TALLINN TALES

THERE IS A LOT MORE TO ES­TO­NIA’S CAP­I­TAL CITY THAN JUST CHEAP BEER AND RAU­COUS STAG PAR­TIES, SAYS LIZ CON­NOR

Stockport Express - - Travel -

E VERY so of­ten, you land at a des­ti­na­tion that steals your heart and has you rhap­so­dis­ing about it for months af­ter­wards.

Board­ing my morn­ing flight to Es­to­nia’s cap­i­tal city, sur­rounded by stag par­ties shoot­ing minia­ture spir­its and drink­ing the air­port dry of lager, I wasn’t sure whether Tallinn and I would get along.

But there are two types of Tallinn: the one that ap­peals to lads on tour look­ing for a dirt-cheap week­end, and the one that’s qui­etly as­sert­ing it­self as one of Europe’s most ex­cit­ing gas­tro­nom­i­cal cities.

While bach­e­lors tend to roam the bars around the Town Hall Square and the cruise ship crowd tour the city’s UNSECO-pro­tected Old Town, it’s the out­skirts of the medieval de­fen­sive walls that are be­com­ing trendy.

The hip­sters have Kala­maja – a for­mer work­ing class sub­urb that’s been trans­formed with craft beer bars, fika cafés and art gal­leries.

It’s here you’ll find Tel­liskivi Creative City, an old in­dus­trial area that’s be­come a bea­con for Tallinn’s new vibe. De­cay­ing ware­houses have been coated in street art and con­verted into stu­dios, de­sign shops and gig venues, at­tract­ing a young crowd of artists and tech en­trepreneurs.

Scratch the sur­face and you’ll find more of the same creative en­ergy in pock­ets of the cen­tre.

Smart Finns have been hop­ping the boat over from Helsinki to gorge on Es­to­nian food for years, but a smat­ter­ing of new open­ings are breath­ing new life into Tallinn, with ac­claimed chefs like Ger­man Miche­lin­starred Matthias Di­ether set­ting up shop on Es­to­nian turf, along­side a younger gen­er­a­tion of up-and-com­ing cooks.

Its cross-cul­tural ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion makes it a melt­ing pot of foodie in­flu­ences – most notably Baltic, Nordic, and Rus­sian – so plates are of­ten as di­verse as they are de­li­cious, serv­ing up ev­ery­thing from meat-filled dumplings and fer­mented for­aged veg­eta­bles, to fresh and zesty pick­led fish.

Mix­ing light with heavy, raw with com­fort, it’s a new type of cook­ing style that puts an Es­to­nian twist on the ‘new Nordic’.

Thanks to min­i­mal bomb­ing in World War II, Tallinn also has one of the best pre­served Hanseatic town cen­tres in the world. Un­like the grit of Ber­lin or the seedy un­der­belly of Am­s­ter­dam, its streets are a liv­ing fairy tale; all pas­tel build­ings on cob­bled lanes, medieval tur­rets and nooks to steal away in.

Since Lonely Planet named Tallinn its best value des­ti­na­tion of 2018, more peo­ple have been flock­ing here, so prices are slowly go­ing up, but you still get a lot of value for each euro you spend. The cost of a pint is around £3.50, while a three-course meal for two will set you back around £35.

It’s also a snip of the price of pop­u­lar Copen­hagen, yet still ir­re­sistibly undis­cov­ered. Ev­ery­one’s fought tooth and nail for a ta­ble at Noma, but ORE? Less so. Whether you’re in it for the travel ku­dos or not, it’s a place to re­lax, eat well and drink your­self merry.

DIN­NER:

■ IF you’re stay­ing in the Old Town, ORE (or­erestoran.ee) of­fers fu­sion Baltic cui­sine. We de­voured an ex­cel­lent six-course tast­ing menu with wine pair­ings for £75 in­clud­ing Ja­pane­sein­spired shiso leaf tem­pura with salted mack­erel and yuzu, and a de­li­cious Peru­vian ce­viche-style dish of seabass tira­dito.

■ FOR some­thing spe­cial, 180 De­grees (180de­grees.ee) of­fers fine din­ing. In Port Nob­less­ner, it is newly opened by Matthias Di­ether, who has led restau­rants to a Miche­lin star eight times. A six-course tast­ing menu costs £80, and ad­di­tional wine pair­ings about £75.

LUNCH:

■ A GOOD brunch is never too far away in Tallinn, and the fresh and aro­matic small plates at Sfaar (sfaar.ee) are a safe bet (a dish with a glass of bub­bly costs around £22. It’s a cool, Scandi-in­spired place with high ceil­ings, hang­ing ferns, pot­ted suc­cu­lents and ceram­ics you’ll wish you could cram in your suit­case.

■ ULO ([email protected]), a veg­e­tar­ian café across the street from the Baltic Sta­tion mar­ket, is the place for ex­per­i­men­tal flavour pair­ings, like wasabi falafel and sea­weed wa­ter­melon (part of a snack shar­ing se­lec­tion for around £9) and kim­chi sweet potato fries (£4.80).

Or­der a glass of the de­li­cious rhubarb sparkling wine.

DRINKS:

■ WHIS­PER SIS­TER (face­book.com/whis­per­sis­ter­bar), on cen­tral street Parnu maan­tee 12, is one of those bars you walk past and don’t no­tice.

In­stead of a sign, there’s a num­ber on the door which you have to call to be let in. It’s a 1920s-style speakeasy where the jazz mu­sic is free and cock­tail prices start from £7.50.

■ BOTAANIK (botaanik.ee) is a small ar­ti­san cock­tail bar lo­cated in the Old Town nom­i­nated for Top 10 Best New Euro­pean Bar 2019. Cock­tails cost around £9.50. As the name sug­gests, plant in­fu­sions are big on their menu, and the dé­cor is as dark and moody as it gets. As it’s tiny, you’ll need to book in ad­vance to get a ta­ble.

Tallinn’s vi­brant hip­ster district, Tel­liskivi Creative City Kaja Pizza Kook in Tallinn Veni­son with chanterelles, savoy cab­bage and a quince goat cheese roll, served with a beet­root and red wine sauce at 180 De­grees and Shiso leaf tem­pura at ORE in Tallinn’s Old Town The door of speakeasy Whis­per Sis­ter Cob­bled streets and pas­tel painted walls in Tallinn’s Old Town

A view of Tallinn look­ing out from Toom­pea hill

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