Estonia’s colourful, pocket-sized capital is fast becoming a culinary centre for food lovers. Restaurants specialising in a new, modern style of Estonian cooking now proliferate and 4* and 5* hotels, spas and manor houses with award winning chefs and restaurants can easily be found. Visitors to the capital can also try their own hand at chocolate making, making marzipan sweets, cooking Estonian cuisine and visiting vinoteques and breweries.
A spokesperson for the Estonian Tourist Board said “Estonians love their food, but today’s menus are often an adaptation of the hearty meals that yesterday’s locals would have tucked into. There are also many cosmopolitan and international restaurants in the capital and immediate surroundings, as well as restaurants serving traditional Estonian country-style cuisine, but the trend is for a lighter, modern interpretations.
We also have some wonderful specialist food producers, such as companies and individuals making hand made chocolates, wines, beers, marzipan confections, and places to learn to cook, such as the Food Academy, Köök, and a number of restaurants, including Museum and the very contemporary MEKK”.
For visitors wanting to taste the source of food in Estonia, specialist and locally produced food can be purchased from local growers and suppliers at the Rotermann Market, which rubs shoulders with historic conversions and high tech buildings in the Rotermann Quarter. There are also smaller specialist food outlets, such as NOP (www.nop.ee), an organic shop and cafe which plans to organise foodie events, such a Saturday morning “Morning at Gourmet Market”, offering produce directly from manufacturers and importers.
Chocolate & sweet production:-
Anneli Viik Chocolate Café promotes the production, and consumption, of fine chocolate and hand-made sweets. Run by a former successful financier who fancied a career change, the venue combines a café, chocolate shop and the opportunity to see the chocolatiers at work, and for small groups to pre-book to join them in creating hand-made chocolates.
Chocolate and coffee is at the heart of two `Chocolaterie de Pierre’s’ cafés in Tallinn and one in Tartu in southern Estonia. The first Chocolaterie de Pierre café opened in Tallinn’s Old Town in 2003 and has since been offering hand made chocolate, coffees and light snacks, with the opportunity for small groups to create their own confections.
Kalev Ltd are an Estonian firm that hase been making chocolates and sweets for over 200 years. The company welcomes visitors to buy its chocolate bars, boxed chocolates and marzipan figures, and to its marzipan exhibition and a Kalev sweet museum that exhibits 180 marzipan figures, cards and cakes, made from 100 year old moulds. Guests are invited to watch experts painting marzipan by hand and can also take part in the fun. The Marzipan Museum Room gives a good overview of the history of marzipan — how a medicine, made in the pharmacy during the Middle Ages, became a popular candy later.
Modern Estonian cuisine can be found at many hotels and restaurants in and around Tallinn, including Kaerajaan in Tallinn’s Town Hall square, named after a traditional dance and song, about a man who spent all his time in his kitchen eating. Grilled ostrich filled served with forest mushrooms in filo dough and red wine sauce costs around £16.
Traditional menus are found at Kuldne notsu in the vaulted cellar of the St. Petersbourg Hotel which specialises in Estonian country cuisine using recipes from centuries old cook-books and sourcing produce from local farms and growers. Traditional pork roast with baked potatoes, sauerkraut and mushroom sauce costs 12.15 € (c. £11)
Olde Hansa is built in the style of the home of a wealthy 15th C merchant at the time of the Hanseatic League, Northern Europe’s successful trading alliance, and serves typical menus from that period, with a speciality in game. For example, Grand merchant von Hueck’s mild game pot around £11.
Learn to cook:-
A three hour cookery course at Köök - with trained chefs to teach everything from Italian, French and Estonian cuisine to Sushi, costs just £75 per person, for groups from 6 – 12 people, and includes a three course meal with wine.
Wine & beer tasting and making:-Balthasar, Estonia’s first garlic restaurant (opened 1999), not only uses garlic in virtually all of its dishes, but expertly blends wines with menus so that guests are advised on complimenting tastes. The restaurant is in the medieval building of the Town Hall Apotecary in the heart of Tallinn’s Town Hall Square.
Estonia’s Saku brewery, 10kms south of Tallinn, offers both tastings and tours. Beer in Estonia was brewed at home, in abbeys and castles as early as 500 AD. Breweries sprang up in larger villages the 13th C and by the 16th C it was the main drink of farmers. Today there are five breweries, of which Saku is one. It is Estonia’s oldest brand of beer and dates back to 1821. Tours are organised by Saku Manor
Food shops and markets:-
NOP is a cosy, organic shop and café a few tram stops from the centre of Tallin serving organic produce to diners and shoppers. The firm recently organised a “Morning at a Gourmet Market” to allow visitors to buy produce and products directly from manufacturers and importers.
Gardeners and small farmers alike take their produce to the newly restored and refurbished Nomme Market, a 25 minute bus ride from Viru or Vabaduse väljak stop. The market with its fountains and friendly buzz makes a pleasant excursion and is open from Monday to Saturday 8am to 6pm.
The Rotermann organic and handicraft market, between the Old Town and the port in the trendy Rotermann Quarter rubs shoulders with bars, cafes, boutiques, high tech office buildings and restored historic factories. Up to 20 producers sell locally produced foods, including meat, fish, pastries, dairy produce, fruit and vegetables, from gardens and farms right across Estonia. Open from Wednesday to Friday, 10am – 7pm and Saturdays from 10am – 5pm. Each Sunday the market is replaced by a Handicraft and design market.