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Friday, 31 January 2014

London Restaurant Reviews - The Mirror Room

Words & Photography by Felicity Spector and Luiz Hara

Where: Rosewood Hotel, 252 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EN

Cost: Small plates priced from £9 to £16, main courses from £13 to £21, while some dishes to share ranged from £19 to £75 for a rib of beef.

About: The Mirror Room is billed as the highlight of the newly refurbished Rosewood Hotel, the reincarnation of the 5-star Chancery Hotel around the corner from Holborn station. Its American owners have spent an astonishing £85 million on the refit, including a suite in its own wing, so vast that it has its own postcode. Plus, we were told, a cool £500,000 on the dining room silverware alone. Be sure to take care with the glasses in the bar - they cost €150 each!

Designed by New-York based Tony Chi, the Mirror Room itself is a long, astoundingly dramatic space, with a highly intricate mirrored ceiling, a huge fire blazing at the end, and the biggest vase of flowers I’ve ever seen in the centre, from the high-end florists McQueens. Décor is Chinese influenced, with plenty of glossy black lacquer and some very grand sofas and chairs.

The man behind Mirror Room’s kitchen is Bjorn Van Der Horst of the late Eastside Inn who received rave reviews for his Clerkenwell restaurant before it shut.

Prior to dinner, we had a couple of cocktails in the Scarfes Bar, a cosier and more intimate room with beautifully judged lighting, a blazing fire, antique books, and very comfortable chairs.

Illustrations come courtesy of the caricaturist Gerald Scarfe. Here, the comprehensive drinks menus - including more than 200 single malts, come hidden inside antique looking leather book jackets, and there’s live music every night. The staff were fantastic, very knowledgeable and friendly: nothing seemed too much trouble.

The more casual Holborn Dining Rooms is set to open shortly in the hotel, which will be another, perhaps more affordable dining option at the Rosewood Hotel.

From the book lined comfort of the Scarfes Bar, we were led into a stunning corridor, shimmering in a sort of bronze light, then through to the vast expanse of the Mirror Room. “It’s the first place I saw which made me simply say - wow”, said our waitress: and there certainly has been no expense spared on this lavish and luxury space.

What we ate: The menu is divided into a range of ‘small plates’ from which you could easily construct a meal: five between two people, we were told, might be a good selection. Of the large plates, there were a lot of sandwiches, mixed with some more conventional main course dishes and three larger ‘sharing plates’.

The excellent sourdough bread came with a flavoured butter, which changes daily - a clever idea: on the day we went, it was golden raisin, walnut and thyme, which lent a pleasant sweetness and crunch.

I started with a pheasant and chestnut soup (£9), which was exquisitely made, with a rich flavour from the pheasant stock, and plenty of trompette de la mort mushrooms, along with pieces of sliced chestnut to add texture to the creamy veloute style broth.

We also tried the foie gras with almond and coffee (£14): rich, with just a hint of bitterness from the coffee and an almond foam which balanced the unctuous liver very well indeed.

A rose veal tartare (£16) was hand chopped yet remarkably smooth, simply seasoned with just a hint of caper and parmesan - an excellent effort.

For mains we had another of the small plates - gnocchi with morels - wheat rather than potato based dumplings (£11), which came with an intense mushroom sauce and plenty of morels.

The ‘crispy Dover sole, chips and truffle mayonnaise’ (£19) was also a success: two substantial fillets of perfectly cooked fish in a tempura batter, crisp, fluffy chips in a small Jenga type tower alongside a pot of very good truffle mayonnaise. I also ordered an off-menu selection of steamed vegetables, a prettily arranged selection served al dente.

Desserts were a particular highlight: the menu offered a few options including the tempting sounding “patisserie from the counter” (£8).

We were invited to view the selection with our obliging waiter, who talked us through the various options, including a cheesecake, various biscuits and madeleines, and a selection of French pastries.

