The first MICHELIN Guide to Estonia was launched at the end of May, featuring 31 restaurants – two which received One MICHELIN Star, five awarded a MICHELIN Bib Gourmand, and two highlighted with a MICHELIN Green Star for sustainability.
As well as the distinctions, three Special Awards were announced for Young Chef, Sommelier and Service. We take a closer look at this year’s winners.
Young Chef Award Winner: Janno Lepik of Lore Bistroo in Tallinn
Janno Lepik is a dynamic force in the Estonian restaurant industry and, with the huge growth of the restaurant scene in Tallinn, he has been instrumental in the development of the capital’s culinary zeitgeist. He has great respect for Estonia’s culinary heritage and his commitment to the use of regional ingredients is laudable.
The chef first made a name for himself at restaurant Leib (which has now been reborn as restaurant Lee), before opening the buzzy Lore Bistroo, which overlooks the modern harbour development of Port Noblessener, and which won a Bib Gourmand in MICHELIN’s inaugural Guide to Estonia.
Janno holds the provenance of his ingredients in high regard and has formed strong ties with local farmers. Inspired by his travels, the hearty sharing dishes on the menu at Lore Bistroo are generously sized, neatly presented and full of interesting textures and flavours. Janno enjoys cooking over an open fire and also holds family dining in high esteem, with a special family menu, a children’s menu and even baby purées available.
Sommelier Award Winner: Robert Põld of NOA Chef's Hall, Tallinn
Robert Põld previously held the position of Head Waiter at Restaurant Moon, followed by a stint as Restaurant Manager at Mantel ja Korsten, so he had acquired plenty of ‘people skills’ prior to his current role as Sommelier at newly MICHELIN-Starred NOA Chef’s Hall.
The passionate, attentive sommelier is a great communicator who understands how to tailor his approach to each guest’s level of knowledge, and his affable character combined with a wry sense of humour puts even the most unknowing diner at ease. Robert is always professional in his approach, yet he also exudes a warm, friendly aura, undertaking his role without any unnecessary pomp.
NOA Chef’s Hall was awarded One MICHELIN Star in the inaugural Estonia Guide for its creative, seven course menu of complex, original dishes packed full of complementary flavours and layers of texture.
With food of this level, the accompanying wine list needs to pull its weight, and this one can certainly hold its own, offering interesting vintages from around the globe. There’s a choice of two wine pairings – the ‘sommelier selection’ and the ‘sommelier cellar selection’ – and the MICHELIN Inspectors felt that Robert’s matches were intelligently chosen and well-judged.
Service Award Winner: The Team at Lahepere Villa, Kloogaranna
From the moment the MICHELIN Inspectors arrived at this striking modern villa in a pretty wooded setting near the beach, they were impressed with the tremendously warm welcome they received. Charming owner Helen Vihtol stands waiting on the decked terrace beside the crackling firepit, cheerily greeting all her guests and proudly welcoming them into the smart yet homely property, which was built by her husband, and in which they also live.
Helen may be in charge, but the MICHELIN award for service goes to the whole family, as they all contribute here: her daughter helps with the service, her son washes the dishes, and her husband keeps the fire going, so that Chef Silver Saa can concentrate on cooking his set four-course menu of fully-flavoured seasonal dishes, which he explains to guests with pride and passion.
Helen asserts that a meal at Lahepere Villa aims to ‘stop time’ for their guests, and the relaxed service is a big part of their achievement of that aim, along with the cosy atmosphere created by the blazing fire, the comfy sofas and the sheepskin-covered chairs. Helen and her family make time to chat to their guests and have a knack of making sure that everyone feels looked after and at ease.