On a blazing late-summer weekend, I went to Katharinenthal, the cafe now under the same management as Cafe More, in Viru Keskus. It was a lovely day, that much is certain.
It's in a prime location, right at the foot of Kadriorg Park, in probably the most beautiful and tranquil area of Tallinn. For tourists and passing trade, it's just perfect. The Kadriorg tram also completes its journey within sight of the building.
Now, I don't like knocking cafes and restaurants that seem well-intentioned, particularly on the strength of one visit. But the whole reason you read this blog is because (hopefully) you trust my writing, and you know I'll call things out if things need calling out. If my experience at Katharinenthal had been irredeemably awful, then be assured I wouldn't give it the whiff of publicity. I write about it here because it has so much potential, and because it should be so good - but it falls short for frustratingly repetitious reasons.
When I went, it was a hot summer's day, and it may be that any teething troubles have been solved in the past couple of weeks - but a look indoors showed that staff were working unbelievably hard to keep up with demand. When I say "unbelievably hard", they looked more like firefighters evacuating a skyscraper than valued employees in a cafe. And I say that the difficulties may have abated - but I went to Cafe More when there was still snow on the ground, many months ago, and saw the same problem. It seems like both cafes have too few staff, and it looks a bit endemic.
I saw a group of dedicated people who were almost crying out for a rest. The man who served me, on one of the outside tables, mustered a smile, but some others seemed on the edge.
Food-wise, it's pretty good, which makes me all the more sorry to devote so much space to shortcomings. I ordered the bacon quiche (bacon fans may see a pattern emerging) and a juice; the food, in spite of a full-to-bursting terrace, arrived quickly, looked great, especially in the bright midday sunshine, and tasted fresh and salty, with the base a happy medium between flaky and cohesive, and good flavour from the egg and the cheese.
Kadriorg is one of my favourite places in the world. Katharinenthal is in a pretty unbeatable place, and gives customers a taste of luxury without stinging them with a high price. I also loved that I could peacefully do work on the terrace even with so many people eating and chatting, and that, for families, there is a playground next to it. It's because I want it to improve, and I really want them to recruit for an appropriate headcount, that I am giving this possible future gem some tough love.
Was it expensive? Not at all - the quiche was a nice quality, and came up at under €4.
Would I go again? Absolutely; I go to Kadriorg whenever I can and I liked the food.
When should you go there? Not on weekends.