A cozy hideaway in the center of Tallinn

  • 2007-12-05
  • By Merje Jarv-Griffiths

HIDE AND SEEK: Teatri Puhvet is a great place to escape the tourists, and locals aren't likely to find it either.

TALLINN - Some observant Tallinn-dwellers may have noticed that a new cafe called Teatri Puhvet has opened up on the short road between the Foreign Ministry and Estonia Theater. What may come as a surprise is that, hidden through the back of this rather cozy looking cafe, there's actually a full-fledged restaurant. Had I not known this, the friend I was supposed to meet there probably would have been left waiting for me indefinitely.
As you walk into the well lit and extremely well decorated cafe you can't miss the shelves decked out with tasty looking treats 's the handmade chocolates, yummy salads and sandwiches. Try not to get distracted. You want to go and find your friend at the restaurant bit. Which is... where?

The only clue that there actually is another room to the place is a painted, black arrow at the back of the cafe. You know the kind 's they normally use those to point out where the restrooms are.
As the restaurant was empty the waitress didn't have to think too hard to figure out that the only other person there was waiting for me. As I walked in I was welcomed by soft lighting, lovely decor and friendly faces on the walls 's pictures of famous Estonian actors and actresses 's which add to the theme of the "Theater Buffet."

The only other decor items that follow the theme are menus designed with theater curtains. Beyond than that the interior of the restaurant is simply a clean-cut, modern affair, although the modern aspect has not been overdone like in so many other places in town and the place retains a kind of coziness that's unusual for new venues.
There's also a small piano by one of the walls, which I have to assume is sometimes used for producing live music for the customers' entertainment.

We tried the various soups from the menu (including a gingerbread tomato soup which tasted delicious) and also the desserts. The meals on the menu were pretty fascinating and somewhat different from what you would expect from a restaurant in Estonia: pumpkin puree soup with crayfish and baked bacon, roasted liver with cherry stew, kama foam with fox berry sauce, and the like.
The service was very friendly and we were never left to wonder when we might get the next drink or the next course. The waitress was extremely patient and did not attempt to hurry us when my friend was practicing ordering in Estonian.

This would be a perfect place for that romantic date you've been planning. The relative lack of punters, the discreet service and the reasonably priced yet tasty meals all work in favor of this venue.
The few little things that annoyed me about the place are easily fixed 's all that they need to do  is turn the ceiling lights down a little bit and make sure that the pop music from the kitchen doesn't drown out the mellow jazzy sounds played in the restaurant. In fact, I enjoyed being there so much I am considering holding my birthday party there this month.

Teatri puhvet
Teatri valjak 3
Open Mon - Tue 8 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Wed - Fri 8 a.m. - midnight
Sat noon - midnight
Sun noon 's 10 p.m.