I chose a blackberry frangipane tart, a pleasingly generous slice cut from a whole tart, with some raspberry coulis on the side. It was excellently made: crisp, thin pastry, moist frangipane with the tartness of the berries cutting through the almond sweetness.

We also tried a dessert from the main menu - ‘chocolate, candied chestnut, Lagavulin cream and vanilla meringue’, which came in a glass, an indulgent twist on a Mont Blanc and very alcoholic.

What we drank: There was a good range of cocktails created by the in-house barmen in the Scarfes Bar - served with special daily changing ice-cube shape (which I’ve never heard of before) in those expensively heavy and gorgeous Ralph Lauren glasses.

We had a glass of Hats Off, a delicious concoction of tequila, Aperol, lemon and grapefruit juices that was refreshing and with the right amount of bitterness from the Aperol (£12). We also tried The Humidor made from Chivas 18-year old whisky, dry white Port and Absynthe among other ingredients (£12). This was a strong and very well-made cocktail and my favourite of the evening.

In the restaurant, the vast wine list was expertly navigated by our sommelier who suggested a glass of Pinot Noir to go with the foie gras and veal tartare starters. He had specially opened a bottle of Domaine Pierre Danoy, normally not available by the glass, but priced at £60 a bottle.

With the Dover sole main came a glass of 2009 Lucien Le Moin white Burgundy at £18, fresh and citrusy with hints of butter and spice, chosen to match the beer batter on the fish.

Water came served in stainless steel cups lined with copper, a very grand touch.

Likes: The service was wonderful, with extremely friendly and expert staff, from the Polish waitress in Scarfes Bar who exuded enthusiasm - to our sommelier and waiter, they all went out of their way to make us feel comfortable. The desserts were the highlight for me, while my companion had high praise for the tartare and foie gras, where the quality of the ingredients, and the care taken with their preparation, were evident.

Dislikes: We were there on a quiet midweek night, and although there were a few occupied tables around us, with the restaurant being so spacious, it felt a little lacking in atmosphere.

Verdict: If it’s a grand experience you’re after - this is definitely the place. It has that ‘wow’ interior the like of which you’ll rarely find in London as well as excellent cocktails, food and desserts. The Scarfes Bar was very relaxing and would make an excellent place to meet - especially with the live music. Recommended.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

London Restaurant Reviews - Paesan

Words & Photography by Simeen Kadi and Luiz Hara

Name: Paesan

Where: 2 Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4PX, http://paesanlondon.com/

Cost: Antipasti from £4, small plates are around £6 and mains from £8 to £13

About: Paesan aims to extol the virtues of ‘Cucina Povera’; a cuisine styled from the humble meals of Italian peasants. Taking over from the corner site previously housing Dollar Grills and Martinis on Exmouth Market, this is a fairly large, unadorned space which caters to the drinking and dining crowds that line the pavements of this party street.

What we ate: Paesan is one of a few London restaurants that have been spawned from the Polpo template. While I don’t think they actually share any DNA, they have a similar aesthetic and menu – although I would add that Polpo would win any bout of sibling rivalry.

The menu is broken up into manageable chunks with Antipasti, Piccolo (ie small plates) Pasta, Fish and Meat. We started with a plate of charcuterie including Coppa di Testa, Wild Boar Mortadella and Lardo. The Lardo was sweet and deeply flavoured, the coppa was also very good, especially when wrapped around spicy Puglian bread rings. The mortadella, although tasty, did not have a discernable flavour of gamey wild boar. The Caponata was rich and velvety – a great example of inexpensive ingredients given some va va boom.

The Focaccia we ordered to accompany the meats was topped with delicious caramelised onion but was woefully undercooked and doughy.

From the Piccolo section of the menu we ordered the Burrata which came with more of the delicious caponata – the burrata was fresh and bright but could have been creamier.

Calabrian Trippa & Steak Ragu with Chilli and Pecorino tried to appeal to squeamish British diners with a thinly veiled use of the Italian for tripe. The dish was peppery and both the tripe and the steak were tender.

