TALLINN - In my time at The Baltic Times, I’ve done some mildly intrepid stuff. I’ve scaled the sheer slopes of an 80-meter-high mountain of industrial waste ; I’ve attempted to buy illegal alcohol on the black market ; I’ve been menaced by hordes of vicious stray dogs ; I’ve even sat through a modern Estonian opera.
But nothing could have prepared me for my latest assignment. A restaurant review – well, it sounds innocuous enough. But to review yet another new restaurant in Tallinn – a restaurant with a British chef (yes, you read it right: a British chef!)… oh, the sheer horror of it.
The first thing you notice about the cuisine anglaise on offer at KN restaurant is that it’s not, thank God, particularly anglais at all. Like the best of ..........
............. contemporary Britain, it reflects an eclectic and reflective mix of multifarious cultures and tastes. The chef’s obviously gone out of his way to select the finest local produce, and has added a Mediterranean subtlety and cosmopolitan spin to traditional dishes of beef, pork, chicken, duck and fish. The food combines the loving preparation and presentation of nouvelle cuisine with all the richness and generosity of Baltic fare.
May 20, KN’s opening night, saw a bevy of diners as diverse as the restaurant’s own menu.
“The food’s excellent and the atmosphere’s fantastic,” said Irish Ambassador Noel Kilkenny.
“This place is magic,” added Malcolm, a professional magician from Helsinki.
“Wonderful,” said Ray, an American businessman.
Even the chef from a rival hotel confessed he was impressed.
The restaurant’s located in the cellar of the newly opened Merchant’s House Hotel, a haven of traditional and modern luxuries in the heart of Tallinn’s Old Town. Above the restaurant and beneath a medieval painted ceiling, the bar serves, among other things, vodka shots cooled in glasses molded out of real ice.
The last time I described an Estonian bar as classy, it promptly opened its doors to a reality TV show, and turned overnight into an unbearable hangout of teenyboppers and wannabe media queens… so I’ll be careful what I write about this place. Suffice it to say, KN is both stylish and admirably restrained.
The restaurant also makes clever use of cutting-edge design in a painstakingly restored fourteenth-century setting. Its main room’s a perfect venue for a business banquet, while its discreet alcoves appear to have been purpose-built by a medieval architect for the sake of romantic dinners a deux. They’re also promising next month to offer al fresco dining in the hotel’s private courtyard.
Tallinn has already gained a reputation as the gourmet capital of north-eastern Europe, but I’ll stick my neck out and predict that KN – despite its rather minimalist and enigmatic name – will soon become known not only as the cool new place in Tallinn’s Old Town, but as a true jewel in the city’s culinary crown.