5 Unique restaurants in Lapland – from budget to fine dining
Lapland gives an astonishing backdrop to a delicious restaurant scene: a summer sun that never sets, winter hours spent knee deep in snow and the presence of Santa and his elves. The allure of the region is indisputable!
But while the wilderness has always been present, who knew that Lapland had become an up-and-coming must-see for culinary enthusiasts as well? A showcase of local knowledge, traditions, organic ingredients and a hint of mystique, Lapland offers a display of interesting tastes and flavors.
From budget to fine dining and everything in between: here are 5 tasty treats of the most unique restaurant experiences in Lapland.
Image above from Aurora Estate. Article published in September 2019.
In Lapland, swapping the hustle and bustle of ski resorts and cities to the peace and quiet of the wilderness takes mere minutes.
Located in Inari, hotel Kultahovi features an absolute gem of a restaurant, Aanaar.
The speciality at Aanaar is a new take on a classic, dried pike. A local version of the internationally beloved dried cod, pike offers a rounder and according to the kitchen staff, more delicious flavour. Served with marinated angelica, fennel and bottarga, salt-cured cod roe, the dish ultimately represents Lapland itself. Local, curious and absolutely divine! And let’s not forget a cold, dry white wine to splendidly accompany it.
A festive feast that is best finished with something sweet in the form of Metsä. A dessert that features berries of the forest, mixed with pettukakku, a Finnish adaptation of sponge cake. Finally being topped off with a serving of spruce-infused ice cream.
Not to mention the chaga mushroom tea, served with a slice of lemon and local honey. Make sure to ask for a cup! Distinctly warming, delicious and very Lappish.
Ahkun tupa, a family-run business stands humble next to Lemmenjoki river. The restaurant features 75 seats and is fully licenced. The menu might seem quite slim at a first glance but will take a more supple turn once a moment is taken with the owners.
An enterprise run by the two sisters Jomppanen, Ahkun tupa offers wonderful local delicacies soaked with something priceless, namely the stories. This restaurant will not open up to a hasty visitor but will rather cherish a stranger who sits down for a delicious salmon soup, willing to spend an hour or two with the family. Stories will spread near and far from reindeer in Copenhagen Tivoli to the ladies’ father Juhani Jomppanen, the first Sámi businessman.
The speciality of Ahkun tupa comes in two ways. One either orders a classic, the reindeer stew. Here served the traditional way with boiled potatoes, not mash, as has always been the Sámi way. Or then one goes for the the vegetable soup. At a mere 7€ a plate, the soup prepared by Joanna Jomppanen is a light and delicious way to end a big day at the Ravadas Falls. The dish will vary with the seasons of Lapland, displaying the colours of nature and the local ingredients available at each time. Absolutely delightful, just like the sisters themselves.
Aurora Estate, the absolutely breathtaking boutique restaurant located a mere 30 kilometers from Kolari, offers seasonal menus with a strong focus on local ingredients. The menus are known to offer an element of surprise – something that has never been tasted before.
Previously this has meant infusing reindeer fillet with a sauce of coffee and a hint of smoke. Or even curing reindeer meat for hours in the traditional smoke sauna. A dish invented for visitors from the Washington Post featured the long smoked reindeer served with frozen egg yolks and parmesan chips. Something which ended up becoming one of the most popular dishes served at the estate over and over again.
Aurora Estate aims to operate as sustainably as possible with minimum impact on the environment. Fish and shellfish is always WWF approved, the wine organic and even the ceramics have been chosen from Villeroy & Boch due to their commitment to sustainable operations. The company warms their offices with the heat from the ceramic oven! A small detail which is not lost on Aurora Estate.
The restaurant is also committed to saving the culinary enthusiast! It offers plush and extremely comfortable chairs for all those five course meals and hours spent at this incredibly chic establishment.
Restaurant Deatnu in Utsjoki gently bows its head to the local Sámi culture. Something which is exhibited in both the interior of the space, the language of the menus and the components of the delicious dishes. The restaurant thrives to source all ingredients as locally as possible with for example, white fish straight from Inari, salmon from Teno and all reindeer from Utsjoki.
All courses are beautifully executed but while the Aitti hamburger stands as the favourite, the specialities are where the focus should lay. Tops, an entree featuring hut smoked arctic char, ice cellar salmon and reindeer carpaccio, is a standalone star.
When visiting somewhere as north as Utsjoki, one should not miss the chance to taste reindeer. At Deatnu this local delicacy has been brought in from Paistunturi Fell, then wrapped in bacon and finally served with cream potatoes and wild game sauce. An absolute gem of a dish! And if there is still some space left, then Something good is recommended. The dessert is composed of homemade ice cream and biscuits with a great serving of local berries.
While the food is amazing at restaurant Deatnu, the large windows of the restaurant guarantee that some of the focus is still kept where it should be: right in the nature rising outside the establishment. A scenery that keeps changing with the seasons.
Laanilan kievari is a family-run restaurant in the heart of Saariselkä. The restaurant’s menu features meat, local fish and a strong passion for preserving the age old tradition of making bread.
The bread starter was initially prepared by the lady of the house in 2013. With strong roots in Carelia, Riitta Ruotsalainen made the starter following the moon cycle. The old belief being that bread only rises with the ascending moon and eventually fails, if prepared during a descending one. A bit of mystique, as is expected in the Lapland region. But something the Ruotsalainen family strongly believe in, rather than baker’s yeast.
Laanilan kievari offers a speciality of reindeer shoulder cooked on an open fire on the restaurant floor. The meat is served whole accompanied with honey-glazed roots and vegetables. And of course the incredibly delicious jus collected during the pre-roasting process!
For those with a liking for the sweeter things in life, the restaurant recommends Lumipallo, an incredible MasterChef Pressure Test recipe. The dish is formed by a tempered and hollow white chocolate ball which is filled with dark chocolate mousse. A cassis heart is then added and finally the delicious chocolate ball is placed on citrus granité with a sprinkling of crystallised white chocolate. A sparkling end to a fantastic meal!