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Thomas Secor

Tallin/Estonia

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Just curious whether anyone has thoughts on dining and/or drinking options in Estonia.  I am curious about restaurants/cafes/bars/nightclubs, etc.  In fact any facts of any note regarding Tallin and the surrounding areas would be well appreciated, as I am going sometime in March and dont really have much knowledge regarding the locale.

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I just found a charming Estonian Web site for a restaurant called Carramba:

http://www.carramba.ee/uk.tutvustus.php

They advertise as follows:

"We are not the best Mexican restaurant, but we are better than the others!"

I believe that's Estonian humor, ladies and gentlemen.

Does anybody know the scoop on Estonian dining? I'm afraid this is going to be a tough one to get an answer on.

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Yeah, I figured it would be rough to get responses, but if anyone has quality thoughts, I assume it will members of this board.

Plus, Tallin is not as off the beaten track as you might imagine.  I went out to dinner in London with 6 people on Friday, about half and half English and American.  I brought up the subject, and four of them had been there.  Of course only one of them could remember anywhere they had eaten outside of the hotel.  Its supposed to be a really great medieval city, well preserved, with a very lively cafe culture.  Supposedly many people rank it as one of the clubbing capitals of Europe.

So you never know.

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Well, it goes without saying that in any group of six civilized people four of them will have been to Estonia recently! While you're there, you should be on the lookout for a good eGullet.com Estonia affiliate.

Okay, enough Estonia jokes. Someone must know something here.

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Guest James Prince

I've been to Tallinn twice, most recently in 1998. It's a charming, laid-back and compact city, well worth visiting and easy to explore.

Check out the following link for a list of restaurant reviews from the Baltic "City Paper":

http://www.balticsww.com/tourist/estonia/restaurants.htm

We ate at "Vanaema Juures", which featured good Estonian dishes in a very atmospheric 1920s setting. Since I was there, another inviting Estonian option has emerged: Maiasmokk (see review in the linked list).

As for bars and clubs, they are all over the place. Given their concentration in the Old Town, and the ease of getting around there on foot, sampling different ones should be easy and fun.

Estonia has a surprising number of local breweries, with many of the beers sporting very cool looking labels. Check out

http://www.beerguide.ee/eesti.html

for links to the main breweries (you will notice that the Estonian language -- one of Europe's most exotic -- is a sight to behold!).

Good luck,

James

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See Fat Guy, I knew someone would pull through.

Thanks for the tips James.  Hopefully I will be able to add to the post when I get back.  It turns out we are going for Easter, so there is still more time time for others to reply.

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Wow, now I am impressed. I thought if anyone was going to reply, it would be Plotnicki  :smile:

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I've been to Tallinn only once (although I live just next door - in Finland) but I have to tell you that there are some great places there to dine in. Some great mediaeval style restaurants in the Old City as well as great scenery!

I've got a few pictures of our trip on my hope page, here: Estonia pictures

There's also some pictures of one of the local Old City restaurants.

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I've also been to Tallinn only once, but I had enough time to see that there were many restaurants that looked nice and interesting. However, I went to an Italian restaurant, the name of which I have forgotten, but I would not recommend it anyway. I know some people who have been to Tallinn many times, and these are the places they like: Oliver, Tomkooli, Balthazar, Karl Friedrich, Steak House (I hope I got the spellings right…). One of the medieval style restaurants in the Old City is called Olde Hansa. I'm planning to go there next time I visit Tallinn!

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My trip to Tallin were uneventful foodwise. This was at the

peak of dot-boom - Fallout of which was the hyper-inflation of everythiing to an outsider - (considered as someone who speaks English or looks non-native)

Having seen what happens in the border towns of Germany,Austria (to the east-european countries that is), Tallin was a relief in terms of the hustle.

I'd be extremely polite if I said I found great restaurants - Which is not to say they don't exist.

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As I said, I have been to Tallinn only once and thus I'm also unable to say much about the level of food served in the restaurants. Like in many cities, there are good and bad restaurants in Tallinn also.

Nevertheless, I'd say that if you are going to Tallinn, the main attraction will be the mediaeval Old City and the sights it offers. And if you want to keep in that spirit, you should check out the mediaeval style restaurants and not the thirteen-in-a-dozen type italian etc. restaurants which will, of course, be bad imitations of the real thing - I actually got rather bad service at one of those places. I would have turned away immediately, but the rest of my party missed the show of an attitude problem and wanted to stay...