The Crochette Schiacciatina (try saying that after a couple of Negronis) were two crispy patties with a filling flavoured with anchovy and parmesan – dense and well seasoned. It came with a tomato salsa that was one dimensional and tasted vaguely of preservatives.

The pasta dish that I had been waiting to try was Hand Cut Pappardelle with Slow Roasted Suckling Pig Ragu. Sadly it was sold out, so we opted for the Orecchiette with Nduja, Pancetta and Cavolo Nero. Nduja, the fiery hot spreadable sausage made from pork and lots of chilli, was a key ingredient for 2013, featuring in neo-Italian bacare as well as in menu-bending fusion street food stands across the capital. Here, it was tempered by the cabbage and coated the pasta ears to give a rich, pleasing mouthful.

We also tried the Fritto Misto – always a good barometer for the skill of a kitchen. Here, the batter was light, crisp and well seasoned. The fish was mostly Calamari, which was lightly cooked and tender. There was the odd chunk of Red Mullet which was also well cooked in the batter. The accompanying aioli lacked the zing of a squeeze of lemon.

For dessert, we enjoyed a large serving, best shared, of perfectly good toasted Panettone with Grand Marnier and Vanilla ice cream.

What we drank: The Negroni we ordered while perusing the menu was watery, due to the addition of soda – an absolute sacrilege. To make matters worse, the olive in the drink was raw and hard as a bullet.

With our meal we drank a 2012 Montelpuciano d'Abruzzo by Farina which lacked depth or balance, but had plenty of fruit as such a young wine would. A completely forgettable bottle.

Verdict: Paesan has a great location on a vibrant street teeming with great food. A greater focus on using quality ingredients, however humble, and more care in the kitchen and the bar should elevate this restaurant to a neighbourhood favourite.

Friday, 24 January 2014

London Restaurant Reviews - Eyre Brothers

Where:  70 Leonard Street, London, EC2A 4QX, http://www.eyrebrothers.co.uk

Cost: Starters range from £6 to £12. Main courses range from £15 to £24, with a couple of shared main courses at up to £30 per person.  Desserts / cheese platter are from £2 to £7. Entry level wines cost under £20 for both red and white wines, and there is an extensive selection of sherries, ports and Madeiras.

About: Tucked away on Leonard Street in Shoreditch, just metres from Great Eastern Street and Old Street station and less than a mile from my home in Islington, I must have driven past Eyre Brothers thousands of times without realising it was there.  The decor is all dark wood, white walls and chocolate-coloured leather.

Eyre Brothers was opened in 2001 by David and Rob Eyre, who used to be partners in the famous Eagle gastro pub on Farringdon Road. Reflecting their origins in the former Portuguese colony of Mozambique, the menu draws on classic Portuguese and Spanish ingredients and flavour combinations that I've always loved, so I arrived hoping to be impressed.

What We Ate: We kicked off with appetisers of “pimientos de padron fritos” and “pasteis de bacalhao” (salt-cod fritters) both £6.  The fried peppers were good - simply served with flakes of salt that went down really well with the Fino Sherry we had them with.

The “pasteis de bacalhao” were however a revelation – I have been eating these fritters since I was a toddler back in Brazil, but these were some of the finest I have tried for sometime with a generous amount of salted cod to potatoes, and very well seasoned.

Next, Dr G opted for chestnut, chorizo and parsley soup (£6), which was a good hearty winter option. I had the “bacalhao com grao de bico” - warm salt cod with chickpeas, onion and garlic and a soft boiled egg (£10). Salt cod can be rather tricky to get right - it's often tough, dry or too salty from inadequate rehydration, or tasteless if it has been over-soaked. Happily, Eyre Brothers' version was perfectly cooked.

