Tallinn or London? A Food-Lover Answers

Editor's note: Lisett Luik is an Estonian studying in London. One of the things she loves most is good food, so she kindly offered to give her view on the relative virtues of Tallinn, her home, and London, where she spends most of her time.

For the past four years, I have shared my time between Estonia and England. That means a lot of time spent in airports, several lost adapters and perpetual confusion when crossing streets because the cars always come from the side I’m least expecting to see them on.

It also gives me a good position to compare the merits of Tallinn and London. And to be quite honest, I can’t really say that either city comes out on top – I love them both.

Tallinn is my home, I grew up here and I’ve always taken its quaint size and seaside views for granted. London was the city of my dreams, the one I always wanted to get to. Now I’m there, and slowly, the doubledecker buses and perpetual cloudiness have also come to signify home. But when it comes to actual day-to-day life, these cities couldn’t be more different. So I’m going to take this opportunity to compare my two beloved cities in terms of one of my other big loves – food!

So how do London and Tallinn compare for a foodie? It’s well known that London’s restaurant scene is amazing – it’s the home of numerous Michelin-starred eateries and has been the birthplace of many a food trend. However, a little less known fact is that its street food has undergone explosive evolution in the past few years. Food trucks, previously more associated with cities like New York and Los Angeles, have come to the Big Smoke.

A London pub fish finger sandwich, from a pub 300 metres from the Victoria & Albert Museum, photo by Stuart Garlick

A personal favourite of mine is the Engine hot dog truck that can be found in Shoreditch on most days (although occasionally it also shows up in Canary Wharf, the new financial heart of the city). Their offerings include classics like pork sausage hot dogs with onions, but also more intriguing specialties like a chorizo hot dog or a japanese-inspired one called Yoshi Dog, which includes seaweed.   Other London street food offerings have proven so popular that they became permanent restaurants – a good example is MEATliquor, an unashamedly calorific burger restaurant which started as a food truck. Chef Yianni Papoutsis’ creations proved so popular that now you can’t have his amazing Dead Hippy Burger or Bingo Chicken Wings without queueing for up to an hour on busy nights.

While Tallinn’s restaurant scene isn’t yet as diverse as London’s, one way in which Tallinn wins over London, food-wise, is the availability of fresh produce.  London has a couple of great markets – Borough Market in London Bridge is my favourite – but they tend to be high-end and gimmicky. These markets are great for a Saturday afternoon’s walk, as they offer plenty of tasting opportunities and a variety of snacks. But when it comes to buying fruit, vegetables, meat or fish, London’s markets tend to be more expensive than the supermarkets, which in turn have lousy selections. Because of that, I much prefer Tallinn’s Kesk and Nõmme markets, which have a variety of fresh local produce at reasonable prices sold by adorable grandmothers. If you’re particularly lucky, you can also pick up some delicious pickled mushrooms or home-made apple jam.

Aside from the markets,  in Tallinn I’m also never too far from a huge superstore selling everything I could ever possibly require for even the fanciest, most complicated dinner. In Central London where I live, all shops are tiny (rents are insanely high, so it’s no wonder) and the selection suffers. Therefore, even though I love the options London has for eating out, I prefer the food shopping options in Tallinn for those nights when I want to cook my own dinner. In an ideal world, I’d combine both,  but for the moment my sights are set on making the most of London’s restaurants and saving market-shopping for holidays at home in Estonia!

Lisett Luik