Gastronomic delights in a fairytale setting – Estonia
Tallinn is the go to destination for those seeking to sample the culinary delights of Estonia. It’s in the city’s restaurants that modernity meets heritage. Drying, smoking and curing are commonplace amongst the chefs who are striving to celebrate, and make the most of, local produce. In short, gastronomic creativity is rife in this city.
The Danes, Germans and Swedes have all left their mark on Estonia’s culinary repertoire, but it is Nordic cuisine that is the most notable influence on today’s dinner plates. The restaurant ‘Alexander Chef’s Table’ offers a rare, gourmet dining experience, hosted in one of the oldest mansions in the capital city. It’s the perfect spot to encounter beautifully presented (and tasting) dishes in a dreamy location.
Platz restaurant is found in a former grain house – buildings are rarely demolished in Tallinn where renovation is prolific. This restaurant is perfect for family occasions; the Herring Tartar starter served with sweet shallot, soured cream, fresh dill and rye bread, certainly makes the visit worth it.
Situated in the Old Town, MEKK, a restaurant whose name literally means modern Estonian cuisine, is a well worth a visit. The ingredients hail from local farms and fisheries. Highlights include the clear fish soup and the mouth-watering braised lamb, a regional favourite.
If you want to put on your glad-rags, then ensure you have a reservation at Noa. Here you can dine on delicious sharing platters, whilst staring out across the sea. It’s the perfect spot to try one of Tallinn’s local craft beers.
Wherever you choose to dine, the region’s distinctive black leavened rye bread won’t be far away, often with hand-churned salty butter to boot. Not much can beat this delicious bread, and buying a loaf or two to take home is highly recommended. This bread is so important to Estonian society, that it crops up in traditional sayings. Instead of bon appétit, you’ll hear ‘may your bread last’ (it seldom does!) If you’re lucky, you might be in town for one of Tallinn’s food festivals, which continue to grow in popularity. Here, you’ll be sure to come across delicious artisanal product, and perhaps a rye-loaf or two!
The restaurant Leib is a must visit for anyone, if the locals haven’t taken over all the tables! Foraging and eating organic wherever possible is big here; you’ll get to munch on saukraut, roasts, brawn, black pudding, stews and soups in winter, and berries, salads, chanterelle mushrooms with freshly picked herbs in summer. Home to the best Seabuckthorn Lemonade, the quirky combinations and stunning presentation will delight Instagram-lovers. A fun restaurant, which transports you to the past is Olde Hansa. Begin with a traditional dash of salt on bread to bless it before eating, then tuck into a medieval meal… if you’ve never eaten bear before, now is your chance!
Have a coffee (a local chicory coffee perhaps) in Masters Courtyard followed by a leisurely stroll, ending up in Pierre Chocolaterie for a sweet fix. Pop into a deli to pick up a juniper-flavoured treat, (the berry of Estonia). Talking of sweet fixes, Kalev Chocolate Shop and Workshop needs to feature on your bucket list. There is certainly no shortage of sweet treats here. The enormous selection of uniquely flavoured chocolates (cherry and raspberry flavours are highly-recommended), are all made in-house and are very reasonably priced. You can even learn how to make the chocolates in a special workshop… it’s messy, but fun! Estonia is also the master of marzipan, which you can see showcased in the Kalev Marzipan Museum Room.