I really wanted to try the Alentejano pork for 2, but couldn't resist ordering also the grilled fillet of acorn-fed Iberico pork, marinated with peppers, thyme and garlic, served with potatoes, green peppers, onions, garlic and white wine (£21). This is considered to be the restaurant’s signature dish and I can see why – served pink, which is quite unusual for pork, the meat was so tender and very flavoursome. Iberico pork is the Rolls Royce of the pork world, free range and fed on acorn only, it is normally served as charcuterie so it was nice to be able to try it fresh and expertly cooked, it really didn’t disappoint.

My favourite Portuguese dish of the night however was the “Cataplana de Porco Alentejano” - or Portuguese pork with clams served in a “cataplana” pot.

The combination of pork and seafood may seem unlikely, but it is typically Portuguese and when it is cooked correctly, a sort of alchemy occurs which is utterly magical.

It is served with a red pepper and paprika sauce and deep-fried cubes of potatoes which soak up all that lovely meat and seafood juices. At £40 for 2, Eyre Brothers did an excellent version of this Portuguese classic, better than many I have had on my trips to Porto.

For dessert, we opted for the Tarta de Santiago, a flourless orange and almond tart with orange marmalade and cream (£5). This was a nice way to end a rich meal, being light and with some refreshing acidity from the citrus fruit.

We also had the very traditional Portuguese dessert of Toucinho de Ceu  (literally "the fat of heaven") a cake based on almonds and egg yolks (£5). It was served with strawberries, and was also good.

What We Drank: With our appetisers, we had a glass of Fino sherry (El Maestro Sierra, £8.25), a bone dry and bready fortified wine, and a glass of Manzanilla Solera Reserva, Emilio Lustau (£5).
With the main meal, we shared a bottle of 5 fincas, Castillo Perelada Reserva 2008 (£45). With a blend of garnacha, syrah, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, this was a complex wine with notes of cherry and blackberry, soft tannins and a long finish. It went very well with our pork dishes.
Busy Bar at Eyre Brothers - Excellent Selection of Portuguese and Spanish Wines and Sherries

Likes: Lovely Iberian cooking, good wine, sherry and port selection sensibly priced, attentive service. The Menu del Dia (Lunch Menu) is excellent value at £18 for 2 courses. Given a day's notice, the restaurant can roast a whole suckling pig Portuguese style.

Dislikes: Perhaps unsurprisingly given its location in the City, it has a somewhat corporate feel, and many of the clientele on our visit appeared to be groups of business people and their business guests in suits unwinding / bonding after a day in the office.

Verdict: An excellent option for dinner in Hoxton, Old Street or Finsbury Circus areas and for some seriously good Iberian cooking. The cooking and service were faultless and as good as some of the top establishments in Portugal. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Ready, Steady, Bake! A Review of L' Atelier des Chef's Macaron Baking Class

Words and Photography by Felicity Spector and Luiz Hara

We were invited to try out the 2 hour ‘Mastering Macarons’ baking class at L’Atelier des Chefs in St Paul's - held on a Friday evening between 6-8pm.

I have to confess I was rather sceptical about the idea of learning how to make macarons in such a short time. I've never tried them before, but watching vicariously as far more experienced Bake Off contestants and the like try and fail to achieve the right consistency and texture made me think it would take far, far longer for me to pick up the technique.

But the class promised macarons in two hours, and I was ready to learn.

Adorned in fetching plastic aprons, we gathered around our tutor for the night, Daniel Stevens, who had already begun the class at a gallop. In order to get a head start, he had managed to measure out some pre-prepared mixture onto trays, so they would dry out in time to put them in the oven.

All the ingredients we needed were already weighed out, and the equipment stood waiting - if only such preparation was so easy at home!

Under Dan's careful direction, we sifted flour and ground almonds, watched as egg whites and sugar ballooned into meringue in the Kitchenaids, and took turns to fold them together. A few dollops of the brightly coloured food colourings in - and we were done. So far, it was all very manageable.

