festival into not just a music fest but a unique culinary event.
“Our ingredients here are incredibly amazing,” said Melasniemi, “but better still, Finnish food culture is so young we still have the opportunity to reinvent it.”