You know those [friendly] competitive conversations you have to see who’s visited the most countries? Or is that just me? Anyway, I have a new one for my list that I don’t think many people I know have been to…Estonia. This was my first visit to the Baltic with Copenhagen being the first stop. I loved it there – friendly people, great restaurants, fantastic shopping and hot weather (who’d have thought) plus a surprise opportunity to see Elton John live in the fabulous Tivoli Gardens. A really good start to our journey exploring northern Europe.
From Copenhagen we hopped on our cruise ship and headed north to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. It’s on the north coast in the Gulf of Finland, just across from Helsinki and west of St Petersburg. A small city with a population of less than half a million, it’s very quaint and pretty with the picturesque Old Town that was built from the 13th to 16th centuries and is neatly packaged within a city wall and dotted with striking guard towers. The main square offers loads of stalls selling interesting local goods.
My brother had recently been in Tallinn shooting in the World Clay Pigeon Championships with my nephew, so he’d scoped out a good restaurant for lunch. Always the most important goal on arriving anywhere for the day! Slightly off the beaten track and hidden behind a wall and slightly crumbling building, is Leib (it means bread in Estonian). You walk up the garden path past walls festooned with greenery and flowers to a rambling local restaurant with a friendly welcome. It’s run by two local foodies, a chef and a sommelier and focuses on seasonal food using local ingredients.
We settled down outside to ponder our menus and I ordered a bottle of the local wine – apple and quince wine! It tasted like a cross between cider and wine, very pleasant.
Herring is everywhere in this part of the world and though it’s not something I eat regularly, I am quite partial to it! This marinated Baltic herring came with butter baked potatoes, cottage cheese and dill. It was beautifully zesty with creamy pearls of cottage cheese and flavoursome potatoes. Everything tasted fresh as fresh and looked beautiful, as you can see.
The Leib Resto beef tartare came with toasty mayo and marinated radish.
And a wonderfully fresh and colourful salad combo of fresh Kalamalsi dairy goat cheese with tarragon marinated, grilled bell peppers and tomatoes.
For mains I chose quail from Jarveotsa farm with warm potato salad and chimichurri sauce, a beautifully garlicky, herby sauce of Argentinian origin done perfectly. The quail was tender and flavoursome, the baby spinach fresh and lightly cooked and I’d highly recommend Estonian potatoes…the whole dish worked wonderfully together.
This juicy pair of pork sausages came with crushed potatoes, apple mustard and onion gravy. Rich and meaty with more of those delicious spuds.
You’re served the black bread the restaurant’s named after as you sit down and boy is it irresistible. I’m not a huge bread eater but I tucked into this…the butter’s in a league of its own, too.
Desserts looked lovely but we were all too full to contemplate them. Portions are pretty generous. If you’re ever in Tallinn, take a meander away from the bustle of the main square and enjoy the peace and tasty local food of Leib. It’s a gem.
Leib is at Uus Street 31, Tallinn.