As far as Olde Hansa, a restaurant recommended by Brija above, goes, I'd definitely recommend it instead of the one I have pictures of at my home page! Neitsitorni did not appear to be a high quality place as far as dining goes - it's a beautiful old stone building to look at, but I'd only visit it for the spiced wine and the scenery. I have heard good things about Olde Hansa, though.

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Yes, you must try Olde hansa (627 9020). It has a medieval theme going but somehow it escapes tourist trap status and has a lot of charm. There are huge wooden tables and chairs, staff wandering around in rough hewn gowns that look like they are made of jute and lots of candles and atmosphere, even at lunchtime. I had something called Magic Drops (or something) which was a pepper vodka so fiery it made tears stream down my face. I also tried the bear which came as a dark, dark stew and tasted unlike anything else I've ever tried; gamey and earthy and chewy and to be honest, not terribly nice. But they have lots of interesting things like warm honey beer etc.

I tried two Indian restaurants; both terribly bland. At Elevant the curry was inspidi and if you ordered poppadums you got...one. Can't remember the name of the othr one.

Egoist has the reputation of being the most expensive restaurant in the Baltic; the food is bland intrnational but the surroundings are amazing. However, the night I went, I was the only diner there.

However, the best thing about Tallinn is the abundance of very good and very cheap caviar. I loved Mookkala, which has a great atmosphere and swing music, despite being the former execution house. You pull the curtains around your table, tap your feet and get stuck into caviar and fresh hot toast.

There is another Russian restaurant next to the Russian cathedral, which I thought was a terrible rip off. But generally, the Russian and Estonian restaurants are your best bets. Fried blood bread, anyone? The countryside is supposed to be really beautiful, but I didn't have time to see any of it. You can also whizz over on the ferry to Finland, if you feel like it.

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there's a place called bocca (italian) that's supposed to be good. i'm going later this year and was planning to book.

has anyone been?

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Hey ppl from elsewhere :) Just wanted 2 say that I'm from Estonia & I think U really should come here :laugh:

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Ohhh... Good thread.

I've wanted to go to Tallinn for a while. A colleague from a nightclub mag I used to work on went several years ago and said it was fantastic.

Sad though it is, I had decided several years ago that Tallinn would be my cooler-than -thou stag-do destination ('stag-do' as in close set of mates going for relaxed and happy drinking and eating along with some very mild debauchery rather then the full on 'strippers and shaving foam' style stag-do).

Upshot is, I've kept my eye on media coverage since, and Tallinn seems to be a rising star amongst the people in the know. It has been trumpeted as being 'like Prague before the coach parties discovered it'. Small, friendly, compact and bustling. Prices are pretty cheap, and culture is top drawer. Entertainment, eating and drinking are all well served, and the old town is meant to be beautiful.

Tallinn was flagged up in the Sunday Times property section a few months ago. Apparently property is a steal, and simple to buy. Beautiful Gothic mansions dot the countryside, and although they are dilapidated since communist rule they can be snapped up for £30-£40k (and five years ago the governement gave them away free if you promised to do them up!).

Tallinn was also voted home of the worlds' most beautiful women (after an extensive tour of Eastern and Central Europe) by Maxim magazine (should such things matter), and one of GQ's 'Top 50 Things in the World' (whatever that means). Basically, I think if you have the chance to go then go.

Oh, back to restaurants, we are on egullet after all. Bocca, (+372 641 2610) was voted number 15 in the '50 Best Restaurants in the World' feature that we carried in Restaurant magazine this year. It is described as a 'world-class Italian restaurant', and is decked out in a mixture of 'Nordic minimalism and New York cool' in a '500 year old warehouse'. Food includes goats cheese gratin, veal carpaccio, guinea fowl ravioli in tarrogan walnut and mushroom sauce, wild duck in muscatel sauce and pear boiled in red wine with Amaretto sauce.

They also do an 'Earthquake' cocktail that includes gin, whiskey, absinthe and grenadine...

Oh, final point. A friend told me that because of the extortinate alcohol prices in Scandinavia it is common practice for young Swedes and Norwegians to hop on a ferry across the water to Tallinn for a boozey weekend. A city as good as Tallinn stuffed with drunk good natured Scandinavian ladies sounds like the icing on the cake.

