The idyllic Piispankatu in the Turku Cathedral area was known for centuries as Piispanpelto (Bishop’s field) and it was also the home of Finland’s first botanical garden, which was opened in 1757. The actual garden was destroyed in the Great Fire of Turku in 1827, but in the same spot at the Aura River shore in the centre of the university campus, a famous, massive oak still grows between the Sibelius Museum and the new restaurant, Grädda, in the best riverside view of the city.
Grädda’s premises are in the remarkable Empire-style wooden building built in 1832, in a large garden plot at the eastern shore of the River Aura. The history of the building is fascinating: doctors and researchers have lived and worked there, but it also housed the renowned court painter, Robert W. Ekman, who was known as the painter of the large frescoes of the Turku Cathedral altars. During Ekman’s life in the late 19th century, Piispankatu 15 was already known as the scene for fine parties where high society gathered around to admire the large, bright studio of the well-known court painter.
In 2010, the Åbo Akademi University Foundation, in cooperation with the Finnish Heritage Agency, carried out a complete renovation in the building where the house was changed to suit the purposes of modern restaurant services and banquet catering. A new, paved terrace was built to the riverside area of the building. The terrace provides a unique view of the shore of the Aura River, rows of blooming cherry trees, and the upstream towards Tuomaansilta. The idyllic restaurant became very popular as a lunch spot of university staff as well as a stage for private banquets and dinners. Now, the well-known restauranteur Voiveljet and its CEO Janne Juvonen are continuing the high-class legacy of the venue by opening restaurant Grädda at the end of May.
“I didn’t have to think twice about this opportunity. The atmosphere in the house is like no other – still and unhurried in a good way,” Juvonen notes with inspiration.
Grädda’s restaurant manager Emma Bergqvist is excited about the opening of the restaurant: the venue is spectacular, and the location is quiet but also within walking distance from the commercial centre of Turku.
“The proximity to universities will surely make Grädda a popular place for business lunches, academic celebrations, and private parties. On the other hand, the proximity to Turku Cathedral, the large yard and abundant parking spaces are also practical for organising family gatherings,” Bergqvist considers.
Grädda’s menu is designed to be “classic but not dusty,” and the idea is to serve fashionable, simple, honest and tasty food using high-quality ingredients. Grädda has drawn inspiration from the style of Stockholm’s urban classic restaurants and high-class vegetarian food. The festive, bright and spacious halls of Grädda have the capacity to seat 170 people indoors. Outside there is a 120-seat terrace, bathing in the light of a setting sun, where you can come for dinner or just a drink. During summer, the restaurant is open from lunch hours until 9–10pm. The banquet season will begin again in autumn.
Janne Juvonen expects the autumn to be busy as the pent-up demand for parties starts to unravel.
“In the future, customers will need elegant and functional facilities as well as high-class services that allow also the hosts to focus on their guests and enjoy the evening,” Juvonen envisions.
“Grädda’s name was also chosen with this vision in mind, as a sister for the Smör restaurant. The classic combination of cream and butter – that is all you need for tasty food,” Juvonen laughs with the insight of a seasoned professional.
Text: Sari Ruusumo
Photo: Mika Okko