A friend of mine moved to Tallinn last year and, as neither Mark nor I had ever been to Estonia, we jumped at the opportunity to spend New Year’s Eve there.
However, as excited as I was to visit a Baltic country, I was not enthralled at the prospect of the food. And who would blame me once you know their diet revolves around pork, dairy and potatoes and that their winter staples are blood sausages and sauerkraut? Don’t get me wrong, I love sauerkraut – simply not cooked with pork.
As it turns out I needn’t have worried: the vegan scene in Tallinn (I cannot vouch for the rest of Estonia) is alive and kicking!
We stayed only 4 days in Tallinn and ate mostly in the old town area, so here’s what I found: many restaurants have at least one vegan dish on their menu or can accommodate you, cafés often have a plant-milk alternative and there are also a few vegan-only restaurants and cafés. I’ve also seen vegan restaurants walking around, outside the main tourist tracks. Let’s just say: we are spoilt for choice.
Now, onto the interesting point: I’ve had 2 of my best vegan experiences in Tallinn! And I live in London which is bursting with plant-based venues (and I’ve had exceptional dinners in New York as well…).
FYI: I tried to stick to the Estonian specialities as much as I could. Don’t be surprised to see lots of sauerkraut, blackcurrants and beetroot.
So, here are my recommendations (please, feel free to let me know if you have been to any of these or if you know of other places worth trying as I am keen to go back to Estonia – maybe in warmer months next time):
- Fine dining for all: Von Krahli Aed restaurant
We went to Von Krahli Aed for our last night in Tallinn. We booked this cute restaurant earlier in the day as the friend we visited in Tallinn is a proper omni, on the carnivorous side, and the colour themed menu offers all dishes in both vegan and non-vegan forms – perfect to accommodate everyone’s tastes!
Why was it such a glorious experience you’re asking? Well… First, the venue is lovely: it boasts rustic stone walls and beams, and you eat in a dimly-lit atmosphere and vintage décor. Second, the staff is very friendly and smiley. And last but not least, not only is the food delicious, but the cherry on top, the bill was half what we expected (reminder: we come from London)!
Onto the pièce de résistance: what I ate and drank!
Drink wise, we started with an aperitif of blackcurrant schnapps with a hint of chili (you’d better like your berries: blackcurrant seems to the national fruit of Estonia!). We then accompanied our dinner with a Romanian pinot noir.
Food wise, I chose the “purple beetroot” for starter: marinated beetroot, eggplant cream, blackcurrant, walnut and kidney bean cream.
My main was the “dark green”: stuffed kale parcel, Jerusalem artichoke cream, pak choi, celeriac and seaweed.
Finally, my dessert was the carrot cookie, almond and sea buckthorn.
Good to know: they serve their delicious rye bread with vegan butter – for once I could lather my slices with blobs of fatty goodness!
- For date night: Vegan Restoran V
Two doors down from Von Krahli, you’ll find Vegan Restoran V. I believe they’re owned by the same company as they appear on the same website. This was another fabulous experience!
I had dinner there with Mark on the 1st January and we both agree that it’s a great place if you’re after somewhere cosy and romantic (and once again, the prices are very reasonable: impress your loved one without breaking the bank)…
Now, everything is vegan here, so Mark and I could share all our dishes and double the fun.
As an aperitif, we tried the local rhubarb sparkling white wine, which I can best describe as like Prosecco but better, as it is lighter and less sweet (personal taste). We chose a Spanish red wine for the rest of the dinner: an interesting Trilogia (Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo) that grew on us after a few sips.
The two starters we ordered were delightful: we had the Seafood plate (with smoky carrot “faux smoked salmon” – special recommendation for that one!!!, wakame seaweed salad with fresh cucumber noodles and seaweed hummus) and the Beetroot ravioli with cashew cheese (well-presented and great flavours).
For the main, I chose the potato casserole with seitan, creamy mustard sauce and sauerkraut puree (to stay in line with Estonian specialities) and Mark went for the special, which was composed of two nori sheet / lentil / chickpea sausages with turnip mash and plum sauce. Both dishes were equally enjoyable.
