Fish of the handsomest kind? Certainly, but more importantly, Wedholms takes you on a magnificent journey through time, back to the mid 1980s. Remarkably little has changed at the restaurant that was Bengt Wedholm’s crowning achievement. The impressive piece of grilled turbot has almost the same girth, elasticity and juiciness, and the hollandaise that accompanies it has the same delicate acidity, curbed by the sweetness of the shallots. Was it better back then? In maritime gastronomy, yes. Nothing, nothing at all, can beat the sole meunière (SEK 495) served here, perfect in its naked caramel butteriness with only a lemon wedge and some boiled potatoes. And then again, no. Back then no one cared about the origin, the fishing methods or the vitality of stocks. In this regard, Wedholms is an anachronism. Currently zander from Lake Hjalmaren is MSC-certified, but that is probably not something the guests here are interested in. It’s enough to know that it comes poached, with the incomparable caramelly champagne sauce. This sauce alone is one of the strongest reasons to pay a visit and you can get it with almost anything. If you can’t choose, get the fricassee of lobster, sole, turbot and scallops, but be prepared to pay SEK 675 – even at lunch. But for a few hundred kronor you can get the same sauce with salmon or scallops. Many of the diners here have been in faithful attendance since it opened. They are affluent, with a touch of eccentricity that can electrify the dining room. The fantastic service staff also have this affect. Most are women of a mature age who engender a feeling of security, calm and warmth – creating an altogether unique atmosphere. Knowledge is served with a twinkle in the eye and batting of lashes, as in the reply: “This Burgundy shares a little soil with Montrachet, a damn good wine at a rock-bottom price”.
The Werner is among the most iconic cafés in not just the town of Tartu, but the whole Estonia. A perennial favorite of notable Estonian artists and cultural heavyweights through decades, it has always appealed with great coffee and amazing cakes. Every now and then, restaurants have started upon the first floor of the café, but they have always fizzled out. This year’s attempt, however, might well stand a chance. The atmosphere, inspired from the 1930s, displays restraint, which is a pleasant change in the otherwise very vibrant university town. The food seeks to stand out above the milieu. Laconically called Broth, the soup is made oftomato bouillon, smoked zander, shrimp, quail’s egg and herbs. The melt-in-the-mouth, sweet-and-sour taste initially seems restrained as well, but grows on you with eachfollowing spoonful. The rainbow trout entrée with its crispy skin is tuned into perfect harmony with the smoked fish-potato cream, butter sauce and dill oil. Traditional Estonian bread soup has inspired a dessert, where the bread has been whipped into pillowy foam with some help from gelatin and served with stewed cherries and rum ice cream. The drinks list is slightly more unassuming, but does feature Estonia's own sparkling rhubarb wine Rabarbra, beers by the atmospheric Käbliku farmstead-brewery in Tartu County (visit if you can!) and a few interesting cocktails. So, dogo upstairs at the Werner. May they never lack in resolve and resilience.
The Wicca is located some thirty-odd kilometers outside Tallinn, in Laulasmaa, atoneofthe most popular spa hotels in the capital’s general proximity. Its terrace offers a captivating view to the sea at hand’s reach and the surrounding pine forest. The Head Chef Angelica Udeküll has become something of a symbol for Estonian food and local ingredients - the menu at the Wicca has been a flagship of Estonian local food for years, featuring dishes inspired by local cuisine, catch, and harvest, prepared with modern techniques, always finished with a slight chef’s ‘twist’. Traditional Estonian aspic, part ofevery local celebration for centuries, is offered warm at the Wicca: the delicious beef jelly and fried potatoes - age-old home food - become a soup when doused inhot beef stock. The Estonians at the restaurant might be sceptical at first - what, warm aspic...? - but its simple elegance will please gourmands ofany background. The beer dessert is well worth a try as well.
Prepare to be romanced at this tiny restaurant on Mosebacke Square. There is always a theme behind the minimal menu on the blackboard. On one of our visits the source of inspiration is the ardent U.S. food icon Julia Child, whose cooking shows are also projected on the cute, floral lace curtain. First we fall head over heels for the starter. The gin-perfumed venison tartare melts in the mouth. It’s complemented by smoked cream, crunchy pieces and brittle chips of salsify, trout roe that pops in your mouth and piquant garden cress. It is incredibly ingenious and elicits a mild euphoria, reinforced by the recommended light Burgundy. The smart wine selection draws heavily on the staff’s almost clairvoyant insights about their diners’ preferences. The vegetarian alternative is well conceived and an elaborate orgy of textural contrasts, fat, carbohydrates, and umami. It’s certainly easy to light-heartedly gobble up the food here, but it also holds up to more profound analysis. A dessert with chocolate cake and poached pears may seem pretty simple on paper, but it demonstrates refinement – in part because lavender has been smuggled into the light milk ice cream. At that point we fumble for our calendars to schedule the next visit. There are, you see, many reasons why it is crowded among the narrow long tables with slender chairs. If you want a bit more space we recommend the bar counter where you will receive lots of extra love from the charming and well-informed staff.
With over 100 Masters Level restaurants, the Nordic countries offer a wide variety of excellent culinary experiences. The Top 30 are all at the Global Masters level and they include some of the best restaurants in the world.