Saturday, 3 January 2015

Tenu - Finnish pop-up restaurant in London

I've been longing for a Finnish restaurant in London and even though Tenu was just a pop-up open for one month in December 2014, it was such a pleasure to see Brits being introduced to the delicacies of my home country. On the night we went, there were a lot of fellow Finns there too, and we spotted at least one famous chef sampling the Nordic fare.

The Englishman and I thoroughly enjoyed the Tenu house cocktail 
Antto Melasniemi, together with the artist Klaus Haapaniemi (who is most famous for his designs for Iittala ceramics), created a bit of Finland in Soho, in an intimate room near Leicester Square, a space that was previously occupied by an outpost of St John's Bread and Wine. 

I took my family, and we'd all been looking forward to having reindeer, but seeing the menu on the night, couldn't decide what to have. The Englishman suggested the 7 course tasting menu, and that was an excellent choice. I made one provision, however. I'd heard through the Finnish London Ex-pat grapevine that the sweetened potato bake (imelletty perunalaatikko) was to die for, so I wanted some of that on our menu. Son asked for reindeer, and when the friendly waitress promised us both we sat back and enjoying out Tenu gin cocktails with lingonberries, waited for our tastebuds to be taken back to Finland.

Tenu Gin Cocktail
And my goodness that - and more - is what happened. For me, the potato bake was the star of the show, and I had to stop myself from licking the dish clean. (I particularly loved the slightly burnt bits round the top of the dish). It took me right back to my childhood in Tampere. 

The salmon fish chowder with salmon roe was also excellent, as was the lingonberry granita for dessert. There were also two more fish courses, and some very tasty chicken liver with those beautifully fresh tasting lingonberries, in between.

Salmon fish chowder.
Reindeer with beetroot.
Sweet potato bake.

Lingonberry granita and liquorice brûlée.  
The whole experience of the meal was improved by the beautiful table coverings, china and decorations by Haapaniemi, who now has a shop in London on Redchurch Street, just a hop and a skip from Shoreditch House.

After our meal I decided to have a quick chat with the chef, Antto Melasniemi. I'd been watching him do the cooking in the open kitchen at the back of the restaurant, and wanted to thank him for the wonderful experience. When I told him my only wish was that Tenu would be permanent, and leant over the counter, I noticed that while chatting to me Antto was also caramelising a couple of liquorice creme brûlées with a blow torch. 'Oh,' I said and moved away, 'I'd better leave you to it!' In a typically understated Finnish way, Antto took a swig out of a martini glass with his free hand (it was nearly the end of the service and the pop-up) and said, 'No, it's fine.' (When a Finn says it's fine, he means that it is no problem at all - really - unlike a Brit who'd mean exactly the opposite...). I'm sure Antto's laid-back attitude to life is what made the pop-up such a relaxed, happy place.

Me with Antto Melasniemi
Please, please, please, Antto, make Tenu a permanent feature in London!           

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