My first lunch in Tallinn was at MEKK located in The Savoy Boutique Hotel. It was a really hot day with beautiful blue skies and bleating sun. I sat by the window and draped a white napkin across my lap before perusing the menu. I was joined at the table by the restaurants executive chef Rene Uusmees who enthusiastically talked about the history of Estonian culinary tradition.
MEKK stands for “Modern, Estonian, Kitchen, Kunst.” Kunst is the Estonian word for art so the catchy acronym really does sum up the driving force behind Rene’s ambition. The restaurant focuses on offering modern Estonian dishes while using locally sourced products that showcase the seasons bounty.
Rene comments, “The only way for us to find the right words when trying to define Estonian cuisine is to realize that the Estonians themselves are a manifestation of a combination of all the best features of the nations with whom they have lived side by side throughout the centuries. The calmness of the Swedes, the common sense of the Danes, the purposefulness of the Germans and the self-trust of the Russians are hidden inside each and every Estonian. The Estonian cuisine has equally taken the best aspects from the cuisines of other nations, added its unique nuances and the thrive for perfection to them all, thus becoming an extremely fascinating and diverse phenomenon.”
Rene also mentioned that Estonia has really experienced a flourishing culinary tradition in the past few years. After Russia’s Iron Curtain fell, eager chef’s finally had a chance to travel and learn from the gastronomy experts in Brussels, Paris and Stockholm. These passionate professionals returned with a new found understanding of food and sought to redefine the nations cuisine with fresh technique and local flavours. It is truly interesting to think about how war and occupation can effect not just the politics of society but also its understanding and appreciation of food.
It was so hot outside I really felt ordering an iced cold glass of Estonian Cider would quench my thirst. It was the perfect pairing for my first plate which featured whipped Estonian Goat Cheese with roasted hazelnuts and sweet beets. The beef carpaccio was marinated in a vodka that is made in house using local birch flowers and sea salt. Crisp duck fillet paired well with asparagus (which had just entered its season) and pear sauce. I finished off my meal with Estonian Saku Gold Lager and an assortment of the restaurants desserts. I became obsessed with baked Estonian white cheese which I slathered in local cloudberry jam.
Kiss Premium Dry Cider
Saku Gold Lager
Goat Cheese Cream
marinated beetroot, roasted hazelnuts, apple and sparkling wine sauce
Sea Salt and Birch Vodka Marinated Beef Carpaccio
sprouts, cheese chips and mustard mayonnaise
Crispy Duck Fillet
butter fried peas and asparagus, beets and pear sauce
Assortment of Mekk Desserts
layered cake, crispy sea-buckthorn cheesecake with salted caramel, chocolate mousse, vanilla and strawberry ice cream, baked estonian white cheese with cloudbery jam