Sustainable Gastronomy 3 minutes 15 April 2024

Helsinki's Hidden Gems

Three restaurants where taste, transparency and traceability meet

On 27th May this year, the world’s culinary spotlight will be shining on Helsinki. That evening, in the historic Savoy Theatre, the new restaurant selection will be unveiled for The MICHELIN Guide Nordic Countries – covering Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The announcement will be hotly anticipated, due to the exceptional quality that already exists within Nordic gastronomy.

For such an occasion, Finland’s capital city seems like a fitting host. It has a thriving restaurant scene that includes the exceptional, Two Michelin Starred Palace, which has been rated by the Michelin Inspectors as one of the finest restaurants in the Nordic region. This is backed up by 4 restaurants with One Michelin Star and 2 Bib Gourmands that offer great value for money. Crucially, Helsinki is also home to 3 Green Star restaurants: Grön, Natura and Nolla.

This is of particular interest in this part of the world, which is known globally for leading the way in sustainable issues. Culinarily, the Nordic Countries are famous for their boundary-pushing innovation and for a cool, pared-back aesthetic that has spread to restaurants the world over; but they are also known for their eco-conscious approach to dining. With a total of 33 Green Star restaurants spread across the 5 countries, this region boasts a higher proportion of Green Stars among its selections than anywhere else in the world.

Credit: Oleksiy Mark
Credit: Oleksiy Mark

Helsinki perfectly demonstrates this attitude towards living life in a more planet-friendly manner. In 2023, the city was ranked by the Global Destination Sustainability Index as the fourth most sustainable travel destination in the world. The city’s 'Think Sustainably' criteria have been introduced to assess the environmental impact of attractions and institutions, helping locals and tourists alike to make more responsible choices, while businesses can improve their practices too, with help from the Hiilikuri carbon footprint calculator. When it comes specifically to the hospitality industry, Helsinki also has long-established schemes such as the Mission Zero Foodprint and the Food Waste Ecosystem in place.

Among the many eco-friendly initiatives in Helsinki, are three Michelin Green Star restaurants, which demonstrate the kind of unwavering commitment to a greener food future that the Michelin Inspectors love to see. Below, we take a more detailed look at each one.


Holding both One Michelin Star and a Green Star, Grön is a shining example of what sustainable gastronomy can achieve, of how responsibly sourced produce can help, not hinder, the crafting of exceptional dishes. As with many Green Stars, superb seasonal produce is the bedrock of the Grön way. There’s not a hint of artificiality about the brilliant ingredients, which yield pure, natural flavours that help propel the cooking to Michelin Star level. Fruit and vegetables are pushed to the fore if you choose the completely plant-based menu, and when meat is used it is with a ‘whole animal’ approach.

As you sit in this understated restaurant, you can see Grön’s green ethos encapsulated in the jars of preserved produce lining the shelves. In the summer, when they have an abundance of natural ingredients, the team use pickling and fermentation processes to preserve the produce within its life cycle. On the winter menu, these ingredients are then used to add an extra dimension to the delicious dishes.


Many restaurants find that their best route to flavoursome and sustainable produce is to grow it themselves. It is a philosophy that has certainly been adopted by the team at this dark, moody restaurant and in summer, a whole host of herbs, flowers and vegetables are harvested and used across their dishes. For the rest of their ingredients, the team work with small producers, often in the local area; wild berries and herbs play a big role in the menu too, and are foraged from within 50km of the restaurant.

These brilliant plant-powered ingredients are being given greater prominence as the kitchen tries to reduce the amount of meat on its menu. When meat is used, it is often seasonal wild game – which has a far smaller environmental impact than farmed meats. As is often the Nordic way, a range of preserving techniques – including salting, pickling and smoking – are used to ensure seasonal produce can be used further down the line and the kitchen won’t have to resort to unnaturally grown ingredients.


It’s not often you see a restaurant that has been awarded both a Green Star for its sustainable commitment and a Bib Gourmand for its good value – but Nolla is among that rare breed. Like many Bibs around the world, it is a trendy and buzzing place, with a younger dining crowd and sensibly priced dishes that are packed full of flavour. That the team here manage to turn over such high numbers of immensely satisfied diners and still stick to their sustainable principles is testament to the strength of their vision.

‘Nolla’ is Finnish for ‘zero’, which is a rather big hint towards their zero-waste approach. The chefs make the most of their ingredients (which are themselves sourced from local, trusted suppliers in season) by using commonly discarded elements to enhance their hearty dishes – like venison offcuts and offal being compressed into an intensely flavoured, slow-cooked cube to accompany the roasted loin. Leftovers that can’t be incorporated into dishes are put into their in-house composter, with the compost then offered back to their initial suppliers – a wonderful example of the ‘closing the loop’ philosophy.

Helsinki’s Green Star restaurants are certainly showing the world the way forward when it comes to sustainable dining – and they are a credit to a city which, before long, will be shining a light on Nordic gastronomy at the MICHELIN Guide Nordic Countries 2024 launch ceremony.

Hero Image: Kari Ylitalo / Helsinki Partners

Sustainable Gastronomy

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