Boasting strong traditions, the Estonian gastronomy scene is remarkably colourful. Different regions of this most northern Baltic nation bloom with solid identities.
Estonians are a nation still deeply devout to nature. This is the defining force binding together the cuisines of the coastal folk, islanders, south central Mulgimaa, southeastern Setomaa and the Russian Old Believers by the shore of Lake Peipus.
The key to our recent success lies in the fact that Estonians have started to really appreciate and celebrate their own food and local culinary customs. Making homemade dark sourdough rye bread, foraging for wild mushrooms and berries going fishing and hunting, and growing our own vegetables connect Estonian rural folk and true culinary artists, professional Chefs de Cuisine. An abundant variety of Estonian flavours come to life while making one's own jam, pressing juice, salting and marinating cucumbers and making sauerkraut. Over the recent years making one's own wild garlic pesto has become something of a social media madness, almost a competition.
Estonia's 30 best restaurants are listed in White Guide Nordic
In addition to home grown culinary customs, Estonia has enjoyed recognition on the European high-end gastronomic chart. Estonia's 30 best restaurants have been listed in White Guide Nordic. The number of Baltic restaurants listed in the White Guide Nordic has been quite stable, including 106 from Estonia, the top thirty of which are:
NOA Chef's Hall (Tallinn, fine dining)
180 Degrees by Matthias Diether (Tallinn, fine dining)
Ö (Tallinn, fine dining)
Puri Chef's side (Tallinn)
Alexander Chef's Table (Tallinn, fine dining)
ORE (Tallinn, fusion kitchen)
Juur (Tallinn, modern Estonian cuisine)
Art Priori (Tallinn, fine dining)
GMP Pühajärve restaurant (Otepää, modern kitchen)
Horisont (Tallinn, fine dining)
Tchaikovsky (Tallinn, French kitchen)
Restaurant Leib (Tallinn)
Tabac (Tallinn, brasserie, modern Estonian kitchen)
Rannahotell (Pärnu, Nordic kitchen)
Puri a la carte
Hõlm (Tartu, fine dining)
Restaurant Fotografiska (Tallinn)
NOA (Tallinn, modern kitchen)
Ribe (Tallinn, Estonian kitchen)
Ruhe (around Tallinn, fish kitchen)
Härg (Tallinn, modern kitchen)
Moon (Tallinn, modern kitchen)
Farm (Tallinn, modern Estonian kitchen)
Tuljak (Tallinn, Estonian kitchen)
SÖE (Tallinn, modern Estonian kitchen)
Cru (Tallinn, fine dining)
Restaurant Wicca (Laulasmaa)
Restaurant Joyce (Tartu)
Mantel ja Korsten (Tallinn, Estonian kitchen)
Koma Pühaste õlleresto (Tallinn)
Kolm Sibulat (Tallinn)
Fish restaurant Ku-Kuu (Kuressaare)
Appreciation of the local produce comes hand-in-hand with the collaboration between the chef and the farmer. Estonia's biggest island Saaremaa is booming with new restaurants and a new generation of chefs along with their renewed love for local ingredients. Restaurants proudly offer their own maple and birch juice and you may be welcomed with electric-green spruce shoots and sorrels as topping on your soup.
Food fairs and regional markets, where you can meet the farmers and sample their products have become increasingly popular. The golden autumn brings out the best: the jam and preserves fair in Olustvere, Lindora fair in the Seto region, Paunvere exhibition near Tartu and Bread Day at the Open Air Museum in Tallinn. Onion growing thrives along the Lake Peipus coast where the locals braid onions into golden-yellow chains that look like the rich plaits of Russian tsarinas from fairy-tales.
This is just a glimpse of Estonia's ongoing journey for culinary excellence. Once estonished, you are likely to return for more!
View all of the White Guide Nordic's restaurant recommendations here.