Most of the people visiting Estonia end up only staying in Tallinn, quite often they only come for a day trip from Helsinki and part for the night.
There is however more reason to venture out of the capital these days – the ever so evolving gastronomy of Estonians. The proof to that is in the list of 50 best restaurants, which comes out every year and includes a great selection of places to try out, not only in Tallinn.
One of these places is Tammuri Talu, a farm on the outskirts of Otepää in South of Estonia. Run by one man, Erki Saar, this rustic farm house can fit 25 people for lunch or dinner, by appointment only.
We arrived just in time for a late lunch on an incredibly sunny day. Erki was there to greet us, however, he made it very clear, that what ever is offered is there to be enjoyed and we shouldn’t complain. In a very sort of grumpy but friendly, I’m-the-chef-I-know-what-I’m-doing-kind-of-way. As there is no menu, Erki was going to introduce the dishes before each serving. Have to say though that I did miss a few words here and there as I was trying to find English translation for the more exotic ingredients and didn’t dare to ask again!
Erki was serving the food, whilst telling stories about how he ended up being the owner of the farm. The dining room is decorated with photographs of his ancestors and quite a peculiar, slightly extended, map of Estonia.
On to the food, it appears to be quite fashionable these days to serve water with at least some fruit or leaf inside it, so that’s what also welcomed us on the table. The freshly baked breads on the table accompanied with ramsons or wild garlic pesto, were quite a treat. It all disappeared pretty quickly.
Most of the ingredients served are homegrown and considering that Erki does all the cooking himself, the quality and presentation were pretty impressive.
Quail’s egg, salmon pate, shrimps, salad decorated with flowers and mushrooms started us off. The salad was a little spicy, pleasant surprise. My granddad sitting next to me didn’t make much of the starter dish, he prefers a good old pork and potatoes. For myself I might have enjoyed the presentation slightly more than the tastes.
Next up was sea buckthorn pastry, fois gras, which I do not eat, so kindly shared it, rowan tree jelly and salad from the garden.Unusually for a restaurant, Erki sent us off for a stroll in the garden to ‘digest’ the first two courses. We used it for taking some group photos and as the weather was nice, it was a good chance to turn our heads to the sun and lounge on the grass. In some point we heard a shout ‘Strawberries’. Not understanding what on Earth was going on, we soon realised that we’d ended up on a wild strawberry field. Momentarily everyone was down on their knees chomping away the sumptuous berries.
After filling the 20 minute gap with eating strawberries, we strolled back to the dining room and we were greeted by an extremely tender fillet steak with blackcurrant sauce, pumpkin pie and veggies from the garden. Turns out that Erki himself is a vegetarian, so it was quite surprising to find him serving meat. However, Estonians are meat lovers, so there must be plenty of demand. Apparently he also serves fish at times from his pond across the road.I’m a big lover of desserts and have to say that the one we had coming up was excellent. Light gooseberry mousse with strawberries, pineapple strawberry and wild strawberries (probably from the same field in the backyard we raided earlier) with a flapjack was stunning. I loved the lightness and fluffiness of it. To finish off, we were offered some homemade liqueurs, from sea buckthorn to rowan tree flavour, it was all there to try.
Our group left very happy indeed, as such I’d recommend a visit when in South of Estonia.