Almost all of Estonia’s top chefs have one thing in common; Restaurant Alexander at Pädaste Manor. The restaurant has for long been a role model for the so-called Northern Islands’ Cuisine, as their ingredients are naturally sourced from the island of Muhu.
Like the phoenix, the formerly run-down Pädaste Manor has risen from the ashes and been reborn – but in a new and more fantastic form. This beautiful mansion has become a place that guests return to in order to enjoy food, drink and beautiful surroundings. Today, the stately building houses a hotel, spa and restaurant with an associated kitchen garden and beekeeping. The dining room is spacious and from the ceiling hangs a large chandelier decorated with cutlery. It serves one of the country’s most ambitious breakfasts with fresh bread, slices, cold cuts and hot dishes à la carte. In the evening, the room is transformed into Restaurant Alexander, which for many years has been one of the country’s foremost restaurants and a nursery for Estonian restaurateurs.
Pädaste Manor is estimated to be from the 14th century and has housed everyone, from Danish kings to nobility and barons. During the Soviet era, the mansion among other things served as the headquarters of the Soviet Army, and later a retirement home, but was completely abandoned in the 1980s. The area around the mansion instead became a place where passers-by could stretch their legs and perhaps sit down in the grass for a picnic. This was exactly the case when Martin Breuer and Imre Sooäär discovered the abandoned mansion in 1993, and when the mansion went up for sale at an auction a few years later Martin Breuer and Imre Sooäär saw the potential.
The framework for the food served here is something that Martin and Imre like to call “The cuisine of the Northern Islands”. Philosophy is important to them, but the chef has to make his own interpretations; it can be classic or avant-garde or something in between. As a guest, you should be able to eat with your eyes closed and still feel where you are. The place itself is in the centre. The cuisine of the northern islands is very reminiscent of New Nordic cuisine, and they try to cook everything with local ingredients. Their strength lies in the nature on the island of Muhu and its proximity to the Baltic Sea.
The restaurant is entirely seasonal and they are extremely passionate about preserving ingredients by pickling, fermenting, salting and drying. In the local climate zone, they have just 160 days when plants can grow, so these techniques are important, but you will find processed ingredients in their dishes even in high summer, when they are not necessarily needed.
Pädaste Manor and Restaurant Alexander is now a well-visited destination for both Estonians and long-distance tourists. Martin Breuer and Imre Sooäär have built a large kitchen garden next to the main building, where everything from tomatoes and zucchini to edible flowers and herbs are grown organically. The restaurant bakes its own sourdough bread and works closely with local berry pickers and hunters who supply venison. They have also established a special farm that supplies eggs from various birds such as ducks and quails. Country life may sound like a dream but finding produce on an island is not always easy. It can take several days to receive deliveries from other parts of the country and therefore logistics and creativity are important for the staff in the kitchen.