Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Being vegetarian in Tallinn

Sitting on the plane on the way to Tallinn, reading my guide book, my heart started to sink. 

"The idea of anyone willingly giving up meat is fairly baffling to the porkchop-loving Estonians", it declared. Those vegetarian dishes that do exist "range from fairly uninspired concoctions of stir fried veggies or grilled cauliflower", read the next sentence.

There was also a warning that any soups or salad that may appear meat-free by reading the menu were likely to include bits of ham. Hmmm ... I thought.

Fortunately, either the guide book writer did not look in the right places or a lot has changed in the two years since the book was written.

When we arrived, our Air BnB host talked us through her recommendations of where to go and one of her top tips was to go to the vegan restaurant. "It is vegan, but the food is still very good", she told us. And away from the vegan restaurant, we found some very good veggie options. 

Here are our recommendations for eating well in Tallinn as a vegetarian:

1) Vegan Restoran V
Following the recommendation of our Air BnB host, we found our way to this small, cosy and rustic looking restaurant in the Old Town. The restaurant has become so popular, that even the meat loving locals flock there to sample the delicious (and very well priced) meals. Reservations are recommended as it does get full.

We shared a beetroot ravioli with cashew cheese - the beetroot was used instead of pasta - to start. The cheese was tasty and the dish worked well - the salad with sprouting seeds were a great accompaniment.

Beetroot ravioli
For mains, I went for the tofu breaded in black bread with a range of vegetables and a delicious mustard sauce. Black bread is a Estonian staple, giving this dish a local twist.

Black breaded tofu
James chose the pumpkin curry, which was well presented, suitably warming and well spiced. 
Pumpkin curry
The restaurant also had a good selection of local beers. We paid less than 30 euros for our starter, two mains and two beers. The mains ranged from 5.90 euros to 8.30 euros.

Where: Rataskaevu 12, just west of the town hall square 
Tel: +372 626 9087

2) F-Hoone
The Kalamaja district, just outside the Old Town was previously a working class area. It is now becoming increasingly gentrified, as the old colourful fisherman's houses are overtaken by hipsters and derelict buildings find a new purpose. Part of this change, the Telliskivi Creative City is a factory complex that has now been converted to artist studios, shops, restaurants and bars.

Falafel main course (the falafel's in there, I promise!)
Visiting on a Saturday night at around 9pm, we bagged the last free table for two at one of the restaurants, F-Hoone. Opening the menu, I was pleasantly surprised to find a sizeable veggie section on the menu. Like the vegan restaurant, there was also a good selection of craft beers to accompany your meal.

Local beer

I went for a goat's cheese with beetroot pesto to start and a hummus with salad as a main. All mains were under 10 euros.

Yummy goat's cheese
The restaurant had a good vibe to it. As it was outside of the Old Town, it felt very local and there were few (if any?) tourists. 

F-Hoon at the end of the night

Where: Telliskivi 60, in the Kalamaja district 
Tel: +372 5322 6855

3) Olde Hansa
Researching Tallinn on the internet before our trip, Olde Hansa kept appearing in my searches. A medieval themed restaurant, this place is known for its extravagant offerings of meat feasts that include bear, elk and wild boar. 

Terviseks! (Cheers in Estonian)
However, vegetarians can also enjoy the candle-lit atmosphere of this popular restaurant. There is only one veggie option on the menu, uninspiringly called 'Five delightful tastes of vegetarian origin'. However, it was actually pretty tasty and filling (if a teeny bit stodgy!). It included lentils, a pasty and a delicious mushroom sauce.

Veggie option - medieval style

The rose pudding also made for a light and yummy dessert. Try the schnapps too! (And make sure you take a peek in the medieval themed toilets!)

Rose pudding
The restaurant is over three floors and so unless you're with a big group, we were told we didn't need to book.

Where: Vana Turg 1 Just off the town hall square - you can't really miss it!
Tel: +372 627 9020

4) Must Puudel
We popped in to this quirky hipster cafe in the old town for a hot chocolate to warm us up on a cold day.

Must Puudel
However, glancing down the menu, there was a good range of veggie options on their menu, including roasted pumpkin pasta, chickpea curry and a veggie burger.

Where: Müürivahe 20, just south of the town hall square
Tel:+372 505 6258

5) Snacking: Go nuts!
The Estonians seem to like their nuts. Everywhere we went around the Old Town and particularly around Toompea hill, there were stands selling candied almonds, with a range of different flavours, which you can usually try before you buy. 

We particularly liked the orange and spiced flavour as well as the garlic ones.

Overall verdict
We had absolutely no problem at all finding good veggie fare in Tallinn and the options available were creative and frequently had an Estonian twist to them. Well done Tallinn! A double thumbs up!

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