Cheers

Thom

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Oh, final point. A friend told me that because of the extortinate alcohol prices in Scandinavia it is common practice for young Swedes and Norwegians to hop on a ferry across the water to Tallinn for a boozey weekend. A city as good as Tallinn stuffed with drunk good natured Scandinavian ladies sounds like the icing on the cake.

It is actually us Finns who do most of the hopping to Estonia for alcohol. For Norwegians, it is a bit too far, and Swedes prefer Denmark, but we Finns get to Tallinn in 15 minutes by helicopter from Helsinki if we are in real hurry...

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Damn, damn, damn... Faux pas of that nature are exactly the sort of thing that will limit my interactions with any ladies in Estonia, Scandinavian or otherwise.

Apologies Kristian, I must research my posts properly in future.

Cheers

Thom

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Three restaurants to report on

Kuldse Notsu Korts (Dunkri 8, Tallinn). This is an old-town restaurant that boasts traditional Estonian cuisine. The interior is brightly painted and kind of hokey (as were the traditionally dressed waitresses and the long wooden tables), but the fireplace was roaring and the restaurant smelled good.

I started with the liver pate, which was a traditional creamy chicken liver. Then I had one of Estonia's famous traditional dishes: blood sausage. There were three on the plate, with sauerkraut, potatoes, and a piece of bacon. Delicious, but way too much food.

Eesti Maja (Lauteri 1, Tallinn). It's kind of a rustic kitchy place that also serves traditional Estonian food.

To start I ordered marinated eel. My guess is that was the correct English translation of marineeritud angerjas, but the menu really should have said something like: "eel in aspic, with bones!" I might very well have ordered it anyway -- I like eel -- but I think people should know. It was really good, actually.

My main course was "mulgi kapsad (sealihaga)" in Estonian, and "a folksy sauerkraut stew (with pork)" in English. It was really good: light and flavorful. The sauerkraut tasted nicely of caraway, and had spelt grains in it.

Condiments on the table: a tube of mustard, a jar of horseradish, white vinegar, salt, pepper. I didn't use any of them.

Dessert was "pancakes with homemade jam." Crepes, really, with random-fruit jam. A good meal.

Olde Hansa (Vana turg 1, Tallinn). This restaurant boasts a Medieval atmosphere, and actual historically researched Medieval recipes. Yes, it was kind of like eating dinner at the Renaissance Faire, but it was actually good. And clever. (The dates on their wine list specify A.D., for example.)

There was a lot to choose from on the menu -- bear, deer, elk -- and I really wanted more people so I could try one of the tasting plates, or even one of the feasts. But I did okay on my own.

Appetizer: smoked herring. I like herring, and the Baltic is where it comes from. This was a nicely smoked herring fillet, served with some small smoked while fish called kilu, some homemade soft cow cheese, and a hunk of fruit bread.

For a main course, I ordered the "bear, marinated in rare spices and cooked over a fire in honour of Waldemar II, the brave Kind of Denmark." Which they were out of.

I considered the "Grandmerchant von Wehrem's hunting company's wonderful rabbit roast with forest mushroom sauce and special spices," but I already had wild rabbit on this trip.

So instead I had the elk: "Burgermeister's game fillet. Game fillet of the season, favourite vegetable dainties of the honourable Mayor of Raval." (No, I don't know where Raval is.)

What I got was a grand plate covered in food. Three elk fillets in a mushroom cream sauce, spelt with saffron, sauerkraut, tiny cooked berries, a bread turnover thingy, and cooked garlic cloves. Really delicious.

Nothing on the dessert menu excited me, and I was full anyway.

Estonia tries to have it both ways on tipping. They know that locals don't tip, but they actively try to get tourists to tip. Olde Hansa's menu says: "The servants will humbly and with everlasting gratitude accept any squirrel skins or ducats that guests may generously offer." I left some ducats.

And finally, from a local guide, "Top 10 very Estonian foods":

1. sprotid (canned Baltic herring)

2. Leib (dark rye bread)

3. Suit (jellied pork)

4. Verivorst (blood sausage)

5. Hernesupp (green pea soup)

6. Seajalg (boiled pig's trotter)

7. Kama (dried grain and pea mixture often added to sour milk)

8. Mulgipuder (groats and potato porridge with fried fatty meat)

9. Soola oad (boiled and salted beans usually served cold)

10. Peipsi tint (dried smelt from Lake Peipsi)

I had 2 and 4. I saw 5 and 8 on menus.


