On the stripped-pine table before me sits a glass bell jar. Chef Kaido Metsa lifts it and a cloud of wood smoke pours out to reveal a thick slice of almost-translucent raw white fish, topped with horseradish ice cream, pickled morel mushrooms and a scattering of foraged leaves.
I’m at restaurant JUUR, near Tallinn’s Unesco World Heritage centre. Until a few years ago, fine dining was an alien concept in the small EU country bordered by Latvia, Russia and the Baltic Sea. Centuries of occupation by Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Russia – not to mention the Nazi and then Soviet Union rules of the 20th century – left Estonians with a diet of sauerkraut, rye bread and herring, an amalgamation of its neighbours’ cuisines.
But a new generation of chefs are spearheading an emerging food revolution in the capital and beyond, turning to the thick forest that covers 90 per cent of the country to forage for ramson berries, wild mushrooms and pine cones to be fermented and pickled just as their ancestors always did – regardless of occupying powers.