Monday, 15 September 2014

Nauvo - the pearl in the crown of Finnish archipelago

After returning from our previous roadtrip to Fiskars we had barely time to sleep, visit Delicacies of Finland and explore the Asian Night Market at Teurastamo, the old abattoir. Following morning we hit the road again. 

As the offspring of a military family, The Boy Next marching orders were nothing if not prompt: "departure in 30 minutes, suitcases have already been retrieved. Destination: archipelago." Born into a military family myself, I equally promptly accepted the mission and a collection of Breton stripes, Tommy Hilfiger fleeces and cable knits flew into the suitcase quicker than one can say sailor chic.

In less than half an hour we were in the car, headed for Nauvo - the crown jewel of Finnish archipelago. Oh, the things he'll do just to avoid hanging a mirror! Then again - if the price for that is being confined to a car in the company of a co-driver who can't drive, read a map or stop lip-syncing to 1980's Whitney Houston classics... it doesn't come cheap.

In Nauvo we stayed at the charmingly old-fashioned and rather romantic (the rose-patterned wallpapers!) Hotel Strandbo, which we liked a lot. Nauvo guest harbour is the busiest in the Turku archipelago, yet Nauvo itself is very compact. The hotel itself is located smack in the middle of it all, next to the harbour. The service was friendly and every bit as sunny as the day we arrived.

Seeing how the travelling companion is a walking encyclopedia on just about everything, I, too, managed to learn something new. Such as that the island of Seili, also shown on the map above, used to be home to a leper colony! I didn't even know we used to have those in Finland! The first patients were shipped over from Turku already in the 14th century.

Later, in the late 18th century the hospital was converted into an asylum for mentally ill. Now, those even I know we've never had any shortage of in Finland...

Nauvo is adorable little place, especially in the summer. Though according to their adverts it's so much more: it's a lifestyle!

Bistro is a word they use rather loosely in this lifestyle of theirs. I think we only saw one restaurant - the others had, in a rather care-free manner, titled theirs bistros. In the middle of the shopping street in the harbour we found the first one. Bistro Klykan serves mostly toasts, salads and such - we went for the fresh shrimps (an archipelago staple) with aioli and chilli mayo (€16), served casually in a brown paper bag.

As we were weighing our options for dinner, we contemplated another "bistro" Martha's, located in a charming inn famous for their archipelago food, and especially their archipelago malt bread (for our recipe, please see here). Their street food menu (?) wasn't enough to convince The Boy Next Door.

Unanimously we also decided to skip pizza restaurant Najaden in a boat next to the harbour.

L'Escale, a French-ish restaurant seemed interesting, id a little dated. Unfortunately they've already stopped serving the archipelago buffet for the summer and the noisy after sail crown upstairs didn't really do it for us either.

Their terrace offers nice views though. Enough to get me dreaming of a boat of our own. Not that we have the time, money, place in the marina or ability to navigate one but why let little insignificant details like that get in the way? And anyway, I'd only be in charge of the catering, right?

We retired to the terrace of our hotel to take in the view, the embrace of the late August sun and some perfectly chilled Grüner Veltliner... and the menu of hotel's restaurant Fyren. 

We kicked the dinner off with snails in garlic butter. Safe bet, maybe, but good. Just the right amount of everything.

The menu isn't exciting or particularly innovative, but as the next course, too, proved, everything they do here, they do well.

Neither of us could get our heads around how something as mundane -sounding as fish soup can taste this good. It was superb. And I truly mean souperb. Easily the best fish soup either of us had ever had.

"Our top-seller" the staff confidently conceded. No airs and graces here! And that's no wonder: it was so rich and creamy and full of flavour with just the right amount of warmth in the stock (courtesy of orange juice, I was later told).

Fyren is specialized in local fish and the white fish dish was beautifully summery with fresh flavours and nice citrusy notes from the lime. But... even though there was absolutely nothing wrong with it per se, after that soup nothing else stood a chance. 

Yes, it really was that good!

We braved the (typically for our summer holiday) rainy weather and ventured to Martha's for desserts. The kitchen had already closed for the evening but the charming café, reminiscent of Grandma's living room, was still open. After the dreamy, velvety blueberry cheesecake and deliciously rich salty toffee brownie we were fine with the sudden possetlessness. 

The next morning brought with it a glorious sunshine and equally glorious breakfast. They had everything from fishy treats (pickled herrings and cold smoked salmon galore) to granolas and porridges and fresh fruit and croissants and jams... and bacon. 

Oh, Nauvo. You sure were a treat.




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