As I walk up to Tallinn’s Restaurant Gloria with 8 of my colleagues, our group is met by Gloria’s chef, Dimitri Demjanov, a vivacious and energetic character who looked and acted like he came out of a culinary storybook from the 1930s. The restaurant is so steeped in history, it’s no surprise that his unbridled energy and jovial personality coupled with the venue’s heritage would leave a lasting impression on us all.
The renowned five star eatery that was established in 1937, is located in an old historical building on Muurivahe in Tallinn’s Old Town. The venue was once a night club, and at the time, considered to be one of the grandest in Tallinn.
A newspaper from the mid-thirties reports this of the club, which no doubt will give you a laugh: “the lately opened night club in the capital seems to become a pub for the top society as far as our observation can tell. Among the visitors of the pub we can see many well-known and important figures of our economy, policy and social life. It is not the only because of the interest of the visitors in a new thing, but mostly of the homelike, comfortable, spacious, airy rooms and naturally the high quality of the meals.”
Wearing a smile yet?
The restaurant changed hands many times throughout German and Soviet occupation but in the 1970s, it was revitalized and it was said that the “tables in Gloria glittered with cut-glass and silver plate and there was never shortage of caviar.”
It was easy to be overwhelmed by Dimitri ‘s electric energy as he paraded from room-to-room, leading us down to the lower cellar that housed some of Gloria’s most tempting wines. I felt like I was running after a gleeful ten year old who couldn’t wait to show me his latest art collection, except Dimitri is a grown man without an art collection, but loaded with numerous stories of his culinary accolades over the years. As we made our way down to the cellar, I learn that the façade and parts of the interior are part of the city’s famous wall, constructed in medieval times and still mostly intact.
After taking in whatever big bold reds he had on offer, one could take it a step further and order a Chateau Montifaud Michel Vallet Reserve Cognac or a Po di Poli Merlot Grappa or a Reserve Madeira 10Y Justino’s Old to go along with one of their six desserts: I’d recommend the cheesecake, the crème brulee or the Estonian and French cheese combo platter.
Influenced by French tastes and style more than Russia or Scandinavia ones, appetizers included a boeuf tartar (organic of course), a carmelized foie gras with sour apple, ice lettuce and crispy oatmeal-honey muesli, and the caprese sald with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil.
If you wanted some Russian flavor, they also offered something called Tzar’s Blinis, with extra salmon roe, crème fraiche and red onion. Like most restaurants in Estonia, you can also order the Borscht soup, which Gloria touts as the “best beetroot soup in the world.” Bear in mind that this appetizer is a whopping 17 euros however and the carpaccio is 19 euros.
Should you want to stay on the light side, it’s a bit tough with this menu, which is richer in nature due to its French influence. There is a sole on the menu and you can always ask for the sauce on the side if you want to control your butter intake. Slightly higher in calorie but without the cream and fat, are the organic farm lamb served with vegetables, rosemary and garlic, the Estonian beef fillet with forest mushrooms and demi-glace sauce, the Duck leg confit, served with spicy red cabbage and wine pear and lastly, a traditional pork chop, which is served with sauerkraut and roasting jus.
YUM! Have a look…..unfortunately it was very dark in the restaurant so even using a zippy 2.8 Canon lens, I wasn’t able to get crisp shots of the meals.
Below is a rare moment when Dimitri isn’t moving…..
The most memorable part of the experience was more about the place, the antiquity of the venue and its long touted history and of course the chef himself, who outdid himself in the charming and amusing category. Below is some video footage to give you an idea of his electricity in action.