Meripaviljonki — from brave vision to unique restaurant experience
The Siltasaari area has a colourful past. It has been the stage for drama and heroic acts that have impacted the labour movement and Finland’s history. Continuing in this tradition restaurant Meripaviljonki joins the cityscape along the Eläintarhanlahti bay. The creation of Meripaviljonki was ten years in the making.
A restaurant to liven up the Eläintarhanlahti bay shoreline
The story began at the turn of the millennium when the Helsinki Worker’s Association’s then managing director, Esko Häsä, and the founder of Ravintolakolmio, Heimo Keskinen, thought about the possibility of a summer restaurant on the Eläintarhanlahti bay. The first plan, which called for an open, floating, square summer terrace, did not please the city planners. They went back to the drawing board and three options were considered: a restaurant ship, a restaurant on the shore or a floating pavilion type of restaurant.
A vision of a unique restaurant pavilion
Restaurant Graniittilinna opened its doors in 2004. That spring, sitting at one of its curved windows the head of the city planning administration Tuomas Rajajärvi, had a meeting with Heimo Keskinen and Helsinki Worker’s Society’s new managing director Jorma Bergholm.
Rajajärvi emphasized that the city needed new and innovative projects as Helsinki was competing with the other Baltic Sea destinations for tourists and companies. Keskinen and Bergholm were pleasantly surprised when Rajajärvi encouraged the building of a new, exceptional restaurant in this historic milieu. “Do something unique that cannot be found anywhere else in this world – build a restaurant that will last from father to daughter.” Keskinen’s daughter Jenni was at that very moment serving their table.
City planners demanded beautiful architecture
The restaurant project required a change in the city’s zoning. After many twists and turns in February of 2007 the Helsinki city council accepted, by a large majority, a change in the zoning that allowed for either a floating or stilt restaurant to be built in Hakaniemi.
Meripaviljonki’s unique location also required that the architecture be first rate. Simo Freese’s drawings for Meripaviljonki were so good that the expected architectural competition was not deemed necessary.
For a long time, the planners debated whether the pavilion should be built on stilts or if it should float. The tides in Helsinki are rather strong and the difference between the highest and lowest watermarks is 2,44 meters. If the pavilion had been built on stilts it would have had to be built so high that during low tide over two meters of supporting pillars would be visible – not the most beautiful option. The floating solution allowed the restaurant to be closer to nature and provide a unique experience.
Finding a building for a floating restaurant
Despite the meticulous planning, or maybe because of it, no builders made offers to build the restaurant. This happened not only once but over two rounds of requests for offers. During the summer of 2013 the shoreline preparations were started. Towards the end of 2013 a company with operations in international ship building projects, Europlan Oy, took on the challenge. The project started to make progress.
The floating restaurant’s unique architecture, its technical and maintenance requirements, need for durability, and difficult structure required exceptional problem solving skills, perseverance and creativity from the architect, the contractors, restauranteurs and builders. Meripaviljonki’s pontoons had to build out of two pieces so that they would fit under the Pitkäsilta bridge and could be moved to their home in the harbour of the Eläintarhanlahti bay.
Making a dream come true was a long process
The Meripaviljonki is a result of an exciting and long process that stretched over ten years of planning. At the same time, it is the realization of a dream and an excellent example of what open minded people, working together, can achieve. Meripaviljonki has provided an amazing opportunity for many people to leave their mark in place and time. The new restaurant was opened in the spring of 2015 and it operates as a lunch and dinner restaurant and can also be rented for private events.
Today, Meripaviljonki serves shellfish and fish dishes
Meripaviljonki’s menus roots are in the sea. The restaurant aims to provide its customers a unique milieu in which to enjoy seafood dishes made from pure, high quality seasonal ingredients that reflect Finnish nature. The restaurant is a showcase of Finnish know-how, an architectural piece or art, and a part of the new international Helsinki. Meripaviljonki has been created to be part of its historically and culturally rich environment and to be enjoyed by all.
You are warmly welcome to Restaurant Meripaviljonki!