Heritage restaurants are always an interesting bunch. Should the restaurant have taken the heritage as a root for developing new, instead of creating a tourist-ey trap, it is even more interesting. Leib resto & Aed, located in Old Town of Tallinn, capital of Estonia, it is one of these ever-evolving restaurants with a rich heritage.
Leib Resto & Aed
Leib brings forth the heritage already in its name. Leib, the bread, in question is of a specific kind. It can be said that the Estonian black bread is the soul of the Estonian kitchen. Estonian kitchen, then, combines the flavours of Nordic, German and Slavic heritage, creating dishes that are both comforting and surprising. Leib has taken these flavours a step further, managing in something that most are afraid to try – creating modern, interesting dishes with flavours that come from the deep history of Tallinn and, like the cultural heritage of Estonia, mix beautifully with modern International cuisine.
Located right by the old city walls of Tallinn, Leib Resto & Aed greets its visitor with a comforting stroll through the age-old, beautiful courtyard. During summertime, the tables are set outside to the courtyard, as well. As the name – Leib means “bread” – suggests, the overall ambiance is homelike and immediate. The demeanor of staff takes the feeling a step further, being warm and friendly without any pompousness often connected to high quality restaurants. It is clear that Leib Resto & Aed is a place for families and friends – as well as for culinarists.
The visual style of Leib has its roots in the history of the building. The Scottish club of Estonia, which owns the building, is visible in the style of the cabinet, which is decorated accordingly. The main hall of the restaurant itself has charming murals all over its ceilings, adding to the relaxed feeling and, naturally, the courtyard is used for dining during the summertime, as well.
Aside of purely being a restaurant, Leib also excels in the venue of beermaking. Restaurant brews its own beers, creating them to finely match and amplify the foods they serve. The result is an impressive array of dinner beers. The list of drinks is curated by a great sommelier and, beside beers, includes beautiful wines, vodka-based liqueurs and other local drinks, such as very well made apple-based sparkling wine and a nice, earthy apple eiswein.
The Food of Leib
According to Leib Resto & Aed, the restaurant wants to create international classics, giving them local twists and updates. Estonian dark bread is incorporated in many dishes, usually in a surprising and, we dare to say, ingenious way. The flavours are enhanced with impeccable pairing of drinks, and in addition to the more common wine pairing, it is also possible to select a craft beer pairing for the whole menu.
The dishes are rather rustic and honest by character and the portion size is hearty. It is safe to say that rare is an individual who leaves the restaurant hungry. However, the flavours are often complex and surprising, so the first impression is a somewhat deceptive. At least in some sense, Leib seems to have achieved the unachievable – serving comfort food style portions that still are interesting even for foodies.
Sparkling apple wine and sea buckthorn combine into a fresh, pleasantly sour aperitif. “Local Mimosa”, as the restaurant puts it. Opens the palate, lingering for a nice while on the back of the tongue. And we just had to have a sip before we remembered to take a picture.
Starters, for Anu: Gently smoked ox tongue with horseradish foam on black bread, sweet onion and zucchini. The flavour had autumny tones with notes of game. The pairing with surprisingly white wine -like Urban Rose 2013 gave a fresh juxtaposition for smoke.
Starters, for Jussi: Garlic, cream and artichoke soup with Jerusalem artichoke crumble. Surprising cream soup! Almost familiar, but beautifully balanced. A festival of textures with a fresh flavour of artichoke. The soup was paired with Öllenaut Rye Saison beer, which amplified every flavour. Lots of rye and bitters in the beer, definitely a “food beer”.
The black Estonian bread of Leib is done with seeds. Soft bread with a beautiful crust, taste is slightly sweet. A feast on its own right with salty butter!Main course, for Anu: Sous-vide trout on brown butter sauce, roasted pumpkin and mustard seeds, onion chips, seedlings and pickled pumpkin. The acidic pickled pumpkin opens the world of taste! The gentle taste of perfect trout, full-bodied sauce and soft flavour of roasted pumpkin come together in this unique dish. When paired with crisp, fresh French Macón-Bussieres les Clos Chardonnay, the result is balanced and innovative.
Main course, for Jussi: Duck confit, parsnip pure, marinated parsnip, pine mushrooms on red wine/Vana Tallinn -sauce. The plating is rustic, matching the full, very hearty taste of the dish. “Meat and taters improved”, and how! Marinated parsnip simply changes everything, changing a classic dish into an innovative one. Textures, like in every dish, are great and add their notes to the experience. Hopster Pearu IPA is a food oriented beer. Not a hop bomb, but rather earthy. Without the food the taste could be described as a bit hollow for IPA, with flavours of caramel malt, apricot and citruses. The aftertaste has slight notes of grapefruit. Improves with food and pairs very nicely.
Dessert, for Anu: Crème brûlée with black bread crumbs and blackcurrants. Perfect, snapping crust. Local blackcurrants have a wonderful, refreshing taste. The black bread on the bottom works surprisingly well, giving earthy warmth. However, the wine served with the dish is incredible: Jaanihanso Jää/Ice ice wine 2013. The local product has a complex, delicious flavour of this apple wine that has to be experienced. The coffee served with desserts was equally fitting – classic pan coffee with warm, frothed milk.
Dessert, for Jussi: Estonian Pain Perdu, cottage cheese and cranberries. A very traditional dish – like the ones grandmothers make during the wintertime. Very rich taste, definitely a comfort food. The pairing with Hopster Hercule Doppel Belgium beer works surprisingly perfectly – the beer is “un-Belgian” Belgian doppel by style. Definitely a dessert beer with a balanced flavor – better than most Belgians.
The vodka-based house liqueurs capped the dinner. Chokeberry was essentially a “berry in the bottle” with its sour, refreshing taste. Rhubarb’s summery taste was very fitting, bringing light to winter’s short days. Blackcurrant had a snappy, strong flavour that captured the essence of the berries.
Leib Resto & Aed introduced us into a style of kitchen that rarely occurs. The inventive dishes and flavours that are often found in high-dining restaurants only, combine into an ethos of comfort, making the restaurant and food feel like home. The result is surprising and joyous, perfect for those individuals who have the “too much of a good thing is wonderful” -mindset. This makes Leib a great place for groups, as it caters to both foodies and a common man.
One thing is certain – while Leib introduces you to a plethora of new flavours and foods, you shall not leave the restaurant hungry. That’s just the way the Estonian hospitality works.
Leib Resto & Aed
Uus 31, Tallinn 10111
Monday-Friday 12 – 15, 18 – 23
Saturday 12 – 23
Sunday 12 – 20
+372 611 9026
Article was made in collaboration with Leib Resto & Aed.
Text and photos: Anu Rautalin, Jussi Häkkinen