Yes, Mamma Mia, today's post is about our recent gourmet escapade in Athens ! Do not read this blog if you already feel peckish...
Most people go to Greece to relax on an island, or to visit the historic heritage of the cradle of European civilisation and democracy. So did we, we spent several days on Santorini and visited archeological sites in the capital. But what I want to talk about today is the sublime decadence we spoilt ourselves with in the Athens.
Athens food's scene has tremendously evolved since the country has started lifting itself from the crisis. We got blessed to experience traditional places that have been around for a long time, that have offered a constant quality and care for clients that resisted difficult times, but also the new scene, that proudly display Greek products and passion for ingredients with flair.
We were famished when we arrived in downtown Athens, and we literally jumped when we saw that next door to our hotel was O Kostas, THE place to go for the best souvlaki in the world (yep !).
We were not alone, but the wait was absolutely worthwhile. I watched them prepared other customers souvlaki, totally hypnotised by the movements of filling an wrapping the bread !
Our taxi driver from the airport had recommended a place for sweet things, right in the centre of the commercial streets : Loukoumades. Think about golfball sized fried donughts, soaked in honey. You can add extra flavouring and toppings, I chose the classic version with cinnamon powder on top, which is apparently the way true Athenians do it !
After our tour of the Acropolis, we had cocktails and dinner on the rooftop bar of our hotel the Electra Palace Hotel. What a view ! Difficult to focus on the plate content when you have this view ! We contemplated the sun setting down for the night from our very romantic eagle nest.
The next day after watching the changing the guard and visiting the Benaki museum, we entered Yoleni's store. We left with 25 kg of grocery shopping (to be fair, Yoleni's team delivered all well packed at our hotel !).
There we found a real treasure, something we never tasted before : the spoon sweets ! Our favourites are the green pistachios and the figs. We brought back as well, as a gift for a food aficionado, some wild olive oil, made with olives cultivated in remote areas, meaning that their DNA hasn't been compromised for probably 5000 years...
We also learned there how to enjoy bottarga, which is compressed grey mullet fish eggs. Back home, we know enjoy it with shavings of lime, it's amazing. Basically, the Gods on Olympus eat that !
Next day we woke up early to visit the local Central Market. It is to for the faint-hearted thought.. The meat section in particular.. but the fish area is gorgeous ! As funny as it sounds, we brought back child sauce from a quirky shop on the north side of the market
We went back via the commercial streets and found our way to Nolan for lunch. It was actually right on the other side of our hotel.
Nolan blends greek and asian cuisines in a tight selection of shareable dishes, sourcing its influence in the Chef's own heritage (Greek father and Japanese mother). It is fresh, delicate, tasty, really enjoyable ! Nice atmosphere, nice people also.
For dinner, we remained in the mood for a twist, and went to Funky Gourmet, which is a @-Michelin star awarded restaurant. this has probably been our biggest surprise around a table this year. The restaurant is very avant-garde, in the old Keramikos neighbourhood. Dishes are super playful, and do not shy away from both traditional and molecular inspirations. Our tastebuds were blown away by the Greek Salad Granita for instance ! And oh my my, the bottarga tartlet made with white chocolate. El Bulli's training, no doubt !
Next to our hotel was also an old institution, perfect for lunch, only Greek home made signature dishes : Tzitzikas kai Mermigas.
Also a perfect stop in Plaka, off the path our tourist groups, ut right next to the Roman Forum : Blue Fish. super friendly service, fresh dishes, large choice of daily options. We saw that next table had guests with very specific dietary requirements, and they were super accommodating.
And finally, for a romantic evening, I would recommend a visit to Varoulko Seaside. Quite famous, full of nice looking people, but it does deliver in the plate with perfectly executed fish dishes and a nice view on the harbour, as well as an intimate atmosphere. Reservation mandatory, ~30 min from Athens centre by taxi. The restaurant will call a taxi back downtown for you.
I am sure there are plenty of other options, don't hesitate to drop me a note in the comments on where are your favourite foodie spots in Athens !
If you'd like to know more about organising a gateway in Athens, you can contact me at email@example.com.
Bon appetit !