tallinn_estonia
Photo Credit: Tallinn Convention Bureau, Rasmus Jurkatam

From street food to Michelin stars

Estonians have a deep relationship with food and so to fully appreciate this charming country, you will need to engage your taste buds. Locally grown, seasonal ingredients form the foundations of any self-respecting Estonian dish, whether it’s street food or Michelin star, traditional or contemporary. In fact, foraging, fishing and growing your own food are popular pastimes for many and in recent years, urban garden spaces have grown in popularity among Tallinn’s residents.

Having nurtured a meaningful relationship with the fruits of its land and sea for centuries, Estonia has become the first Baltic state to attract the Michelin Guide writers and in 2022, the first Michelin Guide to Estonia was published. Restaurants are selected for the quality of their ingredients, harmony of flavours and mastery of techniques, among other criteria and so naturally, some of the chosen establishments are included below, such as Lee, Paju Villa, Rado and Tuljak.

What do Estonians eat?

Black rye bread, potatoes, wild mushrooms and berries are some of the staples in the Estonian diet. But above all, it’s the source of the ingredients that count and below are some of the restaurants championing homegrown flavours fresh from the talu’s (farms). The Estonian palette includes both earthy, herbal notes from the use of root vegetables and mushrooms to more tart piquancies with fermented produce and berry wines being heavily leaned upon, especially during winter.

Lee, Tallinn Old Town

The Danish have hygge and the Estonians have lee, an archaic word which means to gather around a fireplace, exchange stories and share good food. Since then, lee has had an upgrade and now you can experience this in a fine dining setting surrounded by Medieval limestone architecture. The best way to discover the full extent of the talent in the kitchen is to opt for the lee experience, which is a surprise set menu of six courses designed for sharing, all made with local, seasonal ingredients. The menu here changes weekly, if not daily. When I visited in July, cucumber, chanterelle mushrooms and strawberries – which are only in season for two weeks in Estonia – took centre stage. ‘When things are local they’re more flavourful,’ says head chef Hiroaki Takeda.

Address: Lee Restoran, Uus 31, 10111 Tallinn
Website: leeresto.ee

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Photo Credit: Visit Estonia

Uulits, Kadaka

For quite possibly the best burger in Tallinn, make a lunch stop where the locals do at Uulits, the gourmet street food restaurant. With humble beginnings as a single street food stand, Uulits is now a franchise of seven establishments. While it’s not serving traditional Estonian food per se, everything down to the sauces is homemade with regional ingredients. The simplicity of their burger patties is what makes them so moreish. Chef Enrico and his team brown a ball of pure minced meat for a couple of minutes before squashing it loosely into shape and sprinkling it with salt. The result? A succulent, no-nonsense burger which crumbles in your mouth and lends itself to any garnish. It’s best-enjoyed medium, but you can ask for it well done. The house special burger which comes with a generous dollop of Uulits homemade red onion jam is certainly worth getting your fingers sticky for.

Address: Uulits, Kadaka tee 135a, 12915 Tallinn
Website: uulits.ee

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Photo Credit: Visit Estonia

Balti Jaama Turg, Telliskivi

One of the best ways to discover what Estonians eat is to visit a farmers’ market and see what seasonal delights are on offer. Balti Jaama Turg (Baltic State Market) in Tallinn’s hipster Telliskivi district is home to the largest farmers’ market in the city and has been a hub for locals since its opening in 1993. Visit during July when the strawberries are in season and you’ll be hit with their sweet smell as you walk through the doors. During the winter, be met with the nostalgic scent of Glögg (mulled wine). The market, which also sells clothes and textiles, is spread across three floors and upstairs, you can find street eats from around the world (Estonians may be proud of their culinary heritage, but that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy the big flavours from other countries). Find everything from pizza to bao buns in Balti Jaama in addition to the fresh, homegrown produce.

