Sunday, April 22, 2012
Nami-Nami recommends: where to eat out in Tallinn in Spring 2012
You can tell that the tourism season has started in earnest here in Estonia by the fact that I received no less than three e-mails from Nami-Nami readers this week alone, asking for my advice regarding where to eat out in Tallinn (and beyond) during the next few weeks. It's easier for me to write one blog post as opposed to reply to individual emails, so that's what I do. I'll include a link to this post on my sidebar later, so you can find it easily. I'll be updating it over the Spring and Summer, and hopefully some other Estonian bloggers and Tallinn foodies will add their favourites in the comments..
Here we go then. Remember, I've been on maternity leave for over three years now, so eating out in the evenings has been a rare treat. The following list is heavy on cafeterias and lunch places, and the pub recommendations are from my partner and friends :)
Places for a cup of coffee and something light on the side:
VERTIGO GOURMET DELI ja CAFĒ (Viru 17, Vanalinn/Old Town)
A good place to grab a coffee while wandering in the old town. Just 3 tiny tables, so not a place for lingering, but a good choice of cakes. If you're lucky, you might meat the proprietor - a local food celebrity Imre Kose - he'd be the sunny guy with curly hair and permanent smile on his face :)
GOURMET COFFEE (Koidula, Kadriorg)
Definitely the best coffee in town - they roast and blend their own beans, so you're guaranteed a decent cuppa. Nice soups and salads, too, and they order cakes from Vertigo and Café More. There's a tiny, but well-equipped children's play area as well.
PARK CAFĒ (Weizenbergi 22, Kadriorg, Tallinn)
Opened 10 am - 8 pm, closed on Mondays
A beautiful Viennese-style café next to Luigetiik in Kadriorg Park. You can sit outside on a warm day and enjoy one of their German-style cakes. Illy coffee.
CAFĒ MORE (Viru Keskus, 4th floor, adjacent to the Rahva Raamat bookstore)
Angeelika Kang is a well-known cookbook author who opened a café just over a year ago. Popular lunch location - good soups and salads and very nice pastries (Swedish-style cardamom twist buns are my favourite). In the morning you can choose from a selection of organic whole-grain porridges. The coffee isn't bad either :)
SAIAKANGI KOHVIK (Saiakang 3, Vanalinn/Old Town)
Open at 9am.
Surprisingly nice pastries, small fresh salads and open sandwiches, all made on the premises. Not one of the "hip" places, but a good option if you're after a quick small snack and/or on a budget.
KOHVIK KOMEET (Solaris Centre, reservations 6 140 090)
Located at the top floor of the newish Solaris Centre just outside the Old Town is a café run by a former model, hip and popular cookbook author Anni Arro. The place has wonderful views and is great for people-spotting, while enjoying a cake or a salad from the menu.
The place tends to get pretty busy during lunch and before evening cinema sessions - if that's the case, you can always descend to the ground floor and enjoy a coffee and a cake at Café Coco (much more budget-friendly as well :))
HEIDI PARK (Välja 20, 2nd floor, Mustamäe, telephone 658 8125, her website)
Heidi Park isn't a café, but a talented American-born pastry chef based in Tallinn. Although you can get a cup of coffee when buying cakes at her bakery in Mustamäe, you're better off looking for her excellently rich chocolate brownies and other American-style cakes in Kohvik Must Puudel (Müürivahe 20, Vanalinn/Old Town; probably the best choice of Heidi's cakes), NOP café (Köleri 1, Kadriorg), Hell Hunt pub (That's "Gentle Wolf" to you, English-speakers; Pikk 39, Vanalinn/Old Town), Gotsu (a Korean restaurant, Pärnu mnt 62a, Kesklinn), Clayhills gastropub (Pikk 13, Vanalinn/Old Town) and Bioteek organic store (Kopli 18, Kalamaja).
She did the catering for my first cookbook's launch party in December 2010 (pictured above), and most recently a cake for 120 people at my K's birthday party in January, so I heartily recommend her :)
MAMO (Tornimäe 5 and Liivalaia 14)
A popular lunch place, open from 8 am till 8 pm (Liivalaia) or 9 pm (Tornimäe). Focus on healthy and substantial salads, sandwiches and soups, fresh smoothies and wholesome cakes that can be enjoyed on the premises or bought for take-away.
Tornimäe MAMO also has a children's play area.
Places for a more formal lunch or dinner:
NEH (Lootsi 4, reservations 6022222)
A cosy gourmet place near the Harbour area. Excellent food, some special themed events. There's a chef's table overlooking the kitchen, if you want to see your food being made.
