Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Kämp Hamburger at Kämp Café, Helsinki, Finland

This was my first burger with a journalist from Helsingin Sanomat. He's making a story about hamburgers and I was interviewed for the article while tasting several burgers.

The Kämp was opened in 1887 and it was the first luxury hotel in Helsinki. It has seen the good and the worst days of Finland from two wars to independence. The Kämp restaurants were patronised by renowned politicians, artists, composers and writers. For example, composer Jean Sibelius, writer Eino Leino and painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela were regular customers. Original Kämp hotel was closed in 1965. The building was demolished and rebuilt and it didn't work as a hotel until 1999 when it was re-opened as part of the Luxury Collection of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.

We visited the Kämp Café which is located on the street floor of the hotel. The decor was nice, modern minimalism with pinch of kitch. The service was good and friendly as you can expect. And yes, this was my second gourmet burger location where you get to use silverware and cotton napkins while having your burger. The reason why we came here is that Kämp Café is said to serve the most expensive burger in town. Here's the description...

"marbled fillet of beef with rucola and horseradish mayonnaise, cheddar cheese and pommes frites"

Kämp is profiled as a gourmet place and this "burger" did not reach the gourmet level. Let's go to details:

- First of all this is NOT a hamburger - this portion should be called a steak sandwich not a hamburger.

- Secondly, the bun should not be standard-supermarket-good-to-eat-for-two-months type of a bun. And the bun was hardly toasted and it crumbled to your hand. With the price of €21.00 you expect to get something else. For example they served really nice focaccia bread while waiting your order to be served which they could use as a bun.

- Thirdly, the combination of tastes were not right. Rucola, tomato and horseradish ok, but what's with the cheddar? Try Gruyère or Manchego, or even strong Emmental (Swiss cheese) - anything else with more taste than standard cheddar. Something which works well with the Rucola and horseradish.

- Fourthly, what's with the portion size. It's gourmet and it's built high to look nice but with a big bun and small piece of fillet you ended up having a 1/3 sandwhich without any meat on it. Ok, you had a good pile of nice crispy (and really salty) fries on the side but for €21.00 you want to have a perfect burger not just bun with horseradish mayo and rucola.

- And finally the 'juices'. If the only moist thing in the serving was mayo there's something wrong. The fillet was correctly cooked to medium but fillet is fillet not 'juicy' burger meat. If they changed the fillet to freshly grounded prime beef it could still be priced as fillet, and the taste could be from another planet with juicy meat.

(As a side note: Kämp is located about two blocks from the market hall which has one or two butcher stores where man could get daily grounded premium organic beef. That could work as a base for gourmet burger. If executed right it would match the expectations of gourmet level. And a free hint for the Chefs who seek a benchmark for gourmet burger - travel to San Francisco and try Zuni Burger.)

With this price I would not recommend this steak sandwich - burger or whatever they want to call it - to anyone. Sadly, the value for the money just isn't there.

Hotel Kämp
Pohjoisesplanadi 29
00130 Helsinki, Finland

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