We have been positively impressed by the average quality of restaurants in Tallinn. After 50 years under the oppression of Soviet Union, this land managed to rediscover its traditions and food culture, while opening up toward new experiences from different corners of the world.
The black bread is the symbol of this culture rediscovery and evolution. Called Leib in Estonian, it’s obtained from fermented rye, usually mixing treacles in the dough. It’s dense, nutritious and utterly delicious. Everyone has its recipe, and we were amazed by the variety of flavors this simple dish had in different restaurants.
As expected from a high technology capital city, every restaurant has its website with correct and updated information, including opening times and holidays. Most of the restaurants are open through the afternoon, something we loved as we could try each venue at off-peak times, enjoying some relax while dining.
We tried several different venues, and we decided to collect only a few of them, the ones we liked the most. We decided to focus on restaurants, leaving only one café in the list, as we feel there is still room for improvement on that particular segment of the food industry. Let’s discover some of the most amazing venues in Tallinn!
Rataskaevu 16 Korteriühistu
One of the most challenging activities in the world is naming things. That must have been the same feeling the owners of Rataskaevu 16 experienced while setting the proper name for their restaurant. In the end, they arranged for keeping the address of the location as the name. Rataskaevu 16 can be found at, guess what, number 16 of Rataskaevu street. At its core, this is a place proposing simple, flavored dishes, focusing on local ingredients and slow, umami-centric cooking solutions.
The ending result is fantastic. Our salmon was one of the best pieces of this oily fish we ever had, delivering the right degree of fatness savvily mitigated by the asparagus and trout caviar. Inline with the focus on traditions of the place, we also tried the fried veal liver, a dish that is rare to see in any menus in Europe nowadays. The recipe is executed with stunning precision. The cooking times are perfect, and the mash is seasoned in the right way to cope with the flavor of the liver. Of course, we are not speaking about high-end cuisine, but this is exactly what we are looking for in a traditional restaurant. Excellent choice of ingredients, precise cooking technique, and simple mise-en-place. This is a restaurant delivering all that and some more.
Delicious tip: being one of the most famous venues in the city center, the restaurant may get crowded. You can call at any time to reserve a table (even 30 minutes before eating), we recommend doing so before showing at the door!
At the outskirt of Estonian Capital city, NOA is a beautifully designed restaurant facing the Gulf of Finland. Inside this modern construction, two restaurants are sharing the same ownership but not the same character. NOA is a casual venue, with an à la carte menu. Behind an opaque glass door, NOA chef’s hall is the high-end complement to the first restaurant. An open-kitchen delivers a fixed 12-14 courses menu to customers, mixing traditional Estonian cuisine with flavors from all around the world. Behind the counters, two young chefs lead the brigade, Tõnis Siigur and Orm Oja. We will speak about NOA Chef’s hall in more details in its appropriate blog post, as we had mixed feelings about the different dishes, but we couldn’t omit this beautiful venue from the best tables in Tallinn.
Leib Resto ja Aed
Is there anything more symbolic than black bread? No there isn’t. As we mentioned earlier, black bread obtained from fermented rye, or leib, is at the center of Estonian cuisine. And Leib Resto starts precisely from that, traditional black bread, to create a simple menu based on traditional ingredients. The flavors are simple, direct, and rewarding. Janno Lepik, the head chef, visit its local sources on a daily basis, adapting the menu to whatever is available on the day.
The onion soup with crispy garlic delivers some powerful umami, without the unpleasant hint of acidity this dish may acquire when improperly managed. From Pärnu bay, less than 2 hours driving from Tallinn, we received a supreme pike perch, with delicate white meat exalted by a gentle leek sauce. The duck breast fillet, instead, comes from central Estonia, a region called Laeva. No flavors are added to the meat. The duck is allowed to work as a solo artist, with a subtle line of fat that kicks in at the right time to deliver a final pleasing note to our mouth. We think it’s useless to say that we had the best leib we ever tried.
A memorable place, something to remember and to take as a comparison meter as an example of excellence in traditional cuisine.
Delicious tip: The restaurant is open only at evenings, and closed on Sundays and Mondays. Our suggestion is to get there on Saturday afternoon, as it may get crowded every other day!
Restoran Kaks Kokka
Tallinn is living a revolution led by a new generation of chefs. The history of Kaks Kokka and his bigger brother Ö is similar to the one in NOA. Ranno Paukson and Martin Meikas is the dynamic duo leading the brigade in the kitchen. Two young chefs that take inspiration from both traditional Estonian cuisine and the Nordic Movement triggered at the beginning of the century by NOMA.
On the menu we have both innovative dishes, like french style tartare of elk, fried prawns combined with avocado cream and seaweed crisps, and more traditional courses, like roasted quail and cod. The result is qualitatively excellent. Flavors are balanced and pleasant. It made us very curious to try their high-end proposal at Ö to check if they can deliver the same quality over more elaborate dishes.
This little café is situated in the trendiest neighborhood in town, Kalamaja. Angeelika Kang, a renowned author of cookbooks, is the young owner of this patisserie. There is a broad assortment of French-style cakes and tarts, but the specialty here is the macaron. We were happy to see the flavors on offer of this pastry are kept to the basic: pistachio, salted caramel, raspberry, and so on, strictly in line with the French canon. The ending result is a bit too sweet for our taste, but this bakery is the most recommended place in town to have a rest while touring around this district.
This should count as the second café on our list, but we should start with a premise: this is not a great place where to drink anything. As much as we tried, we couldn’t find a single “proper” hot chocolate in Tallinn, from this café (the oldest one in town) to Pierre’s chocolaterie in Masters’ courtyard. What it’s usually been served is hot cocoa, with cocoa powder mixed with warm milk, rather than a proper, dense, cream. Not our cup of tea. Still, this place deserves a “historic” visit to explore the marzipan museum and to taste some of this specialty!
At the end of a busy day walking around the city, it’s good to stop for some time, have something to eat and enjoy some leisure time in one of the many pubs in the town. Telliskivi is one of the places to check out for such activity. F-Hoone, in particular, is a valid place where to have a beer and a burger. It may be a little expensive, but the beer they produce is high quality, and their “furger” (their signature burger, prepared with dark bread) is an excellent way to end a delicious day in Tallinn.
Two main cuisines influenced Estonian culinary tradition. From the sea, Nordic style, from the land, Russia. At Moon, we could find an Estonian interpretation of modern Russian cuisine, and the results are impressive. Moon offers some of the best dishes we could try in Tallinn, including a stunning fish soup and some delicious (and rare to find, especially if you live in the UK) rabbit. We can recommend a visit here; everything was just right. Service was top-notch, food had perfect taste, and the atmosphere is relaxing and cozy. A beautiful spot for a relaxed lunch.
Amazing Tallinn! There are some seriously good restaurants here, and every neighborhood has its delicious spots to explore and enjoy. Organizing a weekend in this wonderful Baltic capital city? Check out our top spots post for plenty of suggestions!