Businesswoman finds success and plans expansion

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 December, 2007, 12:00am

Finnish businesswoman Pauliina Savolainen is capitalising on the Hong Kong success story of her pioneering Scandinavian restaurant and bar, FINDS, with the launch of a new cafe concept.

Partnered by Hong Kong entrepreneur Collette Koo, she also plans to extend the brand into retailing as a 'shop window' across Asia for leading Scandinavian products and style.

The FINDS brand has established a firm foothold in the bustling entertainment district of Lan Kwai Fong with a menu embracing cuisine from the five Nordic countries represented by its name - Finland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden.

The traditional Nordic cuisine 'with a modern twist' was introduced to Hong Kong by Helsinki chefs Tommi Tuominen, Teemu Auru and Jaakko Sorsa. The chic venue in LKF Tower, with snow white and icy blue interiors inspired by the Scandinavian winter, has since established a loyal following.

Beyond the menu, FINDS is equally popular for Scandinavian-style camaraderie over casual drinks and snacks, and as a late night venue with DJs.

'The popularity is not only down to innovative, high quality cuisine and a trendy venue, but also the casual, friendly atmosphere,' Ms Savolainen said. 'It is about introducing the Scandinavian lifestyle, which is more like a state-of-mind.'

Contributing to the restaurant's conviviality are Scandinavia's national drinks, including a wide variety of aquavit and vodka. While attracting both local and international acclaim, the Finnish chefs have also collected awards at two culinary exhibitions.

At Hofex Culinary Classic 2005 they won three prizes for amuse bouche appetisers, rainbow trout and spring chicken dishes. They also won the 2005 MLA Blackbox award, flying to Australia to represent Hong Kong in the international event.

Soon after opening, FINDS was also voted Hong Kong's 'Best New Restaurant' in a local lifestyle magazine. Now the brand is branching out with a new cafe concept called FINDS cafeNbar.

The first flagship opens next Thursday at the new Elements shopping and entertainment mall, above Kowloon Station, and the second FINDS cafeNbar opens shortly afterwards at the new Delay No Mall boutique mall next to the Regal Hotel in Causeway Bay.

'We also expect to open about three more branches next year,' Ms Savolainen said. Several venues around Hong Kong are under consideration, including the airport.

The cafes will serve premium coffee and a range of dishes made popular at the original FINDS restaurant, from signature home-smoked salmon, acclaimed for a flavour new to Hong Kong, to 'Scapas' - the Scandinavian answer to Spanish tapas snacks designed for sharing over drinks.

Also on the menu is Scandinavia's most famous contribution to global cuisine, 'smorgasbord' platters of cold cuts and condiments, along with intensely flavoured cold-water herring, perch, lavaret, crayfish and pike.

In the evenings, the European-style cafes are transformed from coffee shops to trendy bars, specialising in premium cocktails, signature martinis and house sangrias. Plans to expand the brand beyond simply food and beverage are also under way.

'We have designed an entirely new FINDS retail concept, with the idea of introducing to Asia a cross-section of Scandinavian brands that are well-known in Europe, but not here,' she said.

It is intended to embrace numerous facets of Scandinavian lifestyle, extending into fashion, beauty and design - and food and drinks.

'Our vision is basically a shop window for Scandinavia, spreading across the region,' she said.

Discussions are under way with potential investors and suppliers in Hong Kong and Finland and she said: 'We will be moving forward very quickly with the idea early next year. It is a very exciting time for us right now and things are moving fast.'