We were then shown how to load up a piping bag and measure out the macaron halves onto the prepared baking trays. This was certainly a technique to remember, as we discovered how to look straight down at the tray, holding the nozzle into the dollop of mixture so it spread evenly and consistently. It was easier than I’d feared, and something I could replicate again.

We were invited to pipe our mixtures onto some trays: some produced lovely neat little macarons, while mine were frankly designed for a greedier person. Or perhaps 'generous' would be a kinder way to describe them.

Next they needed to dry before going in the oven - and the trays were placed next to open oven doors to speed up the process.

Dan carefully advised us how to make sure the mixture was the right consistency, and how to tell when the piped macaron mixture is dry enough to put into the oven: it should be slightly tacky and just firm enough to touch.

Onto the fillings: and there were four. A chocolate ganache was first, flavoured with a mint essence. I got a chance to get over my fear of making caramel - it really wasn't that scary after all. No saucepans were burned in the making of my toffee sauce. A citrus buttercream was surprisingly easy, and a delicious praline creme patissiere completed the lineup. Another useful recipe, which I'll keep for a later day.

Somehow all the fillings managed to set in time for us to fill our piping bags again, and sandwich the finished macarons together - there were certainly plenty to go around and we all filled takeaway boxes with our brightly coloured creations. I confess that we might possibly have eaten the odd one or two as well - but only the ones which weren’t quite perfect looking enough to take home. Honest.

I had arranged to take my batch to friends later in the weekend, and in retrospect I probably shouldn't have tried to keep the ones filled with the creme patissier for so long: they turned rather soggy after two days in the fridge, although they still tasted pretty good. The others held their shape and consistency far more impressively: the salted caramel version went down particularly well.

Dan advised us that macarons are far better eaten the day they're made - a sugar-filled midnight treat, then, or you could take the class right before a dinner party, and take them as a contribution towards dessert.

We were emailed the recipes for the macarons and fillings during the session, the easier to replicate them at home, although it would probably take me rather longer than 2 hours without Dan to provide his expert guidance.

I came away with some excellent tips: those piping techniques, the discovery that old egg whites make better meringues, and that caramel will not instantly burn to a blackened mess and wreck your pans. Our class definitely managed to de-mystify the art of macaron baking. Not such an impossible sweet to attempt, after all.

We were invited to attend the Mastering Macroons class at L’Atelier des Chefs St Pauls, 10 Foster Lane London EC2V 6HR, for more information visit their website here.

Classes cost £72 per person for two hours, and you can take home all the macarons you can eat.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The London Foodie Goes to Estonia - Tallinn

After a brief spell of independence between 1918 and 1940, Estonia fell under Soviet occupation until 1991, when it re-gained its sovereignty. Estonians were quick off the mark to restore the country to the beautiful and highly cultured nation it used to be, and today, Estonia is also one of most technologically advanced states of the European Union, which it joined in May 2004. In 2011, the country joined the Eurozone and its capital, Tallinn, was European Capital of Culture.

Tallinn Skyline

Possibly the main tourist destination of the Baltic Region, Estonia is sandwiched between Russia, Scandinavia and other Baltic nations. Home to Arvo Pärt, one of the giants of contemporary classical music, and the nation that gave Skype to the world, I was thrilled to be invited by the Estonian Tourist Board to this intriguing part of Europe to discover and report what culinary surprises the country had in store for Tallinn Restaurant Week.

In its 3rd year, Tallinn Restaurant Week is a festival that brings together some of the best restaurants of the Estonian capital - 35 restaurants were taking part in 2013. Like the London festival that we have come to anticipate each year, Tallinn’s offers a multitude of meals specially designed for the week’s festival; some of these are excellent value too. If you thought that all there was to Estonia’s culinary legacy were sauerkraut, pork knuckle and boiled potatoes, think again and read on.

Whether or not you will travel the earth for that perfect meal, Tallinn still merits a visit for it is one of the most beautiful and well-maintained medieval towns of Northern Europe. With direct, 3-hour flights from London’s Gatwick, Tallinn is easily accessible and a perfect City break for a long weekend away from home.

