Estonia is on the food map

The sunset drags on, reflecting off the perfectly flat Baltic Sea, as the lights of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, shine on the horizon. A few birds are singing in the calm of this end of the day, worthy of a postcard. From the terrace of the NOA restaurant, a splendid all-glass building, Killu Maidla, who heads the Estonian Hotel and Restaurant Association, recalls the past.

She grew up when her country was still part of the Soviet Union, when the KGB spied on everyone and when people secretly watched Finnish television at home, whose terrestrial signal reached the shores. “We were allowed two bananas per person per year. They landed green. We knew we had to wait before eating them, but no one had the patience, we were too excited when they arrived in the store. »

It is to measure the immense progress made that she takes us at the end of May to the NOA restaurant, which is Estonia’s best in terms of gastronomy. This country of 1.3 million inhabitants, located opposite Finland, independent for only three decades, now has a GDP per capita that exceeds that of Portugal. Resolutely pro-Western – he is in NATO, the European Union and the euro zone – he wants to project an image of modernity.

Agreement made with the guide

A few days after our visit, NOA Chef’s Hall (the restaurant is divided into two, with a gourmet part and another for the general public) became one of the first two Estonian restaurants to receive a Michelin star, as well as 180°, another establishment in Tallinn. Tõnis Siigur, the head of the NOA, did not know until the official award ceremony on May 25. “I had been invited to the ceremony, so I imagined that I had something, but I did not know if it was a star, a greedy Bib or something. When it was announced to me, I had the impression of winning the Olympic Games. »

This award owes nothing to chance. For him, of course, who trained with the French chef Franck Putelat (two Michelin stars) and who owns five restaurants (as well as three restaurants open exclusively in summer). But more generally for Estonia. In order to be considered by the Michelin guide, a region or a country must indeed invite it and pay. Estonia, which is aiming for greater fame, has decided to take the plunge.

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The invitation was officially issued by Enterprise Estonia, the national foundation supporting foreign investment, and the decision to put the necessary money – the amount of which has not been disclosed – was taken by the Minister of Enterprise. This is a well-considered marketing strategy. Once the agreement was reached with the Michelin guide, the latter sent its inspectors secretly to tour the good restaurants. When did they come to NOA? ” No idea, replies Tõnis Siigur. Looking back, I’m thinking of bands that came in late 2021 or early 2022 that might fit that profile, but I’m not sure. »

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