Sleepover: Hotel Kamp
A bed for the night in Helsinki
Sunday 28 July 2002
Where is it?
The hotel looks out over the fashionable tree-lined Esplanadi Park, linking the harbour to central Helsinki.
What's it like?
It bills itself as Finland's "faithfully restored 19th-century luxury hotel". Yet only the odd picture is more than 100 years old. Disappointingly, the rest dates from 1999. But, despite too much matt mahogany, the refurbishment more or less works.
What's its USP?
History, really. Carl Wilhelm Kamp was Helsinki's top restaurateur in the 1880s and this place was his pride and joy: a European grand hotel with glittering chandeliers and rustling gowns, a venue for glamorous parties. It is where Sibelius smoked cigars and drank copious amounts of brandy. His wife came looking for him once and said: "Jean, when are you coming home?" He replied: "Madam, I am a composer, not a forecaster." Finland plotted independence here and the building later survived 30 years as an office.
Fantastic. The intelligent staff, who enjoy what they're doing, are helpful and smiling and speak good English – the younger they are the more fluent it is.
One hundred and seventy nine, in six categories, ranging from €150 (£100) for a deluxe room to €2,624 (£1,750) for the Mannerheim suite, per night. Luxurious in one way, but I found my head collapsed through the feather pillows. The temperature plummeted at night and I had to change rooms. And why are modern lighting systems so complicated, with master consoles and round and square switches, leaving you clueless as to what they are all for. How about a light that goes on when you flick the switch? It'll never catch on.
Food and drink?
The highlight. The fame of Restaurant Kamp, the posher of the two dining rooms, spreads far and wide: its Sibelius menu costs €86. I ate in CK's, the brasserie, whose head waiter chose my evening meal. For starters I had grilled white asparagus with vol-au-vent. The main course was exquisite: pan-fried fillets of perch, chives potato and roe sauce with spinach and broccoli. Pudding was port wine sabayon and gratinated pineapple with ginger ice cream. This was also the scene of the biggest, most nutritious breakfast I've had.
Couples and conferences mostly. Its nooks and crannies mean it can squeeze in lots of people but you never really notice.
Things to do?
Chill out at the Balance Club, the in-house health spa, with its gym, sauna, steam room, grotto and heated divans. Then there's the tropical aromatherapy shower emitting exotic perfumes.
Hotel Kamp, Pohjoisesplanadi 29, 00100 Helsinki, Finland. For room reservations and packages contact The Travel Experience (00 358 9 622 9810; www.travel-experience.net).
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