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May 20, 2009
From journal Cruise to the Baltic States and St. Petersburg
by Red Mezz
Inverness, Scotland, United Kingdom
November 20, 2005
Whether you are wandering in Tallinn for the day and want somewhere to pop indoors for a little atmosphere; or are looking for a fine and memorable meal for the food tourist, Olde Hansa is somewhere everyone visiting Tallinn should stop at.
Though they are both very good, in my opinion the Olde Hansa exceeds The Peppersack in both food and atmosphere (see review of 'The Peppersack'). The idea is the same, but you get a distinct sense of reality from Olde Hansa, that is not as prominent in the Peppersack.
In this restaurant, you forget what century you are in the moment you walk through the door. The huge tables on the first floor are full of people drinking their large pints and talking pleasantly--could be any medieval tavern. Again, the waitresses and waiters are dressed in very traditional looking garb. The whole place looks like a set for a historical reenactment.
We had seats upstairs in the loft, and our cotton-clad waitress walked us up to the barn-like loft up a heavy staircase encrusted in the biggest mound of melted candle wax I've ever seen. The murals and various paintings and sayings on the walls were lit only dimly by what light there was from the many candles. Despite the fact that we stopped there in the middle of a sunny day, the upper section of Old Hansa was dark and cool.
The service was very good--obviously they are accustomed to tipping tourists, and did earn the tip we happily gave them. The menu is an absolute delight to those wanting an exotic array of food to sample. (I believe it was the wild boar on the menu that enticed us in in the first place.)
I had a platter of Himalayan lamb, and my friend had the boar. Both were excellent and came with a unique variety of sides and spices that, especially in the dark, were hard to identify. But I'm of the opinion that only added to the meal--and sat there being very pleased that I'd spent the extra bit of cash rather than succumbing to McDonald's (which, by the way, was packed full, dirty, and a bit more expensive than I expected even a McDonald's to be).
I recommend (again) the honeyed or the spiced beer. Both were fantastic, though the spiced beer is heavily spiced and you may have trouble getting through a whole mug of it. Might be good to share if you want to give it a try.
It's very easy to find, close to the old Town Hall at the old Market Square. Just look for the large white building with the name painted on the side. This is a place well worth stopping in Tallinn.
From journal Across the Gulf of Finland to Old Town Tallinn
by Owen Lipsett
New York, New York
December 27, 2004
Nevertheless, my sister and I gamely (since wild meat is a specialty of such places) entered and were seated downstairs with a promise that we’d soon be moved upstairs for the live medieval music. The wait, however, made us feel a bit more like the court fools than "honourable guests", although the homemade berry schnapps made the experience rather more bearable. At length, our costumed server returned and informed us that a table upstairs had indeed opened up—but that we could only have it for half an hour, and therefore could only order a single course.
Once seated upstairs, I could understand the restaurant’s popularity a bit better. The Great Hall was sumptuously decorated, and a fairly credible covey of medieval minstrels entertained the audience, which appeared to primarily consist of Finnish tour groups. In the interest of time, we both chose the rather good, thick meat soup, served with homemade spelt bread and cream cheese, which was hearty, though hardly filling, and didn’t really justify its 92 EEK (about €7.50) price tag. The music, however, was the highest point of the evening and consequently, even though our server subsequently told us we could remain longer (after the music was over), we chose to depart rather than sample other, obviously overpriced, dishes.
Judging by the menus that their costumed touts hand out around Raekoja plats, Olde Hansa’s prices appear typical for the medieval restaurants that infest Vanalinn. On the basis of others that we poked our heads into, its atmosphere (though not its service) is incomparable. Consequently, should you choose to indulge in a "medieval" meal while in Tallinn, I’d recommend you do so here, but you’ll find much better food and service at a more reasonable price in almost any of the authentically Estonian restaurants on Vanalinn’s intriguing sidestreets. Unlike its Baltic neighbors, Estonia regained its independence from the Soviet Union without a single casualty—in 1990, half a million people (over a third of Estonia’s population) gathered for the traditional national Song Festival to demand sovereignty. The festivals have been held roughly quinquennially (the next is 2009) since 1869, playing an important role in the country’s first independence movement and holding an ineffable place in the nation’s heart. While less important, the Eurovision victory by the duo of Tanel Padar and Dave Benton provided Estonia with international exposure and allowed Tallinn to hold the showcase competition in 2002.
The 19th-century church at Vene 16 is of little interest itself, but hiding behind a door in the corner of its courtyard are the remains of a Dominican Monastery, destroyed by both fire and the Reformation. Although it contains the immense (and closed) St. Catherine’s Church, the reason to make a pilgrimage here is for its exquisite collection of medieval and Renaissance stone church carvings, rescued from the ravages of the reformers. The interpreters, in period dress, are extremely helpful, and the pieces are well-described in the English signs that accompany them. Although Tallinn’s (or rather Reval’s) Teutonic heritage is visible throughout Vanalinn, many visitors, myself included, are rather puzzled to hear that it contains a building called Kiek-in-de-Kök. Translating the name from the Low German, which reveals its name as "Peep into the Kitchen," only increases this mystery. In reality, the name derives from the fact that the 38-meter-high tower allegedly allowed the nobles on Toompea to glance into the kitchens of the intransigent townspeople who had walled, and indeed, it still offers the finest views of any of the buildings on Toompea. Its main purpose, however, was defensive—coupled with its position, its four-meter-thick walls made it the sturdiest defensive tower in the Baltics, as the fragments of cannonballs, launched by the forces of Ivan IV ("The Terrible") of Russia during the Livonian War, illustrate. The excellent exhibition inside explains that while Russian artillery seriously damaged the tower, it did not fall.
From journal Reval-ing in Tallinn's Medieval Beauty
by Christine Noel
July 27, 2004
From journal Fall In Love With Tallinn
August 26, 2003
I had a pastry shell with spiced minced meat within. The entire serving sat in a bowl of crab sauce, offsetting the spices of the meat with the flavorful extractions.
The atmosphere is redolent of 18th-century Europe and the staff are dressed in native costumes. The service was sprightly and complete and the house wine is a quite nice red that complemented my meal superbly.
From journal Cruel Russian Girls in Estonia