Russian Orthodox Church

The heart of Tallinn is its Medieval Old Town, a fairytale neighbourhood of gabled houses, gothic spires and cobblestone streets that dates back to the 13th century. But as much as Tallinners pride themselves on their city’s medieval heritage, it is the modern side of the city which I found most inspiring.

Tallinn's Medieval Old Town

In addition to being one of Europe’s most technology-oriented cities where Skype was invented, Tallinn offers free public wi-fi, and is where parking payment via text messages or sms was first introduced. Tallinn is also the first European capital offering free public transport for its residents since 2013.

Tallinn is a highly compact city, most of which can be easily explored on foot without the need for taxis or buses. Most of the sightseeing attractions, cultural events, dining, shopping and nightlife are located within the Old Town.

I spent the few hours I had between the various restaurant meals meandering up and down the narrow cobblestone streets of the Old Town, taking in the sights of this enchanting place (while trying to burn up some of my newly acquired calories). With my TallinnCard in hand (€24 for 24 hours/€32 for 48 hours), I was hopping on and off one of the city’s sightseeing bus tours as well as enjoying free access to many of its museums, galleries and other attractions.

If you are planning a City break in 2014, I recommend Tallinn as a destination - you will not be short of things to do and see but most importantly, there will be plenty of fantastic food to enjoy!

Where to Eat in Tallinn


One of the city’s fine-dining restaurants located at the historic, 5-star Telegraaf Hotel in the Old Town, Tchaikovsky serves a fusion of Russian-French cuisines in very plush surroundings.

The restaurant has been listed as Tallin’s no.1 restaurant (and Estonia’s 2nd) among The 50 Best Restaurants in Estonia, a list compiled by the country’s top restaurateurs and other relevant figures in the industry.

Executive chef Vladislav Djatuk, an Estonian of Russian parents, heads the busy kitchen and was kind enough to welcome me into his restaurant to try his seasonal 6-course tasting menu (€72/£60).

We kicked off with a refreshing and exquisitely presented crab salad with avocado and passion fruit hollandaise. The combination of colours and textures in this salad was truly a work of art.

This was followed by wild mushroom “pelmeni” and cheese gratin with potato espuma. The dumpling pastry was freshly made and very delicate, the perfect casing for the earthy mushroom – pelmeni like I have never tasted.

For main course, I had a roasted cod fillet with shavings of pumpkin, baby carrots, langoustine and beurre blanc, which again was beautifully presented and delicious.

The roasted venison fillet was next. This was served with chokeberry, Jerusalem artichoke, fondant potato and cauliflower in a rich Madeira sauce. This was a wonderful main course, the venison was tender and flavoursome, and was a perfect partner to the Chateauneuf du Pape I enjoyed it with.

As would be expected for a restaurant of this calibre, the wine list was well designed and comprehensive. I enjoyed a 2010 bottle of Mersault by Louis Jadot with my starters and roast cod, which was a great suggestion by the sommelier.

After the cheese course, I had one of the restaurant’s signature desserts – the Pavlova à la Tchaikovsky. This was a ravishing concoction of crumbly meringue, fresh cut fruit and flowers, and raspberry sorbet which was refreshing and a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.

I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner at Tchaikovsky, shortly after landing in Tallinn. The tasting menu I tried at the restaurant was of 1 or possibly 2 Michelin starred quality (the Michelin Guide has not yet ranked any restaurants in the country), and it cost a fraction of any similar meal in London.


Neh is the city bistro of the country’s much acclaimed Pädaste Manor, a historic 15th century Baltic estate located in an unspoilt nature reserve on Muhu Island in the Baltic Sea. The small luxury hotel and spa at Pädaste Manor houses the restaurant Alexander, listed as the top restaurant in the country.

