Sea Horse Restaurant: Finnish classics and culture since 1934
By Molly McPharlin | Photos: Sea Horse Restaurant
Nestled in the cosy, prestigious neighbourhood of Ullanlinna that curves along the Baltic Sea and makes up part of the southern tip of Helsinki, Sea Horse Restaurant (Ravintola in Finnish) is a harmonious mix of past and present, and a safe haven for locals and visitors alike. All are graciously welcomed and treated to relaxing surroundings and good food.
Sea Horse originally opened in 1934 and will celebrate its 90th birthday in 2024. The menu has changed little over the years. The restaurant is known for its classic Finnish cuisine, with dishes like generous portions of crispy fried herring, vorschmak, iced cranberries with hot homemade caramel sauce, and their famous Finnish meatballs. Sea Horse showcases Finnish food and its reputation has played a vital role in promoting Finnish food culture internationally.
Its openness and relaxed atmosphere have made it a central meeting point for many different types of people over the years. Artists, politicians and writers sit alongside families, date-night couples, travellers and friends enjoying an evening out. The snug booths, comfortable tables and dreamy painted seascapes on the walls create an atmosphere of warmth.
Staff are hospitable, open and unassuming, greeting those from all of walks of life with respect and kindness. One family mentioned that when they visited the restaurant with their son who has autism, they were given his favourite table every time. Another customer spoke of the delight they experienced when celebrating birthdays and special events at Sea Horse. And another, an artist from the UK who spent three months living in Helsinki, explained how he would enjoy a drink there in the evenings with local fellow artists and get to know the city and its residents.
Sea Horse is a restaurant with a history. Over the years, legendary parties have taken place, famous owners have come and gone. It has closed occasionally during hard times, but always managed to open again. Speculation has swirled around who painted the famous Sea Horse mural in the back of the main room of the restaurant; in reality, it was done by student artists from the nearby city of Espoo over three nights in March, 1970. Still, no one has yet figured out where it got its name. Sea Horses, however, remain the restaurant’s symbol, proudly defining it as a bastion of Finnish hospitality and food around the world.
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