Karl Otto Fazer was a Finnish businessman, who in 1891 decided to establish a coffeehouse (i.e cafe) in Helsinki, Finland. His coffeeshop evolved into a Finnish empire of restaurants, coffee shops and even a widely recognized chocolate and candy brand bearing his surname Fazer. It’s pretty much Finland’s equivalence to the United Kingdom’s Cadbury, the United States Hershey’s, Sweden’s Marabou and Italy’s Ferrero. You know the well known brand that “everyone loves”, but is really just a large industrially mass produced food, that is made to be liked and affordable by as many as possible. Well, to be fair, Ferrero actually makes a lot of really good products not just “good for being mass produced”, but actually really good.
Back to Fazer Café, where Mr. Fazer began his chocolate career. How are the edibles?
The things available are pretty Scandinavian, you’ll find most of the standard baked goods you’d expect in old classic bakeries and patisseries. But there are also some classic Finnish goodies. The karjalanpiirakka (i.e Karelian pasty) are traditional pastries from the Karelia region of Finland (close to the Russian border) and are eaten all over Finland. The pastry is a wheat or rye crust, traditionally filled with a savory rice and egg custard, and served with a cold mix of butter and boiled egg. Normally it’s a tasty dish with a little side sallad. Here at Fazer Café it’s quite dry, a sad introduction to a Finnish classic if you’ve never tried karjalanpiirakka before.
Then I had an “omena hyve”-cake, which consists of baked apple dices, covered with a meringue base that hasn’t (and shouldn’t) be properly baked in the oven, resulting in a fluffy sweet mouse from egg whites and sugar, with a very thin outer shell. At Fazer Café, it’s served with a vanilla custard. Quite tasty, actually, although it’s a little too sweet.
The hot chocolate is ok, but considering this is where the Fazer chocolate empire started, I would expect a little more than just a descent cup of hot chocolate. If you’re ever in London, visit Rabot 1745 right by the Borough Market – now, that’s an amazing hot cup of chocolate! Fazer isn’t.
Last but not least, I had what the Swedes call “räkmacka”, and simply means shrimp sandwich. Popular all over the Nordic countries. I’ll be back with a proper article about the traditional sandwich, but basically it’s an open sandwich with lettuce, mayo, boiled egg, a piece of lemon and all of shrimp. The shrimps on this particular sandwich, were fresh and good. So was the rest, but the bread was one of those pre-sliced factory made breads with the texture of a sponge. No fun.
The final verdict? This is a tourist trap. A relatively good tourist trap, worth a visit if you’re close by. But still a tourist trap.