At Neh, respect for Nordic Islands’ cuisine is clear, with food and produce from Muhu, as well as other neighbouring islands.  This style of cooking makes great use of smoking, pickling, drying and salting which is part of the indigenous heritage. Excellent quality lamb and pork, as well as game such as venison, moose and wild boar are abundant. Neh features fresh fish from Pädaste Manor, as well as wild greens and herbs from the forest, fields and beach of the estate.

The dining style at Neh is rather more casual than at Alexander I am told, and prices are more affordable. We sat at the Chef’s Table in the restaurant kitchen, which can be reserved for parties of up to 5 people for a set fee of €295/£244 or £49 per head for a six-course dinner. Other menus and price options are available.

Chef's Table at Neh

Danish Head Chef Yves Le Lay is the man in charge of Neh’s kitchen, whom I had the pleasure of meeting to chat about Nordic islands’ cuisine, but more importantly to try some of his creations.

We started with a platter of local tapas, aptly named “Made in Muhu” (£15 for 2 people). This consisted of a delectable selection of Muhu’s best bites - smoked moose, cured venison, smoked Baltic herring, smoked cod mousse, chicken liver mousse, whipped butter and pickled cucumber.

The beef heart tartare (£12) was served next. Beautifully presented and well seasoned, it also had marinated wild garlic and droplets of sous-vide egg.

This was followed by the “free-range egg 100 minutes” (£8), a gently sous-vide egg, served with salt roasted tuhlis potatoes (a local variety) and spiced Baltic sprat. Packed with flavour, this was a creamy, warming and comforting dish.

For main course, I had a pan-fried pike perch (£16) served with a parsley chlorophyll dressing, roasted cauliflower and cherry tomatoes. This was a simple and very well made dish with the quality of the ingredients coming through perfectly.

The sea-buckthorn posset (£6) with burnt butter-spelt crumble was a refreshing dessert that ended a perfect meal on a good note.

The meal at Neh was not only delicious but also an amazing educational experience for me – I learnt and got to try the Nordic Islands’ cooking and some of the native ingredients used by Chef Yves Le Lay. I could see some resonance to Japanese cooking, particularly in the use of pickling, drying and fermenting, which bring out the umami and concentration of flavour of ingredients. As with Japanese food, the ingredients were key to the dishes we had and were also of excellent quality and freshness.

I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at Neh; the restaurant is a must for anyone visiting Tallinn and who would like to learn about the native Nordic Islands’ cuisine. I cannot wait to try Alexander at Pädaste Manor on another occasion soon.

Leib Resto ja Aed (Bread Restaurant  & Garden)

If I only had one meal in Tallinn, I would probably make Leib Resto ja Aed the one.

This was my favourite restaurant in town – it was also the 3rd restaurant that I visited for lunch that day (yes, my 3rd lunch that day), and I still remember vividly, every mouthful I had that afternoon.

The food was exquisite and unpretentious – local, fantastic produce, simply but beautifully cooked and paired with some great wines. Partners Kristjan Peäske, an award winning sommelier, and head chef Janno Lepik a former Londoner who worked at Rhodes W1 and Babylon, have a winning formula and are bringing a fresh and modern perspective to Estonian cuisine.

I met Janno who was kind enough to explain the idea behind Leib Resto ja Aed and chat about Estonian cuisine. The food menu is very reasonably priced with starters costing from £3.75 to £6.70, main courses around £7 to £17.50 and desserts from £3.50 to £7.50. The wine list is also comprehensive and well thought out reflecting Kristjan’s contribution to the partnership. Every dish on the menu can be paired with a matching glass of wine available to order.

Chef Janno Lepik

The restaurant opened two and half years ago and has a large garden, which I am told is the place to be during the summer months. In addition to the freshly baked bread for which the restaurant is famous, there is always, weather permitting, something being cooked on the garden grill.

I started with a dish of potted trout (£6.50) served with bread and a salad of pickled onions, cucumber and beet leaves. The combination of flavours was really well thought out, with the different elements of the dish complementing each other. The potted trout was paired with a 2011 white Rioja by Luis Cañas made from old Viura and Malvasia vines, which had enough body to work a treat with the trout and pickled onions.

