TALLINN - For months now, Tallinn's newest upscale restaurant Vertigo has been suffering from a bad case of inertia. It was the talk of the culinary scene, but for all the wrong reasons.
While it occupied arguably one of Tallinn's best locations, it was unable to open due to an endless number of building delays. The staff were forced to idle away, preparing a gourmet menu for phantom customers in a restaurant without walls.
Now, nearly six months after it was due to open, Vertigo is finally in business. The relief is audible in head chef Imre Kose's voice. He sounds elated.
"You can imagine how frustrating it has been," says Kose. "It's never easy opening a restaurant, especially when it is being built. But I feel like I have grown during this process."
I stop him with a laugh.
"No, seriously," he insists, "I feel more mature. When something like this happens, you see the bigger picture."
Chefs, by reputation, are an irritable bunch. Kose is not. "You have to learn to be patient and to wait. It teaches you that when you can't control the situation, worrying and over-stressing doesn't help a bit. And I am a very emotional person, I can tell you."
Kose, the nation's very own Jamie Oliver, has shot to fame thanks to a weekly television stint. After studying in kitchens in Finland, the U.S.A. and onboard several cruise ships, Kose was appointed master chef at Hotel Olympia. He left Olympia, formerly Tallinn's premier address, when the hotel began to lose its crown to younger, flashier rivals.
His next venture was Bestseller Cafe, a brasserie which is often listed in guidebooks as Tallinn's best. Bestseller sits alongside a bookshop on the top floor of the Viru Shopping Center. This is probably where Kose got his taste for heights.
When developers began touting a new shopping and office complex in central Tallinn, Kose jumped at the chance to lease the penthouse level for a new venture. He called the restaurant Vertigo to match the 9th floor location, which enjoys sweeping views across Tallinn's Old Town and out to sea.
The shell of the building has existed for over a year now, and Kose and his team were able to move in early and await completion.
"There weren't even any walls, can you imagine?" he says. "But we saw that this was going to be the new center of Tallinn. All around the new city, this is where it's going to be happening."
The building is part of a revitalized Kesklinn, or City Center, the modern downtown area of Tallinn that sits next to the Old Town.
Vertigo will share its flashy new building with dozens of high-profile offices and a spa. Emporium Armani is planning on opening its largest flagship store in the Nordic region on the ground floor.
Kose is not going for a cheap market. Good food and good service are worth paying for, he says.
"Until now, restaurants in Tallinn have been technically perfect, but lack attitude," he says. "A restaurant is an institution. You have to fine-tune it on a daily basis. You should never consider that it is complete or finished."
Vertigo is "three restaurants in one." Its fine dining area can seat 70, while its daytime brasserie can also host another 70. In the summertime Kose will open the outdoor terrace, with room for 120.
The menu is described as "modern Estonian cuisine." Traditional dishes sit alongside Asian, Moroccan, and French offerings.
The menu is quite short, but there's a reason for that.
"That's a guarantee that everything is fresh," Kose says. "Nothing frozen is used."
Vertigo Ravala Pst. 4
More info: +(372) 2 666 3456