With a warm and cozy atmosphere and a menu full of tasty comfort food, Leib gives a hearty dining experience in the picturesque town of Tallinn.
If you find yourself enchanted by the romantic old towns of Europe, you will love Estonia’s capital – Tallinn. Its charming streets are lined with buildings which date back centuries, with many of these are painted bright colors and topped with red tiled roofs. We were there during the winter, so these roofs were blanketed in white as were the cobblestone streets. Of course, this made it look all the more magical. It was this which drew us to Tallinn, and also the swirling rumors that Estonia has some world class restaurants and incredible cuisine...so we had to check in out!
The Estonian approach to food is quite different to that of the US, so while there we wanted to try as much of it as possible, and to give ourselves a deeper understanding of how they do things. In order to combat the long, cold winters, much of their cuisine consists of hearty comfort food, yet it all has a healthy twist to it. Whether it’s using the freshest ingredients possible, making vegetables the start, or just good use of portion control, Tallinn has healthy comfort food and it’s delicious. There is one restaurant which specializes in this, and after seeing some mouth watering reviews, we decided to check it out.
The restaurant is called Leib, and is named after an Estonian type of black bread. This bread is simple and honest, having been made by peasants for centuries, so when the team started the restaurant, they found the term “Leib” to be the most fitting for a name. When fresh and warm out of the oven it is delicious and, as all these adjectives could also be used to describe the restaurant, the name is quite fitting!
The old town is fairly compact, and walking around its streets in the evening was a lovely experience. It can be quiet on a weeknight, and this just emphasizes the warm inviting glow emanating from the restaurant windows. The entrance to Leib is hidden from the street through a gateway, but those windows let you know that you are in the right place. Through them you can see the candlelit tables, and the diners enjoying their meals.
There were a lot of them as well! The place was packed and this, along with the decoration, made it feel warm and cozy in contrast to the snow outside. The patrons seemed largely to be local, and I couldn't help but think that we were the only tourists. I liked this as Leib’s concept is based around Estonian cuisine. If there is anyone who should be able to recognize good Estonian food, it is the Estonians themselves!
The building in which Leib is housed, used to be Tallinn’s Scottish Club, and they have retained much of the previous occupant’s style. The design is fairly grand, with wood paneling and classical white pillars flanking the entrance to the bar area. Both food and drink are covered by the management team, which consists of a partnership between Janno Lepik – the chef, and Kristjan Peaske – the sommelier. It opened in 2011, and since then has been getting stronger and more recognized, currently being rated as the ninth best restaurant in the city by TripAdvisor.
The menu is unashamedly local, and all the ingredients come from local farmers, fishermen, and dairies. We started with cubes of feta and kale pesto drenched in beetroot dressing, as well as gravad perch accompanied by tiny cubes of squash and pumpkin. The perch (a type of fish) was delicious, and was like a savory ceviche but with a spicy, wintery taste.
Continuing the winter theme, my main course was brown butter baked pumpkin with goat curd and pumpkin sauce. It warmed me to the core, and was a perfect antidote to the Estonian cold. Chris had the farm quail, which was served with warm potato salad and chimichurri sauce. Even I liked this dish, and I usually don't like quail!
Throughout the meal we were given Leib’s version of the black bread after which the restaurant is named and I couldn’t stop eating it!. It was moist and sour, and when you add their butter, it was heaven! I had no trouble finding a nice wine to go with my meal, as you would expect from a place that is part owned by a sommelier. Chris (our in-house beer connoisseur) was delighted as well with the extensive selection of craft beers. They take their beer seriously everywhere in Estonia, but here the choices were particularly good.
The chef wasn’t going to let us leave without trying one of his favorite deserts - his own home made black bread ice cream. Bread based ice cream might sound strange, but when the bread is this good, it works! Another thing which the restaurant is famous for is its home made liquor, and they also sent over a few sips of their different liquors. They were all good, but the lingonberry liqueur was my favorite!
The atmosphere at Leib is as hearty as the food, and you can’t help but feel comforted and content after enjoying a meal here. Simply put, this is a feel good restaurant which serves quality food. It is also pretty affordable considering this high standard, which is always nice. We can’t wait to come back!
For more information about this restaurant, please follow the link below: