Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Olde Hansa

One of the things I looked forward to the most was a restaurant called Olde Hansa. My friend Australian H had highly recommended it to my parents when they went, and the same went for me. The tour book also said it was a must-see, namely for the fact that it was a ridiculously medieval-themed restaurant that had such spectacular things as live minstrels, fully-costumed wait staff, generous portions of period-appropriate succulent food, and an accompanying gift shop where you could purchase any of the goods of your desire spotted in the restaurant. OMG how could I live with myself if I missed out on this opportunity?!?

My sister of course, had to be convinced to go. Cheese central was clearly what this place promised to be (though unfortunately not of the literal con queso variety), and I at the center of it, chittering and golf-clapping away, no doubt. She let me have my wish though, seeing as how we would only have a few opportunities for dinner there, plus the fact that I would most likely not shut up about it if we failed to go, so away we went on our second night there. I was delighted. She rolled her eyes.

I was enthralled with the place. It was all it promised to be and much more. I was not disappointed (as I seem not to be much, lately, which is awesome).

The restaurant has expanded so much due to popularity that not only does it have a several story main restaurant building and terrace, plus additional building for its gift shop, it now also has a separate building for additional seating. This is where we ended up for dinner.

It was as guaranteed – dimly lit atmosphere, painted walls that told of times of yore, minstrels singing bawdy songs about…something (in a language that was clearly not English…the assumption is that it was in Estonian), even banners and shields of houses that may or may not have ever existed:

But the fun was just starting. The cloaked waitress (with really fabulous leathern slippers, available in the gift shop for a whopping 120euros) led us to our appropriately uncomfortable wooden table, and handed us remarkably well-done but almost-incomprehensible menus. Here is a great example of what one of the pages was like:

It says, “Drinks in the Banqueting hall for the Nobles
We call upon all our Powers
To mix Delectable Drinks that
Settle full Stomachs and
soothe the Soul
For the enjoyment of our
Blessed Guests”

Great stuff, don’t get me wrong. But when you’re trying to order your food and drink for the evening, sometimes this gets a little tiresome…especially when you’re trying to read this amazingly verbose old verbiage by candlelight (which is all the lighting they had, minus whatever natural light was seeping in through the doorways/windows…which wasn’t that much, considering how light it stays so late) and trying to determine where the menu items actually start.

We did actually decipher it though, eventually. And ordering we did do. Heartily so. First up, drinks for us noble ladies! Light cinnamon beer for me and sweet spiced (white) wine for my sister:

Delicious, unsurprisingly. Really was cinnamoned beer, though not particularly sweet. Really refreshing and quite light. The white wine was pretty sweet, spiced in a cold-mulled kind of way, but wonderful. It’s how I imagined it being in Game of Thrones. This only made me more excited for our mains:

I ordered the divine leg of pork with beer syrup:

Hilariously this actually meant pork knuckle, which I was not expecting. For whatever reason I expected a tenderloin, or some other roast, rather than a joint, which was foolish of me, if I had thought hard enough. If I were a noble lord back in the day, I would be eating delicious joints of meat, of course! Not some small morsels of bare substance. And henceforth I feasted. And it was good.

My sister ordered the grand leg of duck in saffron sauce, which was rather saffroned indeed:

I was impressed with the amount of spice they put on that thing. We calculated that they must go through hundreds of pounds of saffron a year – all from this one restaurant. They also have a cheesecake with saffron cream, but I’ll get to that a bit later.

Both entrees were succulent and delicious, as any noble feast should be. The sides were incredibly delicious as well – honeyed turnips, pickles, and some sort of grain that looked a lot like hominy but wasn’t.

And despite the fact that we were quite stuffed by the end of this veritable feast of meats, I was too curious about the desserts to turn them down. I mean, take a look at this dessert page and tell me that you wouldn’t have said yes as well:

“Rose pudding savoury – Velvet Delight of the Nobility.” Velvet delight of the nobility?!? I exclaimed with glee at my sister that it clearly needed to be ordered just for namesake alone! She disagreed with me, especially after hearing my stories of how every other rose dessert I’d ever had in my life had tasted disgusting (it’s true, they usually smell great but taste awful)…but how could you go wrong with something that claimed to be the “velvet delight of the nobility”? I just knew you couldn’t.

She opted instead for the apple and honey under a crisp coat with almond milk. We argued back and forth for a time, even asked our hooded waitress for a suggestion, but alas came to no conclusion because our waitress just remarked that we should order both (useless, in other words). So…we ordered both. Stuffed though we were, we ordered both. You’re only going to live once!

And boy, were they something.

My sister’s dessert was exactly as promised – hot, crispy, and it came with the most amazing carmelized almond milk this world has ever seen (even had little slivers of almonds in it). Incredible.

And the rose dessert.

Finally, a rose dessert that doesn’t taste like poo! Literally! It was smooth, incredibly fragrant, with just the right amount of sweetness and creaminess with a little bit of crunch. It was incredible. Apparently it’s a hell of a lot of mascarpone cheese mixed with something that really smells and tastes like the smell of roses…what exactly that is, I didn’t ask and I don’t want to know. After seeing the movie “Perfume” and reading the book, I’m more than happy not knowing the distilling process of any scent, thank you very much. But it was divine. And being fake nobility for the evening, it was indeed, my delight.

Oh yes, Olde Hansa delivered as promised. More than promised, actually, because...we went again, the next day.

Now now, don’t get ahead of yourselves, it was only for dessert and a drink in the middle of the day, but we did indeed go again. I guess the charms of Olde Hansa finally worked themselves on my sister because she was the one who suggested we stop in once more before heading back to Helsinki after our long weekend. So stop in we did.

We got a berry schnapps and the saffron cheesecake to share (or as they called it, Kitchenmaster Rickard’s filling cake with saffron pudding):

Ridiculously delicious again, and incredibly filled with saffron. I can’t believe how much saffron this place uses just for everyday consumption. They must be the second largest consumer of saffron in the world, and all because they want to show that back in the day spices were only used by noblemen in fancy feasts, therefore to keep the theme alive, if you are a noble person eating a noble feast, your food should clearly have hella spices. Hella. Spices.

Anyway, Olde Hansa did it again and we left feeling satisfied and happy with our time. Even my sister went away smiling, having gathered fond memories of the place she once rebuffed as a cheesy dinner locale. Oh how happy I am to have shown her the glory of medieval dorkdom!

Olde Hansa

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