Edited by Schneier (log)

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No updated here for a while, so I just wanted to add three of my absolute favourites in Tallinn.

1) Ö. Means island in swedish. A very chich and trendy place, with beautiful decor. Food is modern and actually quite well prepared. Service a bit slow as in all old eastern european countries, but nice and welcoming. I really liked this place, and the food was excellent. A bit on the expensive side for Tallinn, but well worth its money!

2) Silk Sushi. Actually one of the best sushi places I have ever been to outside of Japan. I cannot even begin to explain how fantastic it is - go there! You will NOT be disappointed!

3) Bocca. I believe they have the same owners as Ö. Also a very modern and chic place, with mostly expats or "urban tourists" as guests. Kitchen is new-italian, and very tastefully prepared. Service is a bit cold, but the environment is warm and welcoming. Also a nice bar for a quick glass of champagne before going out in the evening.

As you see - no "traditional Estonian" restaurants here, and to be honest I am still looking for a really good one, without all the ingredients of a true tourist trap...

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A Nous Paris, a Parisian publication which is pretty accurate concerning French places, gave two restos they recommend: Pegasus, HarjuI. + Quam Quam.

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I would recommend browsing through my foodblog, Nami-nami, but then I would have to, wouldn't I :raz:

It's all in English, and I've got few restaurant and cafe reviews, as well as some information about the food scene in Tallinn in general. The "Location: Estonia" and "Restaurant Review" categories may be useful, as well as "Tallinn: Culinary City Snapshot" piece I wrote for a fellow blogger. Links are all on the right-hand sidebar.

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A Nous Paris, a Parisian publication which is pretty accurate concerning French places, gave two restos they recommend: Pegasus, HarjuI. + Quam Quam.

Ate in Pegasus last night 24/07/07. Menu is a bit of a mess with all kinds of fusion food mixed with straightforward thai and Italian and French dishes. They do know how to cook but are lacking in confidence with their local ingredients it seems to me with Nile Perch and Tilapia on the menu. Other fish were flounder and lemon sole (stuffed with shrimp). I presume the flounder was european but the waitress didn't know. My cold sorrel soup was good with crayfish but not outstanding and my wife's tilapia ceviche was quite good but hardly exciting. My flounder for main was well cooked and tasty and the shrimp stuffed sole was good. My son's steak was tough as could be but he ate it anyway. Finally desserts were excellent proving the kitchen can cook - good home-made ice cream and nigh on perfect chocolate fondant cake (called ganache on the menu we had). So in conclusion the food here is competent but expensive for Tallinn and they need to trust their local ingredients more.

I much preferred my lunch at Troika which is a touristy place in the town square near the town hall - excellent local Saku dark beer (available in the off licences for under a euro a bottle), blini with red caviar (about E.5.50), pot roast - creamy pork topped with bread and baked in the oven (c. E.8) and blinis and ice-cream with strawberry jam for dessert. My wife had good dumplings for about 6 euro and my son had a big steak properly cooked and seasoned for about 18 euro. simple honest fare for very little money served by charming waitresses.

Olde Hansa is as good as they say. v. good home made beer and schnapps but be warned the beer is a little sweeter than most of us are used to - old medieval recipe etc. honey apple pudding is outstanding, smoked herring starter excellent, baked cheese starter v. good. Himalayan Lamb and Boar and Elk mains were top notch but also a bit sweet - but this is appropriate... and decent strong coffee (with schnapps plus sth else). yes it is a bit hokey but they try their best to make it feel like fun.


Edited by ljr (log)

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I´m heading to Tallinn in 2 weeks. Would love to hear any up to date tips and recommendations! For all categories: coffee/pastry places, lunch recommendations, places for drinks/cocktails, simple fare, fancy dining, and anything in between.

Me and a fellow eGulleter will be there for a week, so we have a lot of eating to do...

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I´m heading to Tallinn in 2 weeks. Would love to hear any up to date tips and recommendations! For all categories: coffee/pastry places, lunch recommendations, places for drinks/cocktails, simple fare, fancy dining, and anything in between.

Me and a fellow eGulleter will be there for a week, so we have a lot of eating to do...

Well, Chufi has been to Tallinn and wrote a whole thread about it here on eGullet :) (PS It was great meeting her and Verjuice!)

I've just posted a list of recommendations for this summer's eating in Tallinn - in case anyone's interested, then it can be found here on my blog.

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