I have a real weakness for bone marrow, and so Leib’s roasted bone marrow (£5.80) served with gherkin-onion salad and toast had to be ordered. This was also fantastic, the meaty flavours heightened by the addition of horseradish cream and a concentrated red wine jus. I had this with a glass of 2009 Chardonnay by Chateau Ste Michelle from Washington State (US), an unusual pairing which worked well in my opinion.

For main course, I had Janno’s overnight cooked lamb neck from Rägavere Manor (£13.25) served with pearl barley and beetroot cream. Flavoursome, tender and very succulent, words fail me to express how delicious this was. Expertly matched with a 10 year old 2003 Laudum Gran Reserva from Alicante, made from Cabernet Sauvigon, Monastrell and Merlot varietals aged in French and American oak, it was a combination made in heaven.

I was sadly too full for dessert, but hope to be returning to Leib Resto ja Aed in the near future for more of Janno’s top nosh, Kristjan’s faultess wine cellar, and the best of Estonian hospitality (and of course dessert!). Very highly recommended.


Singaporean Goh Wee Boon, a former Hakkasan sous-chef (aka Simon), heads the kitchen at Chedi. This is Tallinn’s answer to Chinese fine-dining championed by Hakkasan and Yuatcha in London.

Chedi is a beautiful and elegant restaurant with prices to match. The food was exquisite, the dim sum made on the premises, and the service second to none. The pricing however seemed not in keeping with similar establishments in London.

The baked venison puff (£9), was as good as I remember having at Hakkasan – the pastry was fresh and the meat filling, sweet and well seasoned. The price however for 2 dumplings (not 3) was in my opinion excessive.

The dim sum platter contained prawn-bamboo with XO sauce and goji berry and prawn-scallop filling (£9.50) which were light and very delicious, but again eye-wateringly expensive.

I met Head Chef Goh and visited his kitchen to watch him prepare one of the restaurant’s signature dishes - stir-fried, black pepper rib eye beef with Merlot sauce (£19) which was delicious and gorgeously presented.


A couple of doors down from the Chedi, Bocca is one of the most popular and highly regarded Italian restaurants in Tallinn. I met Italian Head Chef Nicolo Tanda, a native of Sardinia, and had a fantastic meal with him there.

We started with a magnificent dish of scallop and king prawn with asparagus in a delicate white wine and ginger sauce (£13). The foie gras with cognac seasoned fig and melon in blackberry sauce (£13) was also delicious and beautifully presented.

The grilled rack of lamb (£22.50) flavoured with a crust of almonds and myriad herbs including parsley, thyme, oregano and basil was sensational, the meat perfectly cooked. It was served with a delicious goat’s cheese terrine and blackberry sauce and a glass or two of San Jacopo Chianti Classico, one of Chef Nicolo’s favourite wines on his menu.

To round off, I had a deliciously zingy and refreshing Sorrento Lemon Tart (£5). Creamy and very moreish, this was also expertly made.

Italian food is one of my favourite cuisines but I am rarely impressed by Italian restaurants in London or abroad. My meal at Bocca was however exquisite – the food was faultless and as delicious as (if not better than) a lot that I had while living in Italy. Highly recommended.

Travel Essentials

Estonia Tourist Board
Lasnamäe 2
11412 Tallinn
Telephone +372 6279 770

Visit Estonia

Visit Tallinn

Tallinn Restaurant Week

The 50 Best Restaurants List (Estonia)

Vene 9, Tallinn
Phone: 6000610

Lootsi 4, Tallinn
Phone: 6022222

Leib Resto ja Aed
Uus 31, Tallinn
Phone: +372 6119026

Sulevimägi 1, Tallinn
Phone: 6461676

Olevimägi 9, Tallinn
Phone: +372 6117290

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