A taste of Athens

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Like any major city Athens has a real mix of flavours and foods that are a collection of the finest fare from across the whole of Greece. As the capital city they naturally want to capture the best of everything for the different nationalities that visit every year.

My favourite food…

Mediterranean Salad
Mediterranean Salad

Even though the tomato season is around June-August I still couldn’t help but notice the plump red salad fruit was tastier than ever before, nothing can be worse than the mediocre selection we find in our UK supermarkets. Just simply served in local olive oil with olives and red onion it was bursting with flavour, and although it’s a meal in itself it’s ideal as a side to compliment any main dish. As for my favourite food I am a little on the fence which I appreciate is a bit of a cop out! However I am split between the two well known Greek dishes of Souvlaki with succulent herbed meats such as pork or venison and the other national dish Mousaka. Two dishes so delicious but so different they can hardly be compared. Traditional layers of aubergine or potato with minced lamb and baked slow for a slightly crispy topping. The flavour from tomato, onion, garlic and spices such as cinnamon really bring the dish together and it’s an absolute must for any visitor to Greece.

Loukamadas
Loukoumades

My two favourite restaurants…

Kastelorizo
Kastelorizo

It is really hard to pick a ‘favourite’ restaurant because firstly so many have so much to offer, but secondly, there were hundreds I never got to try! How can I produce a favourite?! A couple worth noting from my trip however have to be Kastelorizo, a seaside restaurant serving the freshest of seafood in a beautiful sun-trap about 35 minutes, south of Athens. They were kind enough to host a table of 20 for lunch and it was a stunning location by a small secluded beach. I started with Dolmados, a fish and sultana risotto wrapped in grape vine leaves, washed down with some lovely local white wine. This was followed by a Seafood Goubetsi, containing orzo, mussels, prawns, squid and octopus in a creamy tomato sauce. You can definitely taste the difference from the restaurants inland where the seafood is maybe not quite as fresh. To finish we were treated to a typical sweet treat called Loukoumades, small donut balls served with cinnamon, honey and vanilla ice cream. The perfect end to the perfect meal!

View from Kastelorizo
View from Kastelorizo

Later in the week we were leaving a cocktail party, at The Skyfall Bar near The Acropolis, in search of some food. Dodging the lightening storm we headed straight to Monastaraki and found Thanasis a bustling restaurant just hidden out of sight, off the main square. It was full of locals and being a Saturday people were only just arriving to have some dinner at 11pm, following their siesta in the afternoon. There was a brilliant acoustic Greek band of two playing beside us, getting everybody in the weekend mood. We ordered pork gyros, lamb kebabs along with grilled cheeses and tomato salads. The owners were lovely and whilst being rushed off their feet we were still attended to expertly, and made to feel welcome. Once finished and feeling VERY full they came over with a different style of paprika spiced kebab to try for free, followed by two shots of Tequila to finish! This was a great visit and a fantastic lively restaurant for a Saturday night.

Gyros
Gyros

Food not to miss when in Athens…

So much cheese!
So much cheese!

Cheese. Need I say anymore?! My dairy consumption in Athens tripled during my 7 day trip. However, it was more than worth it. Naturally you can find Feta practically growing on trees, whether served alone or with a Greek Salad. Another one worth trying is Saganaki, a grilled cheese served with a squeeze of lemon, a very similar consistency to Haloumi but a great side with or without a salad. The cheeses easily stand alone and do not need anything with them; however it’s also common to find appetisers such as cheese croquettes or grilled cheese and ham filo rolls. My final advice is to track down some Spanakopita, translated as a Spinach Pastry. A divine mixture of spinach, feta, onion and egg, layered with filo pastry. This is a perfect snack to consume whilst wondering the streets of Athens.

Spina
Spanakopita

My next culinary adventure…

When I return to Athens I would also aim to get up to Thessaloniki. An increasingly popular city further north, full of hidden gems like the colourful flower market in Louloudadika. Or maybe seek out some koulouri (street-food snacks) from the Modiano and Kapani markets! A week in Greece wasn’t long enough to seek out all of the heavenly delicacies on offer, and my Tesco’s pot of Tsatziki isn’t quite cutting it!

Pork Souvlaki
Pork Souvlaki

First time in Athens?…

– Still water is served with every meal, coffee break or cocktail. There is no need to ever ask for water.

– Similarly a bowl of nuts always comes with any drink order whether in a cafe or bar – if allergic make sure you let them know straight away!

– Bread is also served before every meal, this is usually free, but some restaurants will add a small charge.

– Tipping! A standard 10% tip is the norm, but feel free to give more if you wish.

 

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