Ravintola Bellevue is the oldest still operating restaurant in Finland and Europe and possibly also the world’s oldest Russian restaurant operating outside of Russia. Bellevue was founded in May 1917 according to ‘Helsingin Sanomat’ articles that can be found in the state library. Back then, it was unusual for restaurants to have a name as such with the exception of the likes of Kappeli and Seurahuone. Research into the history of the restaurant resulted in finding an advertisement stating the opening of a new café on Uudenmaankatu from may 1917. Because we knew the restaurant had originally been a café – we adopted this as the foundation of the restaurant.
The founder of Ravintola Belleue was an Estonian man named Grigori Pavloff who worked for the Russian army as a sailor at the same time as Marshal Mannerheim who we will return to in a while. Grigori was married to a Finnish lady names Hulda who he had two children with; a boy who died in the last days of war and a girl Marja. Marja was an accomplished cellist.
The Pavloffs lived on Rahapajankatu above the current location of the restaurant and when the property became available in 1922, Grigori moved his café to these premises. It was then Bellevue also acquired its name. Bellevue is French and means “beautiful view”. In 1922, the view from the premises was the park right in front of the restaurant and the beautiful sea view. Because French was the common language used among the royals and nobility in the courts of Europe, it was also widely spoken in Russia. It is believed, this affected Grigori’s choice of name for his restaurant.
Originally according to the story, the food was prepared in the home of Grigori and then served downstairs for the guests. The restaurant kitchen was built in the 1930s, when the kitchen was renovated and expanded. The kitchen was in use until 1988.
Grigori wasn’t a completely blameless business man, but through hard work he always excelled at what he did. He was often under arrest for smuggling during the prohibition between 1919 and 1932 (Prohibition of making and selling strong liquor). In fact, he dominated the black market and smuggling of liquor in Helsinki with Algot Niska, Danny’s grandfather. Back then, Bellevue was known as the “kovan teen” (strong tea) restaurant. There was a secret passage from the restaurant, which was believed to lead to the canal close by. Bellevue operated all through the war, recently an elderly customer memorized dining at the restaurant “I remember eating kanaviillokki (a dish made from sliced chicken) and buns here with my mother”. This may very well be true as Grigori owned a farm in Bemböle, Espoo.
Marshal Mannerheim was a recurring customer at Bellevue. He was aware of Grigori’s cooking skills and often visited the restaurant. Every time the Marshall arrived, Grigoris would quickly fetch a gramophone from home and play a specific song for him. That same song can still be listened to at the restaurant. We received the album from a Mannerheim researcher and professor Leonid Vlasov from St. Petersburg as a c-cassette and have upgraded it since. We still play it to our customers on a daily basis. Vlasos discovered through his research that Mannerheim had an affair with the singer in 1931 and that she passed away in 1932. The song is called “sumuinen aamu”. The musical notes and lyrics were given to the restaurant by an administrator from Yleisradio, Eila-Maija Mirolybow.
Mrs. Ragni Rissanen is the 4th owner of Bellevue. During her ownership, we have acquired Michelin commendation.