Address: Balti Jaama Turg, Kopli 1, 10412 Tallinn
Website: astri.ee/bjt

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Photo Credit: Visit Estonia

Olde Hansa, Tallinn Old Town

It doesn’t get any more traditional than eating 15th-century recipes prepared using the original methods at the heart of Tallinn’s Medieval Old Town. Surrounded by some of the country’s most well-preserved Medieval architecture, Olde Hansa is a themed restaurant which creates a snapshot of the city’s golden age when it was a key location on the Hanseatic trade route. Craftsmen and women, not wait staff, serve you while the troubadours, who recite melodies from the composers of the era, keep you entertained. Meanwhile, Michelin chef Emmanuel Wille will cook up a hearty dish from the era. Choose from wild game meats, fish and salads on the main menu or opt for the Master Cook’s Feast – 17 miniature dishes giving you the chance to try a range of Olde Hansa’s Medieval sustenance. The attention to detail doesn’t stop with the food; find a range of craft beers and schnapps on the menu to wash it down with.

Address: Restaurant Olde Hansa, Vana turg 1, 10146 Tallinn
Website: oldehansa.ee

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Photo Credit: Tallinn Convention Bureau, Rasmus Jurkatam

Paju Villa, Nõmme

To get off the beaten path and escape the bustle of the Old Town, head just 15 minutes out to Nõmme, Tallinn’s wealthiest district where art nouveau houses, once summer houses for the rich, are cradled by ancient pine forests. Built in 1931, Paju Villa was first and foremost a family home. It housed 15 Estonian families during the Soviet era before becoming a restaurant. One aspect which has never changed through time though is the focus on family and gathering everybody around the table. You will feel as though you’re stepping inside a stylish, yet relaxed townhouse for dinner with the kitchen in the basement and bar in the front room. Dining takes place on two floors and in the garden during the summer. Find a blend of international and Estonian flavours on the menu, including steak, pike perch and seafood soup. Children are also accommodated. Once you’ve finished, cleanse your palette with a tipple of homemade Limoncello, made with Estonian lemons, or enjoy a summery blackcurrant gin sour on the patio.

Address: Paju Villa, Vabaduse pst 88, 11617 Tallinn
Website: pajuvilla.ee

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Photo Credit: Visit Estonia

Rado, Tallinn Old Town

Another restaurant championing Estonian ingredients, Restaurant Rado’s menu is small but packed with flavour. Choose to dine inside on one of two floors or watch life play out on the cobbles of Vene, the Old Town’s dining strip, with a seat and cosy blanket out front. Find a selection of Estonian and international dishes, all made with produce from Tallinn Central Market. And to make it even more authentic, wash it down with a glass of lingonberry wine (Estonian wine is traditionally made with berries, fruits and botanicals). Try the roasted cauliflower in goat’s cream for your starter, the crowd pleaser which returns to the chalkboard time and time again due to popular demand. After this, cross the road into the Master’s Courtyard for artisanal coffee, cake and chocolates (if you can find space).

Address: Rado restoran, Vene 7, 10123 Tallinn
Website: radorestoran.ee

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Photo Credit: Visit Estonia

Tuljak, Pirita Tee

Dine inside one of the city’s best-restored pieces of modernist Estonian architecture while watching the sunset over the Baltic sea. Originally designed in 1964 by Valve Pormeister, one of Estonia’s most influential female architects, Tuljak was restored to its former glory and reborn in 2015 as the restaurant it is today, becoming a Michelin Guide establishment in 2022. Contemporary Estonian dishes such as herring salad and beef tartare sit on the menu alongside international favourites such as oriental noodle soup and ratatouille. While you wait, enjoy a taste of what’s to come with freshly baked rye bread and complimentary appetisers from head chef Lauri-Alvari Vahemaa. Choose to dine out on Tuljak’s sophisticated patio overlooking the bay or inside, where floor-to-ceiling windows ensure you will still have a panoramic sea view. For a summery tipple so smooth it’s dangerous, try the Tuljak Orangello Spritz with homemade orangello.

Address: Tuljak, Pirita tee 26e, 10127 Tallinn
Website: tuljak.ee

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Photo Credit: MICHELIN Guide

FIND OUT MORE

Visit Tallinn Convention Bureau
Kaarli pst1 / Roosikrantsi 2
Tallinn, 10119

T: +372 640 4414
E: convention@visittallinn.ee
W: www.visittallinn.ee

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