The history of Estonian National Opera’s restaurant
A hundred years ago Estonian National Opera’s restaurants were called Estoonia, as it is pronounced in Estonian. They were on a lease to a local entrepreneur. Restaurants were placed in three big halls, the biggest of them, called Casino Hall, on the ground floor. White and Red Hall were located on the 1 st floor and later a cozy wine bar was also opened. In 1921 Summer Garden and Green Hall were added to the list of restaurants of the Estonian National Opera. The open-air Summer Garden was later built into a closed-roof Winter Garden. This is where our restaurant is located today.
In the beginning of the 20 th century fancy dining-out was quite a luxury, but the restaurant of the Estonian National Opera stood out as an exception. 300–440 people found their way to the theatre’s restaurants daily, even more at the weekends. Politicians and state officials used the theatre and its restaurants to hold parties and official receptions. Concerts-soirées, where musical performances were followed by different entertainment, singing, dance or orchestra numbers, became popular fast. It was not rare that music was being played in four halls at the same time. Thanks to numerous customers and successful entertainment programs, the restaurant became one of the most popular restaurants in town. The advertisement of the time back then reads: if somebody is seen dining elsewhere, it can only mean Estonia restaurant is fully booked.
The menu of the restaurant was characterized by seasonal national dishes. The audience was used to visiting the restaurants during intermissions to sip a beer, take a bite or have a schnapps. Since 1931 special theatre dinners were served in the White Hall after the performance, consisting of borsch soup bortschok diables, main dish à la polonaise or chicken marechal and apples à la cardinal as a dessert. Late dinners brought along an official permission to keep the restaurant open until 6 a.m. in the morning.
Restaurants were destroyed together with the theatre building in the bombing of Tallinn in 1944. The house was renovated and reopened in 1947, but it no longer had business or restaurants in it. During Soviet era, cafes and a diner for workers existed in the building. In re-independent Estonia the catering at the Estonian National Opera was outsourced, but in 2006 the theatre decided to start operating the catering service, cafes and the diner itself. Now the number of daily customers exceeds 500 people and the new restaurant will surely help to increase this number.
You are very welcome to the Estonia restaurant – a place with a dignified past and an exciting nowadays!