Red, White and Blue – Viking Line

The dark blue waters of the Baltic are brightened up by the red and white of Viking Line’s many crossings to Tallinn and Stockholm this summer. To liven up their regular timetable, they’ve gone as far as renting a catamaran which will be in operation until the end of October 2017. Besides FSTR or ‘Faster’, the aptly named aforementioned vessel, two of their other cruisers viz. the Mariella and Gabriella will also be called on to ply the heavy traffic between Helsinki and Tallinn together with their regular ship XPRS.

While there’s plenty of competition out there, Viking Line has always tried to stay ahead of the game with their friendly service, good food and cheap prices. The FSTR catamaran gets you from Helsinki to Tallinn in an hour and 45 minutes and is big enough to carry 835 passengers and 120 cars making it operational in all kinds of weather. The focus is on seating with airline-type loungers for everyone. The bar and cafeteria on board make sure that no one goes hungry or thirsty and for an extra fee, a hot breakfast or supper with beer and wine are available in the Club Lounge where the standard of service and products are of exceptional quality.

Viking XPRS is a little bigger with a 2500 passenger capacity taking a little longer. The two and a half hours on board can be spent singing karaoke, dancing to a live band, dining in one of the many restaurants, shopping at reduced prices or watching your kids play in the designated area. The Bistro Buffet is the most popular choice since the selection is vast and even pernickety eaters can find something they like here. Beer and wine are on tap. But for something a little more upmarket, Wine & Dine has white linen on the tables and service with lots of smiles is effortless. A 3-course meal sets you back around €38. Get into celebratory mood with a glass of Charles Heidsieck champagne at €8, a steal anywhere on the planet.

Kumu Art Museum in Kadriorg Park, Tallinn

Some hours in Tallinn can be combined with the Viking Line ticket and there are all kinds of options for all ages to keep the group happy. The Old Town always presents a photo opportunity with its architecture and colourful buildings. The Seaplane Harbour is a mecca for anyone interested in boats and sea craft, a real hands-on place where the most reluctant of museum-goer will dive into the activities. The Tele Tower is a futuristic experience with a 3-D movie to start your journey before your snappy elevator ride to the top floor where the view literally takes your breath away looking out over the city and down through the ‘hole’ in the floor. Kumu Art Museum is housed in a spectacular modern building with art treasures covering the period from the beginning of the 18thC until the end of World War II. Temporary exhibitions showcase Estonian and international artists and the performance schedule is choc-a-bloc. Besides, the walk through the immaculate Kadriorg Park to get there is a treat all on its own and there are many other museums to visit on the way.

Dinner aboard Viking Line’s XPRS at the Wine and Dine Restaurant

If time is not at a premium, staying overnight in Tallinn is reasonably priced especially when you book it with your Viking Line crossing. Budget to luxury are all within a price range that won’t bring tears to your eyes.

Here are the links to Viking Line’s timetables and ways you can spend your day in Tallinn:

That Little Bit Extra – Restaurant Trühvel, Tallinn, Estonia

In the heart of Telliskivi Creative City, a little ways from Tallinn’s Old Town, there’s a restaurant that lures you by their attention to detail. With impeccable service and food to salivate for, the whole package is enough to take you that extra mile.

Cold, acidic sorbet lines the palate up for the mains.
Cold, acidic sorbet lines the palate up for the mains

In true Mediterranean style, the menu consists of starters, soups, pasta, risotto, mains and of course desserts. But with a definite Estonian twist. Before anything else happens, we’re presented with an amuse bouche of citrus fruit hiding a creamy mousse, compliments of the kitchen, a perfect awakener with the Jacquart champagne at a mere €7,50/glass. My starter of Vitello Tonnato has the usual pink veal with smooth tuna sauce but it’s the roasted nuts and big capers that steps up to the plate. The crusty toast adds crunch to this delicious dish. My partner’s seafood risotto is just as it should be with flakes of Grana Padano cheese to top it off. But before we can go on, we of course need a palate cleanser of green apple sorbet doused in fresh Prosecco. This again is on the house.

Vitello Tonnato as it should be
Vitello Tonnato as it should be

The wine list is vast and you can find everything from Margaux to our less pricey Valdivieso Cabernet Franc from Chile which vies for attention with my veal cheek and crispy sweetbreads resting nicely on sweet potatoes with a red wine sauce slightly spiked with cinnamon. It could do with a bit more acidity and turns out slightly bland for my taste but then it would be hard to do better than my starter. The duck confit however, is a mouthful of perfection and couldn’t disappoint even the fussiest of gourmands.

Veal cheek with sweetbreads
Veal cheek with sweetbreads

We’re too eloquently satisfied to order dessert but they bring us home made truffle chocolates anyway and the bill puts a smile on your face.

