Birgit Podelsky

Homemade the Estonian Way

Estonian women are tough and gentle. Therefore, I was not surprised in hearing the story of Harju Oru cafe. Up until recently it was run by three women, who vamped the place up and gave it a new life. After the previous owner left the place in a somewhat fragile state, its chef Maia decided to take matters in her own hands. She registered a company and invited some friends on board. Together they managed to set up a cosy and friendly cafe, that serves delicious homemade lunch buffet in the quiet Toompea valley.

The team of women recently enlisted a new chef, Maia´s qualified son, who made some amendments to the menu. Their improved home-made offerings have an elegant touch. The strong and vibrant tastes reflect devotion and precision.

""I guess that´s why they keep coming back," says one of the managers, who believes food plays the pivotal role in their increasing number of regular customers.

The cafe itself is simple. A little sign on the road directs you down the stairs to a tucked away corner, where only the uplifting smell of food indicates you´re on the right path. The building in the valley belongs to the Pentecostal church. The cafe however is independently owned and therefore only rents the space from the church.

"It´s a common preconception. People even sometimes tip the jar and say here´s a donation for the church. So, we have to tell them that there is no link really," explains the manager.

There are overwhelmingly many restaurants and cafes in the Old Town area and even close to your place. How do you survive?

Well we only offer lunch. It´s a very stable catering category. Won´t make you an overnight fortune, but rather offers you a steady business income.

There is a large turnover in restaurant business. I see many places open and close down within a short cycle. What do you think are the main reasons for that?

Often people want to set up a gourmet place. But the equipment and raw produce is so much more expensive and it takes more skill and time. January and February are usually low seasons for these places, as people don´t want to go out for dinner after holidays. But people eat lunch every day. And some prefer simplicity and stillness for that moment of the day and that´s why our place fits their needs. Many people actually sit here for quite a while :)

So, if you yearn for some soothing food and a moment for yourself, head down those stairs and follow the scents. They also take bookings for special events.

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