Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!

7th May 2011

A Tallinn-ted Chef
Posted by at 4.33pm | No responses | Out and About

View of restaurants in Town Hall Square, TallinnThis is part 3 of my Tallinn blog. Read the first part and second part.

Suitably re-energised, we headed back out and towards Town Hall Square. As the name suggests, it is adjacent to the Tallinn Town Hall. It also boasts a wide variety of bars and restaurants, and is thus a hub of activity throughout the day.

Despite the cold temperatures, a number of the eateries offered outdoor dining. Our guide book promised that in the summer months Tallinn has a “Mediterranean-style café culture”, but there was no evidence of that today, despite a lot of electric heaters working under the canopies to provide warmth.

Each establishment appeared to have a friendly man stationed in the square to entice tourists inside. Much to the delight of the representative of Old Estonia, we agreed to eat there. We decided to forego the outdoor option in favour of a window table inside.

On the menu – Saljanka, a soup which, our waiter promised us, was made with “three different kinds of meat”. When it arrived, it turned out to have mushrooms, tomatoes and a few other foodstuffs thrown in for good measure. It was hearty and delicious and I made a mental note to hunt down a recipe when I got home.

Photo of mixed grill on tableThe main course was a Mixed Grill for two which contained a variety of meat: pork ribs, sausages and two different types of kebab. All served with french fries (for me) and potatoes (for Andrew).

We were doing better than our Taco Express experience earlier that day, but it’s probably still not the most authentic Estonian food – saljanka soup, I’ve subsequently discovered, is actually Russian in origin. Still, we washed it down with more Saku, and overall I thoroughly enjoyed it. On the Hampton Good Food Guide (which I’ve just invented), Old Estonia scores 4½ asterisks.

To complete the authentic Estonian experience we went to Molly Malone’s Irish Bar for a few drinks. We found a vociferous crowd watching the Champions League semifinal between Barcelona and Real Madrid on a not-at-all-dodgy Sky Sports 2 feed. There was a real mix of people: some locals obviously, but I detected Irish, Cockney and Lancashire accents in the short time we were there. Tallinn is growing in popularity with British visitors, including — unfortunately — stag parties, although we didn’t encounter any during our stay.

View of our room in the Go Hotel Shnelli, TallinA side note: everyone we encountered spoke English remarkably well. You could argue that this is through necessity, due to the large influx of foreign tourists. However I was impressed by the fact that the locals, without exception, were fluent and confident; completely able to hold a conversation without any hesitation.

I was pleased because it rendered unnecessary my own, largely useless, attempts to learn some basic phrases. I was also slightly ashamed that we never extend the same courtesy to visitors here, beyond the unfriendly signs in Albert Dock shops warning French exchange students: “il faut entrer avec un adulte!”.

Suitably filled with alcohol and food, we returned to the hotel. Tomorrow would be our only full day in town, so we intended to make the most of it.

To be continued…

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