Ambience: Colourful, clean style

Food: Italian with Estonian inspiration

Prices: Starters around €8,50, mains approx. €16

Service: Attentive, warm

Wines: Excellent, wide selection including champagne by the glass

My rating: 8+/10


Restaurant Trühvel

FARM – Serious Farmhouse Style

Tones of earthy beige, scenes of stuffed warthogs feasting with foxes and beavers, chandeliers that add a touch of class and overstuffed shelves with classic farmhouse staples is what greets you when you enter this restaurant in Tallinn’s Old Town. It’s big, just like a farmhouse kitchen, and there’s an open range where the chefs cook and cavort but all of this is so stylish and so well done creating that cosy, warm feeling of belonging.

Feast with wild abandon - taxidermy at Farm Restaurant
Feast with wild abandon – taxidermy at Farm Restaurant

Attention to detail is evident. Menus look handwritten and are tied together with string. The rabbit liver paté I order comes in a small jam jar and is scooped out with a spoon on to the crisp toast. The combination of creamy, nutty, elegant paste is complemented by chokeberry onion marmalade with a hint of sweetness, a hint of sour. The texture of this dish is balanced and the flavours are just remarkable. The Paul Mas Chardonnay from Languedoc works but it’s the Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir that really does the trick with this dish with its light, juiciness and overtones of pepper.

Your typical farmhouse shelf adds to the ambience
Your typical farmhouse shelf adds to the ambience

The waiter is attentive, shows sincere concerns on whether you like this and asks his colleague if he forgets the name of a certain ingredient. They’ve obviously been trained well, not too much, not too little.

Rabbit liver paté in a jar
Rabbit liver paté in a jar

The red deer from Saaremaa is perfectly pink and rests on a bed of wild mushroom orsoto, a type of risotto with kernels slightly larger reminiscent of bulgur. I take a bite of gooseberry, bitter and sour and not at all to my liking. But then I mix it with a bit of the creamy orsoto and top it with a slice of red deer and it’s exactly what you need for that lift of acidity that transforms bland to bloody good. Red deer is similar to what we commonly know as roe deer. The meat is lean and the flavour is mild compared to elk but its taste is unique in its refinement. The juniper wine sauce adds that vital tartness to complete the dish. My choice of wine Raimat Abadia Cabernet Sauvignon/Tempranillo 2013 is heavy enough to carry it through to a satisfying wholeness of flavours.

Succulent Red Deer from Saaremaa Island, Estonia
Succulent Red Deer from Saaremaa Island, Estonia

The wine list, by the glass anyway, is disappointing. If you offer me a glass of Zonin Prosecco one more time instead of a decent champagne or cava as an aperitif, you might find yourself with one less customer. Why, when small bottles of champagne are readily available?

The exclusive use of local ingredients is really pleasing and it shows in the freshness of the flavours. The price is so worthy of a mention too. The entire meal, and I forgot to mention the homemade bread with home made butter, including a gin and tonic for starters, cost €44.

Ambience: Light, cosy, stylish

Food: Local Estonian ingredients, game, wholesome

Prices: Dead reasonable for top quality

Service: Attentive, warm

Wines: Disappointing selection by the glass

Drinks: Non-alcoholic homemade lemonade

My rating: 8/10


Farm Restaurant

Kolm Sibulat – Three Onions in Tallinn, Estonia

‘Fusion confusion’ is how the chefs at this trendy restaurant in not-so-trendy Telliskivi describe their food.

They change the menu as the mood suits them, every month or so and of course depending on the popularity of the dishes. I’m glad to hear this since I would go back time after time for both the starter and main course I had there.

The interior is chic, cosy and child-friendly
The interior is chic, cosy and child-friendly

The noodle dish is a cross between Ramen and Pho soup, their own version of herbs, seafood or meat and homemade noodles in a broth that complements the ingredients perfectly. My pork belly version (€8) has a smokey, earthy taste to it while my companion’s prawn one (€8) is light and fresh. They ask us whether we want coriander, we reply ‘of course!’ with furrowed brows. Who wouldn’t want it? Both are brimming with taste and the portions are in ample supply.

Pork belly noodle soup with  a poached egg and home made noodles
Pork belly noodle soup with a poached egg and home made noodles
Firm prawns with plenty of greens and noodles in a light broth
Firm prawns with plenty of greens and noodles in a light broth

I am somewhat satiated after that but it doesn’t stop me from ordering a second course ‘just to try, you know.’ And I’m glad I did. The marinated seafood (€12) consisting of prawns, mussels and octopus is warm and full of flavour and the bed of salad with basil vinaigrette is so crispy and good it pops off the plate. A’s duck (€13) is done to perfection, a rosé colour with a slight sweetness from the oriental plum sauce and the parsnip purée it’s served on.

Marinated seafood salad, hot and cold with plenty of crunch
Marinated seafood salad, hot and cold with plenty of crunch
Perfect rosé duck with oriental plum sauce
Perfect rosé duck with oriental plum sauce

My choice of Oraison Côtes-du-Rhône goes down smoothly and comes at great value, €22.

The two head chefs, Igor and Roman, have a history of fine dining and it shows. Kolm Sibulat is the baby brother of their first successful venture Moon, also in an off-the-beaten-track location. In their own words, “It’s easier to raise the second child and so we decided to go ahead and broaden our horizons since even the most talented artist gets bored painting the sea over and over again.”

