For me, Athens feels like coming home. I am quickly embraced by my Greek heritage, in the faces of the people, the food, the culture, the filoxenia*…
Like a fine piece of Greek marble that becomes shiny with time and wear, Athens has polished itself so that while you can still find the busy, friendly tavernas to tuck into a souvlaki, there are many layers of sophistication beyond this to explore.
But first, lunch in Monastraki, outdoors for an easy going meal of dips, zucchini fritters, pork souvlaki and a Greek beer at Stathmos Bairaktari. Then you can wander the little streets of Monastraki with the rest of the tourists before stopping for a Caffe Frappe at Piazza Duomo.
And try to resist munching into a cob of hot, chargrilled sweetcorn while you are wandering around!
In Mitropoleos Square, the Barbounaki seafood house spills out onto the square and serves the creamiest white fish roe taramasalata, fresh chargrilled sardines and octopus with my favourite hand cut home style fried potatoes.
Tazza in Petraki street, is a bar, cafe and restaurant with an OTT Baroque decor that is actually so well executed you feel like you are in a museum. It pumps from morning til night and the coffee is really good!
Foodie hotel Ergon House has everything you need…a Fornos (bakery oven) on the premises, coffee roasting, fresh food market, high end deli, cafe, gift store…it’s got it all (even meat imported from Australia!). Have brunch or a bougatsa under the indoor olive tree, or choose from their eclectic menu for lunch or dinner.
Brettos bar in Plaka is the place for ouzo tasting out of the barrel (try the 42%), flavoured liqueurs and masticha. The wall of back lit coloured liqueur bottles will beckon you in with its promise of a mystery elixir! Say hi to Irini for me.
Also in Plaka, Thespis serves flavoursome Cretan style food if you are after something other than souvlaki. We had calamari in pesto, calf liver with a honey rosemary sauce and fabulous crisp sliced potatoes for a sunny outdoor lunch.
Wandering around the charming alleys of Plaka at night, is so pleasureable on a warm night, and you will be spoiled for choice with bars and restaurants to eat at. To me, it is made for a mezze crawl… a bite here, a drink there, a walk to the next place…ah, life’s good!
The tables from Diogenis Taverna, in the heart of Plaka, spill out outdoors under a canopy of trees and it’s a fine place to be on a warm night, tucking into their slow cooked lamb in Avgolemono sauce.
If you find yourself in the beautiful neighbourhood of Glyfada, half an hour from the centre of Athens, then try Mezze. We shared a feast of of Greek favourites with a twist, including grilled haloumi, a beetroot salad and their showstopping souvla carved at the table.
For the open hearted foodie traveller, the centre of Athens has a lot to offer. But, be warned, if you truly immerse yourself and surrender to the Greek food and hospitality, you may never want to come back!
*P.S. ‘Filoxenia’ in Greek means ‘friend of stranger’ – it is the foundation of Greek hospitality and is a philosophy that runs deep in the Greek culture.