This bar-restaurant tests the boundaries in many ways. In the summer, their tiny courtyard in central Pärnu in the shade of tall, old trees is cute as a button. In the winter, larger people will have to literally squeeze through the door of the small wooden building. And the first impression isasif Pippi Longstocking (you know, the half-child, half-adult protagonist of Astrid Lindgren’s classic children’s book) grew up and opened a restaurant at her Villa Villekulla. But the dream milieu of little girls comes with the food and drink of grown-up boys. The Pepper&Mint&Smoke is a cocktail with a smoky whisky aroma, but blends mezcal, chili gin, and fresh pineapple juice. The smoked cubed tuna with fresh radish strips in sesame-ponzu sauce is attractively dusted with beet dust and tastes spicy as fire. This is neither restaurant food nor street food. Neither slow food nor fast food. The Vehverments enjoys standing out and perhaps shocking a bit. Everyone can test their boundaries.
"Timeless elegance” has to be one of the biggest, most peddled clichés ever hurled at an unsuspecting restaurant. At Vihula, there is no need to resort to it. Timeless elegance permeates every detail and captures every sense. The dishes on the menu are equally timeless. The details change, but the main ingredients stay the same. And yes, even the famous bear meat is still available, served as confit on the new menu. Succulently low-cooked in sous vide, yet with the same, powerful bear tang. The “obligatory” drinks program consists of the slightly spicy manor vodka with its lingering aftertaste and a glass of silky, bittersweet manor porter.
Once a sweets magnate’s villa, this charming building in Pärnu was turned into a hotel and a restaurant about a decade ago. In the villa, old-time dignified manners go side by side with newer retro; as for the restaurant, it’s a fashion trailblazer. The drinks are still conservative enough for any taste. The food's presentation keeps up with cutting-edgefashion. The ingredients are rooted deep in Estonian soil, safe and familiar. The flavors, however, can be quite unexpected. The pork fillet with its sour nuance reminds of Chinese rather than Estonian flavors. The classical sauerkraut of the winter season is replaced with pleasantly crunchy colourful carrots in the summer. The “obligatory” potato of each Estonian main course is present, of course, but chargrilled soft in a very untraditional manner. The dishes at the Wesset are like stories: they begin with old traditions and end up with newest developments. The service creates a friendly, open atmosphere free of rigidity and mannerisms. For Estonians, Wesset is turning into a real Pärnu go-to, not to be missed on any visit.
The Aed was the first restaurant in Tallinn to offer biological and plant-based food. While plant-based food is the heart of the menu, this is not a regular vegetarian restaurant: nearly every dish can be ordered vegan or with meat or fish. For main course, either lamb or tempeh can be chosen togo with the cabbage, potato, and beer sauce accompaniments; the ryesotto with Gyromitra esculenta mushroom, radicchio, andmushroom sauce can come with either biological beefsteak or portobello mushrooms; goat’s cheese can be substituted for duck. Plants have inspired new sides, too: coriander seed mayonnaise, miso meringue, pear mustard, bird cherry balsamico, parsnip noodles. Most of the raw ingredients are locally grown in biological farms, and the wines and some of the other beverages are biologically produced as well. Even the interior matches the ecological vibe with its plaster walls, broad ceiling beamsand numerous houseplants.
The Werner is among the most iconic cafés in not just the town of Tartu, but the whole Estonia. A perennial favorite of notable Estonian artists and cultural heavyweights through decades, it has always appealed with great coffee and amazing cakes. Every now and then, restaurants have started upon the first floor of the café, but they have always fizzled out. This year’s attempt, however, might well stand a chance. The atmosphere, inspired from the 1930s, displays restraint, which is a pleasant change in the otherwise very vibrant university town. The food seeks to stand out above the milieu. Laconically called Broth, the soup is made oftomato bouillon, smoked zander, shrimp, quail’s egg and herbs. The melt-in-the-mouth, sweet-and-sour taste initially seems restrained as well, but grows on you with eachfollowing spoonful. The rainbow trout entrée with its crispy skin is tuned into perfect harmony with the smoked fish-potato cream, butter sauce and dill oil. Traditional Estonian bread soup has inspired a dessert, where the bread has been whipped into pillowy foam with some help from gelatin and served with stewed cherries and rum ice cream. The drinks list is slightly more unassuming, but does feature Estonia's own sparkling rhubarb wine Rabarbra, beers by the atmospheric Käbliku farmstead-brewery in Tartu County (visit if you can!) and a few interesting cocktails. So, dogo upstairs at the Werner. May they never lack in resolve and resilience.
The Wicca is located some thirty-odd kilometers outside Tallinn, in Laulasmaa, atoneofthe most popular spa hotels in the capital’s general proximity. Its terrace offers a captivating view to the sea at hand’s reach and the surrounding pine forest. The Head Chef Angelica Udeküll has become something of a symbol for Estonian food and local ingredients - the menu at the Wicca has been a flagship of Estonian local food for years, featuring dishes inspired by local cuisine, catch, and harvest, prepared with modern techniques, always finished with a slight chef’s ‘twist’. Traditional Estonian aspic, part ofevery local celebration for centuries, is offered warm at the Wicca: the delicious beef jelly and fried potatoes - age-old home food - become a soup when doused inhot beef stock. The Estonians at the restaurant might be sceptical at first - what, warm aspic...? - but its simple elegance will please gourmands ofany background. The beer dessert is well worth a try as well.
Ants Uustalu, an enterprising chef, originally purchased the Ööbiku farmstead to make ithis summer home. But soon after, he rebuilt its shed as a summer restaurant. Then made space for a permanent restaurant in the main building. Finally, he had converted the entire space. There’s a big hall for parties and conferences. But heno longer lives there himself. The Ööbiku Restaurant serves a five-course set menu from Wednesday to Saturday. Itisserved at a fixed time - always at 7 pm. That is the only thing that the guests know inadvance about their dinner. And that is all they need: because itis common knowledge that the Ööbiku Restaurant can be trusted. Especially in the autumn, the food is based on ingredients grown locally, sometimes in the same village. Itis simple farm food prepared using all the features of a modern professional kitchen and served on custom-made crockery.
With over 100 Masters Level restaurants, the Nordic countries offer a wide variety of excellent culinary experiences. The Top 30 are all at the Global Masters level and they include some of the best restaurants in the world.