Ambience: Homely, child-friendly

Décor: chic and clever

Food: 9/10

Wine list: 7/10 (I would have preferred more of a sparkling wine collection)

Service: 10/10

Recommendation: When in Tallinn, go!

Reservations: A must


Kolm Sibulat

Kohvik Moon

Noa – Tallinn Restaurants

I was so looking forward to it, had heard so much about it, hopped on Bus 1A at the Viru Centre and set off for Noa, a good 10 km from Tallinn centre right on the shoreline. The boys and I were upbeat and positive. This was going to be something special.

Rekku and I
Yours truly and Rekku toasting the night.

And it was. A lovely milieu in an even lovelier setting overlooking the bay and the lights of the city. The drinks are served with a care and a smile My coupe of Deutz is a delight and the price is reasonable at €11. I’m not hungry enough for a starter but my companions dig in to cabbage with nuts, garlic and sesame sauce and potato-herring mix with tiramisu cream. The cabbage turns out to be the best choice with plenty of crunch and flavouring to awaken your appetite. The herring, although beautiful on a wooden platter, is salty, fishy (yeah, yeah I know it’s fish!) and misses the actual flavour of the fish.

Cabbage starter
Cabbage with cucumber, nuts, algae, garlic and sesame sauce

The Pinot Noir from Maison Louis Jadot, Burgundy, is however perfect for the fish and with its peppery notes works well with my main, Black Piglet with fermented cucumber. Unfortunately the piglet has seen the inside of the stove for too long and turns out to be dry, lacking taste. Rekku’s prawns in chilli sauce are floury and not firm enough to be counted as fresh and my son’s fried white fish is ok, nothing more.

Herring-potato starter

Go for the setting and service but don’t count on the food.

Ambience: Buzzy, relaxed, smiley

Food: Modern Estonian

Prices: Reasonable, perhaps slightly upmarket for Tallinn

Service: Professional, caring

Wines: Small wine list but well chosen

Drinks: Noa beer is hoppy and comes highly recommended


Noa –

Tallinn restaurants:

Indian in Tallinn – Estonian restaurants

The filigree rickety spiral staircase takes you to the first floor where this spacious restaurant unfolds. You get it, the minute you step in, there’s something quite different about this place and when you read the story on the menu, the full picture emerges. The jazzman in the picture looks you right in the eye and grimaces. The music you hear is probably not played by the band you imagine and the walls and floors are ‘ecologically clean’. The waiting staff actually talk to you, they don’t only smile at you.

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Elevant is Calcutta street food cum North Indian homemade dishes cum ayurveda medicine. I’m not so hungry after the elk soup at lunchtime (see below) and I settle for a Sabzi Pakora, vegetables in crunchy chickpea batter while my cohort digs in to Gosht Saag, lamb and spinach curry. The naan that comes with it is fluffy and buttery. He washes it down with an Icelandic beer called Einstök while my housewife of Spanish Verdejo is perfect for my needs and wants.

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When the waiter arrives with the bill, it’s neatly encased in a little box, something I’ve noticed several times in Tallinn. Estonians have a knack for detail, turning what could be a mess hall into a homey dining hall, adding just that appropriate decoration for that spot, enchanting you with their creativity. Elevant is just such a place.

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Estoria, an Estonian Story – Hotel in Tallinn, Estonia

Estoria is about stories, Estoria is about Estonia, Estoria is about culture. Klaus Ek, hotel manager is especially delighted now that it has made it to the World Luxury Hotel list. Solo Sokos Hotels have got this right! A new wing of the Viru Hotel in the heart of Tallinn, opened its doors on 21 April 2014.

Every room tells its own tale. I felt right at home in mine since it talked about the people of Setomaa who live in the southeast corner of Estonia. A little crazy are their practices of crowning a King of the earth who gathers around him his ‘troops’ and followers. Once you’ve located it on the colourful map, you see all kinds of fascinating details not only in that area but also the rest of Estonia suggesting that tourism doesn’t begin and end in Tallinn. There’s a whole new world to be discovered outside of the city.
 Colour strikes you first when you walk into the room. No dull whites for this hotel. Peep Ehasalu, proud erstwhile Communications Manager, explained why:
“Why do hotels choose white? Simple. It’s much cheaper to wash and bleach white sheets. We’ve chosen to pay a little more for our laundry and brighten up our guests’ experience.”
The details are numerous, humorous and thought provoking.
“Life is like a mirror – you get the best results when you smile at it.”
 Read the writing on the desk top and you find out that Skype was invented in Estonia, amongst other things.
All the products in the minibar are Estonian and every room has a Cupsolo machine for making a decent cup of coffee.
 And that’s not the end of the story. Every floor has a lounge area where you can entertain your guests or have a business meeting. The ‘library’ provides story books as well as good culture and history reads in various languages.
 The breakfast is special too. Service comes with a smile from a waitress who keeps on topping up your tea or coffee cup. Choices include organic porridge, local dried sausage, crispy bacon, fresh croissants to name but a few.
On your way out, the receptionist smiles broadly and asks whether you enjoyed your stay?
You would be pressed to say anything other than “How could I not have?”