Eating: Athens, GreeceYum
Athens, Greece, is one of the world’s most famous cities – we were there to explore it (and eat!)
When I told my friends that I had booked a holiday to Greece, all were excited, but all who had been themselves had one piece of advice: don’t spend too long in Athens. Citing reasons such as poverty in the city, to there just not being enough to do, people didn’t seem to like the city. Naturally, with this advice ringing in my ears, I was skeptical and expecting to feel the same way.
I don’t know if I’m missing something, or if I was in a different city to some of these people, or maybe I do holidays in a different way, but Athens was everything I hoped for and more. Wandering around the city, the streets aren’t always beautiful, but the people are beautiful. Enormous historical ruins can be found in the most unexpected places, with very little description other than their previous function, leaving you to admire them, imagine those who visited these structures centuries before.
We met some real characters throughout our time in Athens. Being from Ireland, I appreciate a friendly city, where people are happy to help, recommend, and just chat. Athens is such a city. In our first visit to a Greek Taverna, we were welcomed with open arms. George, one of the servers at Liondi, asked our names and where we were from, taking time to tell us a little about himself and recommend some dishes. On learning that there were Irish in the restaurant, the chef then emerged from the kitchen, eager to tell us about the 18 months he spent living in Skibereen, southern Ireland, showing us pictures and newspaper clippings about the restaurant he ran there.
I ended up ordering a plate of Zucchini fritters with a side of tomato & cucumber salad, while my partner in crime (a meat eater) ordered the Moussaka with a side of garlic bread. The portions in Athens are nothing if not big, which we were about to learn. Having ordered smaller portions, I was able to finish my meal. My other half, however, suffered at the hands of a portion of food in Greece, and couldn’t quite finish everything. While tucking into our meal, the chef arrived out with 2 glasses of his own Rosé wine, made on their vineyard outside Athens (an interesting wine, certainly not the typical Rosé…), another testament to Greek hospitality. But down to business: the food.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with zucchini fritters, but I was certainly happy with what I got. Golden, crispy balls of zucchini, feta, and lemon – wonderfully crisp on the outside, and creamy and moist on the inside, with a great zing of lemon. They were delicious, and by far the best of the many I had while travelling in Greece and the nearby islands! The side salad, while simple, was testament to the quality of fruit & vegetables in Greece. The tomatoes are truly the star of the show, ridiculously sweet and meaty. The moussaka was creamy, meaty, and full of Aubergine – just what it should be. Overall, we were well fed and happy.
Of course, there are countless tourist trap restaurants in Athens, with many restauranteurs trying to lure you into their restaurants as you pass by. While we ate in other spots, some were mediocre. One, however, stood out from the rest.
Deciding that night to check out a local taverna near our apartment, we wandered towards To Kati Allo, just behind the Acropolis Museum. While in a touristy area, this small taverna is far from what you would expect in this area. Being a taverna, most of the dishes are made up for the day, so arriving at around 9.30pm there wasn’t a whole lot left for us to eat. Settling for a greek salad and some grilled chicken, we left satisfied after a simple meal. Having seen grilled sea bream on the menu, however, I was determined to return the next when when we were guaranteed it would be available. And boy am I glad I did.
After a sweaty, exhausting trek up to the acropolis in scorching heat, I have never been happier than I was sitting down to a beautiful Sea bream, roasted over charcoals, flavoured with salt and lemon. This is eating at its simplest, and its finest. I can honestly say I haven’t had fish this good in a very long time. Incredibly fresh, with crispy skin and soft, moist flesh, this was incredible eating. Only my need to explore more restaurants and tavernas stopped me from going back for a third visit.
While we’re on it, the Acropolis is well worth the visit while you’re in Athens (though as the main tourist attraction, I’ll be surprised if you didn’t know that already!). The ascent to the top is sweaty, and the ticket in is expensive, but the view and the architecture is second to none. Wear comfy shoes and bring plenty of sunscreen and water, and you’re good to go! You’ll be amazed by the view of the city from the top.
Just to witness the juxtaposition of ancient history and modern life in Athens from the top of the acropolis is worth the walk to the top!
One great example of modernity meeting history is the view of the Acropolis towering over Plaka/Monastiraki. It’s amazing to see the ruins of the temple overlooking the bustling market streets below. Find a restaurant with a stable to get a drink or a bite to eat, and sit to take in the splendour of the view.
While many are correct in saying that Athens isn’t the most affluent or polished city, it’s beautiful in the ways that count. There’s amazing architecture around every corner, and countless friendly faces who will help you find what you’re looking for if you get lost. If you’re heading to Greece, it’s worth visiting the capital if only for a day or two, just for a taste of life there today.
Stay tuned for lots of info about travelling around the Greek island of Aegina (on a quad bike)!
Where to eat:
To Kati Allo – Try the grilled sea bream!
Liondi – The courgette fritters are a must!
Where we stayed:
A wonderful AirBNB apartment near the centre of Athens
What to see:
The Acropolis – Such amazing views and architecture!
The many market streets of Plaka and Monastiraki
Enjoy a picnic in one of the countless parks around Athens filled with sights and unusual monuments
The Temple of Olympian Zeus – More beautiful historical architecture
Wander, explore, and learn!