Here's my review from December 2010, and I've been there on several occasions since then. NEH is Pädaste Manor seasonal kitchen in the city - you see,the culinary team's true home is at Pädaste Manor on Muhu island. The restaurant has restricted opening hours during summer - as of May 1st, NEH will be open for dinner only on Tue-Sat, and closed on Sundays and Mondays.
TCHAIKOVSKY (Vene 9, Hotel Telegraaf, Vanalinn/Old Town, reservations 6000610).
A fine-dining restaurant, serving "a symphony of Russian cuisine". The main restaurant is pretty dressy, but during summer there's also a wondeful summer garden that serves a shorter menu in more casual surroundings. I still crave their cold gazpacho with lobster meat from last summer..
MOON (Kalasadama 3, reservations 6314575, website)
An excellent and friendly family-run restaurant outside Old Town and near the Linnahall. It's run by Roman Zaštšerinski and his wife Jana and cousin Igor, and the restaurant specialises on a mix of Estonian and Russian dishes. Always a treat, and very delicious. Try their borscht and the accompanying pirogi!
LEIB RESTO ja AED (Uus 31, Vanalinn/Old Town, reservations 6119026)
Opened last summer and quickly became a favourite with those-in-the-know. One of the proprietors is Kristjan Peäske, a top sommelier who knows his wines, his beers and his food. Casual and delicious food with clever Estonian twists (think Crème brûlée with caramelised rye bread crumbs), outside seating on two levels in a quiet and large old town courtyard. Here's my review from last summer.
There's even a small sandbox for kids outside, so it's ideal for a family lunch during summer.
NB! Note they're currently closed on Sundays and between 3pm-6pm during the rest of the week, but they will be open seven days a week from mid-May onwards (limited menu after lunch and before dinner).
MEKK (Suur-Karja 17/19, reservations 680 6688)
MEKK stands for Modern Estonian Kitchen, and the chef Rene Uusmees is doing a good job in serving unpretentious delicious food in serene surroundings just on the edge of the old town.
By the way - the kids eat for free (from the very reasonable children's menu) with their parents, and we've always felt very welcome when visiting with our family.
TIGU (Pikk 30, Vanalinn/Old Town, reservations 56668493)
A pop-up restaurant that used to be located on the outskirts of Kadriorg, but now only opens for a couple of weeks at a time on various locations across town. This time it's open until May 25th only.
A casual Mediterranean food, well-known for its seafood dishes.
OLDE HANSA (Vana Turg 1, Vanalinn/Old Town, reservations 627 9020)
I admit it's been a few years since I was there, but I do love their borderline kitsch Medieval atmosphere, and I used to be a huge fan of their wild mushroom soup, served with soft roll and cream cheese spread.
F-HOONE (Telliskivi 60a, Telliskivi loomelinnak)
A popular venture behind Balti Jaam (Central Train Station), in the Telliskivi complex. Former printing house with extremely high ceilings and bohemian feel. I must admit I like the atmosphere much more than the food (buzzing and full of people on a midweek night), but there are some gems on the menu. It's very popular with trendy artists and students, and the prices are pretty reasonable.
There's also a children's play area, although it's out of sight of the parents :)
There are several other diners/cafés in the area - Boheem, Kukeke, Kamahouse, if you cannot get a table in F-Hoone.
Pubs in Tallinn:
PÕRGU (Rüütli 4, Vanalinn/Old Town, telephone 6 440 232)
Good beer and nice food, a basement pub behind Niguliste kirik.
DRINK BAR (Väike-Karja 8, Vanalinn/Old Town, opened till 3 am)
Run by a British expat James, the place is a favourite of many big pub-going friends of mine :)
Highly recommended outside Tallinn:
OKO (Kaberneeme jahisadam, Harjumaa, reservations 53 00 4440)
About 30 minute drive from Tallinn city centre towards Lahemaa is a sea-side restaurant where one of the capital's top gourmet chefs, Tõnis Siigur, cooks more casual, yet sophisticated food. Extremely popular during summer, which affects the service on a negative way, but if you manage to avoid the peak times (weekend lunches and dinners), you're guaranteed to have a wonderful day - and meal - out.
PÕHJAKA (Mäeküla, Paide vald, reservations 5267795)
I haven't blogged about it, but you can check out my Flickr photo set. Probably our best eating out experience last summer. Everything - the food, the location, the atmosphere, the welcoming service - was flawless. You can sit outdoors during summer, the food is mainly simple Estonian, but served in a fun way.
It's highly popular, so do book ahead, especially as it's about an hour's drive from Tallinn.
SUPELSAKSAD (Nikolai 32, Pärnu, tel. 4422448)
A café in Pärnu, the "Summer Capital of Estonia". I shared some photos from our visit in June 2010, and it has remained a must-to-visit whenever we are in Pärnu. It also received the Best Café award at the 2011 Silverspoon competition, so it's still going strong.