Tallinn has a wealth of mediaeval architecture dating from its time as a prosperous Hanseatic town but I must admit that I was more interested in getting a handle on the Soviet-era attempts to fix a modernist mask to the mercantilist frame of the city.
While the appeal of the 1970s Lenin centre was that of being able to stare, Oxymandias-like, at the mighty works of the USSR and pity the hubris it was not all crap-concreted elephantism during the rule of the Reds in Estonia.
For example, the building in which Pelican is situated is a beautiful piece of Soviet modernism with cute idiosyncratic touches like the porthole windows through which we could peek from our terrace seats into the bar.
I wanted to go to Pelican for the architecture and the history. This was a centre for political dissent during Soviet rule. In these days of the revival of the strongman in politics it does no harm to celebrate the achievements of those who were individually weak but collectively strong in the past. Would that their like may triumph again in our own age.
So the location is perfect at Pelican. Could the restaurant live up to it? You betcha. Starting with the welcome. Our waiter was cheerfulness personified and attentive to detail, giving us a couple of rugs (unprompted) in case the weather turned chill.
He also kicked things off with complimentary home cooked bread. This was warm from the oven and accompanied by a slather of creamy butter. Good thing.
The menu features seasonal Baltic ingredients but we kicked off with a mozzarella salad to have a touch of the Med in Eesti. High quality mozz, olive crumble stuff and basil juice (?!) was a good warm up for the main event.
Which was whitefish for both of us. Well cooked fish, beetroot crisps, good gherkin and a fennel foam (better than usual foam in the coherency department) which took us back to the north of Europe. Delish.
So good in fact that we ordered dessert, tempted on my side by rhubarb, which came pickled with a lot of good things alongside.
All of this was accompanied by an excellent Slovenian wine which would have cost double in London. I obviously wasn’t the only one who was enjoying the drink as when I went to the jakes a mature lady, on exiting the trap, walked straight into the full length mirror at the end of the corridor.
The whole was not cheap by Estonian standards. But quality is worth paying for. If you’re heading to Tallinn I would strongly advise you to resist the cluster of tourist traps around the main square, and anywhere where the service is wenchish, and go for the cool modernist vibe of Pelican. You won’t regret it.
To see where else I’ve eaten go to the GoogleMap
Blue Badge guide to London and academic specialising in early twentieth century history. Blogging on history, academia, and food and culture in the capital (and occasionally elsewhere).