The city of Helsinki, which is located as far north as Alaska, cherishes its long and fleeting summer days. On the coast of the Baltic Sea, an unusual restaurant and wine bar combines two of the city’s traditions: warm-weather relaxation and outdoor carpet-cleaning.
Carpet washing piers, known as mattolaiturit, dot the seafront of the Finnish capital. They are the urban variant of a longstanding tradition in Finland: washing laundry in rural lakes. Today, Finns still practice the custom, bringing household carpets to these special washing stations with pine oil soap. They wash their rugs, rinse them in seawater, and hang them over the piers to dry in the sun while they enjoy the rest of the day.
The restaurant and wine bar Mattolaituri, which opened in 2011, is next to one of the city’s most popular carpet washing piers. The chic, minimal design of the cafe makes for a modernity-meets-nostalgia vibe that helps explain its popularity. During the day, people stop by after a jog, or midway through a dog walk, for a cup of coffee and a korvapuusti, or Finnish cinnamon bun. The brunch crowd likes the spacious seafront terrace. In the evening, revelers might enjoy the midnight sun with bubbly, a DJ, and a swim off the pier. At any time of day, the unmistakable scent of pine soap wafts in from the pier and mingles with the perfume of champagne.