I often shy away from writing food pieces as I never feel I’m that adventurous at eating out. But, when I was asked to write a piece about dining out in Tallinn, I jumped at the chance. Food might not be the first thing to come to mind when people think about Estonia’s capital city, but it actually has so much to offer if you are heading here for a short break.
I currently live in Tallinn and for someone who never really dined out much in Ireland I certainly have made up for that here.
For such a small city (the population is just 454,000), there are so many different styles of cuisine on offer – you really are spoilt for choice. Prices vary, but you can find some reasonable options. As a reference point, Tallinn tends to be either on par with or slightly less expensive than dining out in Ireland.
My absolute favourite place to eat is Radio, which is in the high-end neighbourhood of Kadriorg (home to the beautiful Kadriorg Palace). Radio was introduced to me by fellow Irishman, Noel Toolan, who I regard as quite the expert when it comes to picking the perfect place to dine. Radio is described as “European/Scandinavian” in style. I’d simply describe it as “seriously good food”.
I was recently there with three Estonian friends – we all picked a dish and shared. Oddly, we all chose vegetable dishes, despite us all being meat eaters. I ate deep-fried cauliflower with Parmesan sauce and chimichurri (€11), and tried some onion pie with gorgonzola (€9) as well as fresh tagliatelle with cep-truffle sauce (€14). We finished it all off with creme brulee and warm toffee cake with salted caramel sauce (both €6 – don’t leave without trying the latter, I’m still dreaming about it).
Portions are not the biggest, so check in with the helpful staff when ordering as they will put you right. The wine selection at Radio is one of the best in the city and specific pairings can be made for each dish.
For a more medieval Estonian experience, you can’t walk past Olde Hansa without being drawn in the door. This would be Tallinn’s answer to Bunratty Castle. It’s set in a beautiful building in the centre of the Old Town – just off the square – and is a dining experience that’s well worth it.
Servers are dressed in old-style clothes and seem to really enjoy their jobs. Everything about this place screams olden times, right down to the bowls your food is served in.
If you opt for the “Grand Chef’s Feast” (€55 per person), the food – 17 courses of it – just keeps on coming.
Visit Wednesday to Sunday from 6-9pm and you’ll catch the musicians. The menu includes slow-cooked beef cheek in green peppercorn sauce, wild boar, elk and game sausages. With plenty of menus to choose from you’ll find something to suit everyone.
Pancake Sunday is an Estonian tradition I’m happy to take part in. You simply must try out Kompressor in Old Town. Admittedly, this place doesn’t look like much from the outside, but get inside and you’re transported back in time.
They have sweet and savoury pancakes on the menu. You’ll only mange to eat one, so choose wisely. They also have Guinness on tap if you fancy a pancake and a pint.
Estonia’s first vegan restaurant, Vegan Restoran V deserves a mention. Now, please bear with me – I’m not a vegan (my father will be flipping in his grave at the thought of it), but I had to try this place out and it’s insanely good. The insanity is what this magic chef can do with vegetables. I went for lunch and I’m wondering how long I need to leave it before I can go back to have the beetroot ravioli (not actual pasta) with cashew cream “sheese” and basil pesto again (€9.50). I promise you are going to want to lick the plate at the end.
If you are looking for something a little adventurous, while supporting the vegetable farmers of Estonia, go here. Make sure you book ahead though. It’s a small place in a beautiful old building in Old Town and the staff are very welcoming.
Drinking spots are not hard to find in Tallinn and they stay open late – some until 4am or even 6am. Karaoke is popular here and having been in these pubs I can confirm you do not need to be Tom Jones or Adele to participate. If you’re here on a match day, a decent out-of-Ireland pint of Guinness can be found in Mad Murphy’s just off the main square. If you like your craft beers and gin bars, then a night out in the Telliskivi district might be more your speed.
Ordering a takeaway is also an easy option in Tallinn. Most restaurants and cafes are either with Bolt or Wolt delivery services, and these apps are easy to navigate. One thing you will notice around Tallinn are Starship delivery robots – and yes, they are cute.
They don’t deliver to the whole city, but to most city centre neighbourhoods (excluding Old Town). Just download the Starship app, put in your location and you’ll get your local options of food places, supermarkets and even breweries. When the robot arrives, you open it with your phone to retrieve your order. Simple.