3 December 2014
I was still plagued by jetlag on this trip even though it was on its tail end already, which was a bad sign. However, I had to marshall on. I had barely slept, and actually fell back asleep close to 6am…not good, as I have to meet another dear friend at 11am for a coffee. She had just given birth a few weeks earlier (more evidence against fear the Estonian birth-rate is diminishing!) so we had the chance to catch up while the baby slept happily in his stroller in the cafe.
Afterwards I headed back towards where I was staying but wanted to grab some lunch, so ducked into a place I had been familiar with for nearly 2 decades — though it had changed in a major way.
Leib Resto & Aed now occupies most of what used to be Šoti klubi (The Scottish Club), where I have drank way too many drams over the years of hard-to-find single malts, where I also saw an old friend get married. So it was a familiar walk up those stairs through the garden into the restaurant.
It had warmed up enough in Tallinn, from the -15c to positive, and I actually asked for a table outside — to the utter incredulity of the staff. Nope. Got a table inside and they looked amazed I was sweating…
Estonians are almost as fanatical as Latvians over their bread, and the name of this restaurant means “Bread Resto & Garden” — if that says something. So of course the bread service was excellent, good Estonian black bread. Mmm, I’ve missed these. I dug into them so quickly I forgot to take a picture.
I ordered and cooled off with a glass of rose and relaxed. It’s so good to see this place full for lunch, with a crowd that’s prominently local. This is the growing economic confidence of Tallinners I like to see, and supporting good restaurants focusing on locally-sourced foods. My starter soon arrived.
Oh, I need to remind myself not to order salad when I am in Estonia… Not that the greens and veg aren’t good, but sometimes they overwhelm it with other stuff. This was a roe salad, with a lot of roe as you can see. Toasted barley was very nice too. However, this thing weighed about a TON. I almost died eating this, as it was so crazy heavy… I barely survived this, and I have a main course?
At this point I was pleasantly surprised listening to adjacent table of a young Finnish couple who happily ordered in English. This always makes me smile as yelling in Finnish seems to be something an older, ruder generation of Finns do — treat Estonia with little respect as if it was their private playground. Kudos to these two.
And before you say another word, I spoke only Estonian here. And elsewhere. I only switch to English if the staff insist on using English. Even in Latvia, or France, or anywhere I would switch into English only if they spoke English first, or if I ask them to. It’s called respect.
My main course then arrived and my eyes almost jumped out of their sockets…
This was a beautiful, if not utterly voluminous serving of shortrib. This slow-cooked behemoth, from locally sourced grass-fed beef, was smoked before being treated to its slow braise. Resting on some potato puree, this was huge — and I was already slowing down thanks to the voluminous roe salad.
The beef was cooked perfectly, retaining the smoky goodness but boasting a melting quality. Strong flavours, which worked perfectly with the potato puree. I even took a few bites of the sunchokes (they are in season so they are EVERYWHERE) and my stomach cursed me, so I had to stop. You *know* what sunchokes cause, and its revenge came later in the afternoon…
I enjoyed a bit more wine to cool down (started to sweat again!), enjoying this very heavy lunch. The starter was a bit suspect but the main was excellent, if not also too voluminous for lunch. I enjoyed this, not just for good service (better than last night at Cru, which was a little haphazard and linguistically confused) and nice wines, but to be sitting in a place I had been coming to since the crazy 1990s seeing it reborn in such a nice way.
And once again, I am very glad to see so much of the food sourced in Estonia, as there is certainly much pride from the cooking community for products of their farms and nature!
Worth checking out, but keep this review — all aspects of it — in mind!
Leib Resto & Aed