The story of Fiskars Wärdshus – an inn for coachmen and gourmets alike
Established in 1836, Fiskars Wärdshus is the oldest inn in Finland in terms of uninterrupted service, and has been known since time immemorial as an oasis for hungry travellers. Over the years, all kinds of customers and daily specials have come and gone. In the early days, the typical customers of the inn were often coachmen, who were served good hearty grub. One of their favourites was the traditional lunch dish, pork and brown beans.
Fiskars Wärdshus, also known by its colloquial Finnish name “Wärssy”, is located on the main street of Fiskars village, on the old King's Road. The building housing the inn is one in a row of the village’s historic buildings. The most impressive of these is the Manor House, formerly occupied by the owners of the ironworks village. The most prestigious travellers were invited to dine there. The weekday meals would have been frugal there, too, for economy was a virtue of the gentry.
Frugality, however, was not on the menu when it came to festive dinners. Caterers were summoned all the way from Seurahuone in Helsinki to prepare meals that would have been good enough for high society anywhere in Europe.
The most famous gourmet to stay at the Manor House was the Field Marshal Carl Gustaf Mannerheim. His mother was the ironworks owner Johan Jacob von Julin’s daughter, who grew up at the Manor House and celebrated her wedding there in 1862.
Mannerheim spent a lot of time in Fiskars in the care of his uncle Albert. Like a true gourmet, he appreciated home cooking and rustic flavours. His 60th birthday was celebrated in grand style at the Manor House on 4 June 1927. The tables were overflowing and black cars filled the forecourt.
Fiskars Wärdshus has witnessed many periods
Yet another chapter was written in 1998 when the inn got a new proprietor couple, selected from among several candidates. Patrick Karlsson had worked as a chef for twenty-odd years and honed his skills, for instance, at the Savoy restaurant in Helsinki. Marja Karlsson worked for Finnair as an air hostess and was on leave of absence at the time. For them, the move to Fiskars was a big adventure, because they felt they were urbanites at heart.
Taking on full responsibility for the inn has been a nice challenge for them, and they have not looked back. Patrick and Marja’s influence is nowhere more visible than in the frequently changing menu, lent colour by seasonal and local delicacies, and the much-praised wine list.
Soon, the interior of the inn was refurbished to highlight the skills of the designers and artisans residing in the village. The furniture is made of wood from the forest around Fiskars, the counter is black alder, and the doors have wrought-iron features. The inn runs a temporary art and object display, with most of the pieces made by – you guessed it – village residents.
The high season is in summer and autumn, when groups of various shapes and sizes find their way to the inn for a meal. Every May Day, the inn’s 50-seat terrace opens and the parasols come out. There may be so many big shiny motorcycles in the parking area that you might think there is a motorcycle rally on, and sometimes there is.
The inn is open year-round. People who know and love the restaurant also find their way there in the winter to enjoy the warmth of the roaring fire. A pétanque game has even been arranged on the terrace on a snowy winter weekend.
Projects that aim to make the municipality of Raseborg more and more established as a Finnish culinary centre are close to the hearts of Patrick and Marja Karlsson. The Fiskars Wärdshus staff, in both the kitchen and the restaurant, are mainly locals. Many a young aspiring professional has received instruction and inspiration here.