We finished with a mini pavlova with avocado cream and strawberry sorbet, as well as a plum ice-cream with raspberry marinated plum compote and crispy oatmeal crumbs.
Hint: the restaurant keeps only a couple of tables for walk-ins, and the room is small, so I’d advise you to book ahead. We saw many people being politely refused a table throughout the evening.
- For lunch: Vegan Inspiratsioon
We had lunch at Vegan Inspiratsioon on the 1st of January, when many places were closed. Though the food was good and the staff pleasant, we didn’t have the best service as either they were understaffed or busier than what they were accustomed to.
I ordered the Christmas sausages which were supposed to be served with mashed potato, sauerkraut, rosolje (sort of creamy beetroot salad – fresh and yummy), pickles and lingonberry jam. The sausages were nothing like sausages, but just a vaguely cylindrical lentil pate. I couldn’t tell the difference with the vegan “meat-loaf” that Mark had ordered. But it is just a question of expectations. However, they had run out of mashed potatoes (which they replaced with fried potatoes) and cooked sauerkraut (which they didn’t replace with anything). When I mentioned the lack of sauerkraut, she brought us some raw sauerkraut salad (very tasty) to apologise. As mentioned before, the food was good, but I would have appreciated being told beforehand of the shortage and the modifications to my dish, because I would have chosen something else. I saw the different bowls and wraps that were brought to other customers and they were big, full of colours and veggies. Definite food envy.
Recommendation: try their maple glazed cinnamon buns!
- For the view: Teletorn restaurant
The Teletorn (or TV tower) is a 313m high observation deck located in the suburb of Tallinn (a 15-20 min ride from the city centre).
It is worth a visit just for the views of Tallinn extending to the Gulf of Finland. Why not pay a visit to the restaurant while you’re there? I had emailed them before our trip to make sure they could accommodate my vegan requirements and they confirmed that it wasn’t a problem.
I had about 3 options to choose from in the whole menu, and I went for the raw buckwheat, beetroot jerky, blackcurrant and cumin jelly and eau-de-vie vinaigrette for starter. For my main, I opted for the roasted root celeriac, Jerusalem artichoke and groat mash, hot seed and sprout salad and beetroot waffle.
Both dishes were delectable and well presented. But the most interesting was maybe the wine: the waiter suggested an Estonian wine, made from blackcurrant, not grape. Fruity and flavoursome, it hit the spot for me!
Top tip: They don’t use Uber in Estonia, but Taxify. Download the app and get a ride to the tower! They’re very cheap and arrive quickly.
- For the entertainment: Peppersack
Right in the heart of the old town, you’ll find a couple of “medieval restaurants”. Peppersack is one of them. It has a large main room and a few other smaller rooms at the back and upstairs. Good for groups and couples alike. The vegan options are limited but one reason to visit is the show. Mid-way through dinner, we were all rudely interrupted by a quarrel between a young lover and his jealous rival, which ended up in a sword fight on the staircase. It was all in Estonian, so we didn’t get all the details, but the gist was clear enough!
While studying the menu, we ordered the house aperitif: a Piprakukk (a red herbal-like schnapps) and continued with a local herb beer.
My starter: Winter squash and parsnip creamy soup with seeds.
My main: Courgette with beetroot hummus and vegetable wok (I forgot to take a pic).
- For the hipsters: F-Hoone
If you have time to wander a bit further out from the Old Town, you may be interested by Telliskivi, the creative centre of Tallinn located in a former industrial complex. It is also dubbed Tallinn’s hipster area, as you’ll find cafés, a bike shop, bars selling craft beer, street are covered walls, artist studios, etc.
Mark and I stopped there one afternoon. We sat down at F-Hoone and had a beer, but we didn’t eat. Nonetheless, I perused the menu and was pleased at the number of vegan items! And if they taste as good as they look (many dishes were served around us), I can only suggest you give it a try.
In conclusion, don’t miss out on the amazing medieval architecture in Tallinn for fear of starving! And if you have been, please share your best locations and experiences with us.
One last thing: if you visit Estonia in winter as we did, try their glögi (mulled wine served with almonds) and when you cheer, say “Terviseks”- without laughing or you’ll catalogued as annoying silly tourists!