"If the Hotel Seurahuone was a person, it would be a trendy godmother, with red lipstick and leather pants, always impressing with something new and wonderful every time you meet. They are a super social type, constantly entertaining lots of guests, organising dinner parties and always ready with a warm hug whenever you arrive or say goodbye," eloquently explains the hotel manager Sanna Byskata.
Byskata is responsible for establishing Turku’s new, timeless and casual premium hotel. The task is fun but challenging, because the hotly anticipated Seurahuone will be one of the most interesting things in Turku’s hotel industry for a while. There is a certain expectation in tourism that as a restaurant boom raises standards, people turn toward the Turku hotels and expect them to meet that quality.
Responsible for the new Seurahuone is TOK, which is embracing the new hotel trends and seeking to meet the increasingly individualised expectations of the modern consumer.
“As a big player, we have the networks to develop new concepts and implement them properly,” says Sanna Byskata, continuing:
“This has been a great opportunity to experiment with new types of collaboration with specialist design companies. For example, the inspiration for the restaurant comes form Aki Wahlman’s Foody Allen. Responsible for the interior design is Jaakko Puro, the designer behind the highly acclaimed interiors of Lilla Roberts and Haven.”
The inspiration for Seurahuone’s restaurant comes form Aki Wahlman’s Foody Allen. Responsible for the interior design is Jaakko Puro, the designer behind the highly acclaimed interiors of Lilla Roberts and Haven.
When the design process for Seurahuone began, current trends were carefully considered and then those that were most essential for this project were chosen.
“We came to the conclusion that the things which mattered to us the most were locality, responsibility and personality,” explains Sanna Byskata, going on to say:
“The new Seurahuone is, first and foremost, a Turku hotel. We want those who stay with us to have a clear feeling during their whole visit that they’re in Turku and nowhere else. In addition, we also want that even urbanites come to stay with us for the weekend. "Staycation" is a getaway in your hometown and a new trend in the world of city breaks that Seurahuone wants to be a part of.”
What then in Seurahuone is from Turku? The staff of course, they are local and convey a natural service culture that is of high of quality and distinctly Turku. Also, the beautiful setting and building of Seurahuone itself, which dates form 1928, is a valuable piece of real estate designed by Erik Bryggman, a famous architect and son of Turku.
Although the guests of Seurahuone in Turku are primarily business and leisure travellers, the hotel could not fully flourish without the help of the local Turku-based clientele.
“We definitely think that the appreciation the locals have for Seurahuone is a measure of our success. When the city residents make Seurahuone their own, it’s easy to sell to others. It’s no secret that the citizens of Turku have high expectations.”
The part of Seurahuone that brings together the local and tourist clientele is of course the restaurant. The restaurant at Seurahuone is named Gunnar, and Gunnar is preparing to bring something completely new to the city’s culinary culture.
“In Turku it’s not easy, because you already have a very good restaurant scene even without us,” says the smiling restaurant manager of Gunnar Sami Kivirinta, and continues:
“Because we already know the city’s restaurant culture, we also know what the city is still missing. So our strategy in Gunnar is to invest in so-called social eating. Here we have room for larger parties. The menu contains a lot of dishes designed for sharing, and from the cellar you’ll find a good selection of magnum and jeroboam bottles. The atmosphere is relaxed and the staff will always have something new to offer.”
“Another core tenet of the restaurant is our close links with local producers and consumers. From the beginning, the development of Gunnar had the input from a gang of eight local ‘connoisseurs’, which we gathered together through social media. Their role was to provide local insight, ideas and customer perspectives which we fed into the planning of the restaurant.”
Gunnar has partnered with six local specialist producers. For example, yoghurt and ice cream is brought in from the Sikkatalu sheep farm in Rymättylä, whilst honey is sourced from the original Dark Bee apiary on the Tammirauma honey farm.
“The table settings are another place where the region’s producers are visible, with Gunnar’s tableware from the Terraviiva designers on Kaskenmäki.”
The delights of sheep milk straight from Rymättylä
The name of the small black sheep is Gunnar, and it sits drinking milk on the lap of the restaurant’s godmother, Paula Stam. We are at the Sikkatalu sheep farm in Rymättylä getting to know the partner companies for Seurahuone’s restaurant Gunnar.
“I’m actually a vegetarian, and I founded the farm in order to supply the market with more products to meet the needs of customers like me,” explains the farmer Katja Sikka, continuing:
“Our animals are treated well. For example, the lambs get the milk from their own mothers for the first two months of their life. On most farms this would be regarded as totally foolish, as the best milk would go to the lambs rather than for sale.”
On Sikkatalu sheep farm people have responsibilities and the animals have rights, and this can be tasted in the products the farm produces. For example, in Seurahuone sheep’s-milk finds its way to the breakfast table as yoghurt and as ice cream on Gunnar’s desert menu.
Are you so passionate and enthusiastic about hotel trends that you carefully survey the hotel with a keen eye? Do you notice the architectural features or the design details carefully put in place? Can you distinguish between what has been seen a million times and that which is completely new and different?
“Seurahuone’s design went on to become exactly what Turku deserves,” says Jaakko Puro, summing up:
“We started to make a fun hotel that has the desires of guests in mind rather than cleaning. All Turku was missing was a vibrant boutique hotel – and that’s exactly what they got.”
INFORMATION AND RESERVATIONS
In partnership with TOK.
Text by Liina Komi. Photos and video from Kim Allen-Mersh.
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