TALLINN: DIGITAL CAPITAL
Nature and technology are the two whales on which tiny Estonia stands, a country that not everyone will immediately see on the map. The third and youngest whale is modern Estonian cuisine.
text: Anna of Austria
In front of me is creme brulee with smoked bacon meringue. The plate is smoking, and its contents look more like an art object than something edible. Outside the window Viru street is noisy, expensive, stupid. Some guides will call it the main artery of the Old City, others will advise to bypass.
Both are fair: the prices in the shops are too high, the souvenir stuff is of the same type, and restaurant barkers are mixed with the crowd of tourists – you have to maneuver by punching the way to an even more noisy Town Hall Square. But at least there is something to see, and here there are some shops and restaurants. True, it is difficult to bypass Viru Street: no matter how you walk along parallel lanes, you will find yourself all the time.
In front of the Cru restaurant there is no bark, there is no enticing sign. But on the door it says: “The best chefs work here.” You get inside and wonder two things. This is, firstly, silence. The Brownian movement of Viru Street can be observed from the windows, but its volume seemed to be turned down to a minimum. And secondly, the inscription on the door, it seems, is not a marketing snag. The wall at the entrance to the restaurant is hung in Scandinavian style with stylish portraits of chefs and their awards, which are very weighty for Estonia: the nominations “Cook of the Year”, the victories in the Baltic Culinary Star Cup and Silverspoon, repeated participation in the Bocuse d´Or world final, which is considered a culinary Olympiad .
In the interior of the Cru, which is included in Top-50 of Estonian restaurants, something feels restrained, northern – and at the same time barely perceptible French charm. Elegant, as if in lace, chairs, plates with flower stucco – and Scandinavian minimalism: white walls with a translucent stone masonry of a 15th century building, laconic sets on the shelves, a couple of pictures. Not a hint of the Middle Ages – they are already traded in Tallinn at every turn.
Louis chose bread ice cream with cherry and nut cream for dessert. Louis is a software developer, he was born in sunny Spanish Seville, but has worked in Berlin for the last five years.
He is known in the Tallinn web developer circles because of a very personal text entitled “How Estonia has changed my life”. In a country that is slightly larger than the Moscow region, it is very easy to become famous among its own. Louis just arrived in Tallinn today, and it was his idea to try modern Estonian cuisine, which is why we chose the restaurant Cru.
Cru chef Dmitry Khalyukov – one of the most prominent figures of the gastronomic Estonia. His name is well-known, although here, unlike the world culinary capitals, the name of the chef goes only behind the name of the restaurant, and sometimes it does not even know it. The restaurant culture in Estonia is only accelerating, but there are already major changes, and this is a great merit of Dmitry.
Estonian chef Dmitry Khalyukov – this phrase alone will tell a lot about the country. An Estonian with a typically Russian first and last name here if not every second, then exactly one out of ten. A country that has been experiencing one after another conquests — the Danes, Germans, Swedes, and Russians — regained its independence relatively recently, in 1991. True, in 2004, joined the European Union and began to lose barely acquired individuality.
So, by 2011, Estonia has lost its national currency – the krona. And the world crisis of 2008 noticeably shaken the still weak state: production was shut down, the unemployment rate soared, people began to leave in search of a better life.
It was at this time in Estonia that at first there was not a very clear, but important, shift of national consciousness towards the ideology of self-reliance: a small nation that had spent all centuries trying to preserve its originality in a series of gains, rushed into a bright future.
One familiar investor from Silicon Valley told a joke: venture capitalists gathered a new fund of ten billion dollars and began to think in which startups to invest. We invested in Estonia.
It was a joke, but it turned out that, having gained independence, Estonia became a kind of start-up: the state was created practically from scratch, without management experience and with a minimum of investments. After spending so much time side by side with some, then with others, the Estonians suddenly got their hands on the territory, albeit very small, but which still needed to be managed somehow. Then, in 1991, for the country it all started from scratch.
It was possible to try to repeat after the others, but it seems that the prospect of catching up and lagging behind was not pleasing. Therefore, many stages had to skip and try something new, their own.