One of the reasons that I chose Greece for the destination for Mr S’s birthday surprise was our mutual love of Greek food. My research led me to so many wonderful restaurants in Athens that it was hard to narrow down but of course, I did and I thought I’d share with you the places that we ate during our two days there.
1. Varoulko Seaside
With only one full day in Athens, I want to choose the perfect place for lunch. I wanted somewhere that served traditional Greek food that was guaranteed to be good quality but with a casual vibe. I investigated lots of the roof top restaurants with a view of the Acropolis but they just kept coming up with terrible reviews on TripAdvsior. So in the end in I chose Michelin-starred Varoulko Seaside which boasts a perfect seaview and was actually created to feel like a boat on land.
Opening in Piraeus in 1987 chef Lefteris Lazarou aimed to create a unique seafood experience inspired by his love of the sea – having worked in ship’s kitchens since he was a boy before learning even more about cooking from working on cruise ships. It was in 2002 when he achieved the recognition of a Michelin star that was the first ever awarded to a restaurant serving Greek food in Greece. The restaurant location changed but it can now be found in Mikrolimano Marina where you can watch boats bob up and down from the window.
The food itself is unmistakably Greek but with an elegant twist – we started with deliciously fresh ceviche as well as lightly cooked prawns. We also had a bottle of rosé as that’s our holiday tradition.
The chef is keen to stick with tradition and guests can order a more simple lunch of bread and dips. Mr S loves taramosalata so that was a must order for him.
We didn’t order this dish (I think it was sea bass) as it was a little taster but it came as a little with a perfect crispy skin and the instruction to mix the little side sauces.
We also shared a delicious sea bream which was filleted and plated for us and served with roasted vegetables. I loved this kind of dish – simple fish, perfectly cooked and served.
My ridiculous amount of research paid off as Varoulko Seaside really was the perfect place to take Mr S for lunch and I highly recommend it.
2. GB Roof Garden Restaurant and Bar
I’ve mentioned this restaurant in all of my Athens posts so I think that you can tell I liked it! It was the only restaurant with an Acropolis view that didn’t get bad reviews plus it was located right in our hotel, Hotel Grande Bretagne, it seemed the perfect place to book. Also as we got to the hotel at about 7pm, it was great just to be able to head up there for dinner and stumble back after.
They don’t take reservations out on the terrace (though you should still book in advance) so we had a drink at the bar beforehand. The restaurant has a great vibe – it’s romantic but buzzy at the same time – and of course the view is utterly exquisite. Unlike the others in the list, GB Roof Garden Restaurant and Bar doesn’t have a Michelin star but it would be definitely my top recommendation for an all rounder restaurant. You can read more about it in my full review of Hotel Grande Bretagne.
Widely regarded as the best restaurant in Athens and whole hearted recommended by Binny, I knew Spondi would be the perfect choice for a very special dinner. Spondi has two-Michelin stars (one of two in Athens the other being Funky Gourmet) and has won numerous other awards and appeared in several ‘best of’ lists.
As we were there during the summer months, we ate in the hotel’s beautiful courtyard but as the weather gets cooler dinner moves inside to the restaurant’s elegant dining room. The restaurant is located near Panathenian Marble Stadium (the original modern Olympic Stadium) and was established in 1996 by Apostolos Trastelis , winning the first Michelin star and maintaining the second ever since 2006. Chef Angelos Lantos is dedicated to the freshest of produce and presents a choice of different menus based on seasonality, guests can choose à la carte or opt for one of the tasting menus ‘Initiation’ or ‘Discovery.’ We went for the former and took the advice of the sommelier for a bottle of Greek wine to go with it.
I don’t tend to make notes at special occasion meals like this so I won’t go into vast amounts of detail but the food is creative, beautifully presented and influenced by French cuisine.
My starter was John Dory cooked in salt and herb juice – is was very lightly cooked and beautifully done. We also opted to try the langoustine with yuzu which was another delicious dish.
Main course for me was a perfectly cooked sea bass served with date mussels, courgettes, calamari and Lemon Thyme Tea. I’ve never had ‘date’ mussels before and the name derives from the resemblance to dates, and nothing to do with the taste. Mr S had duck from ‘Challans’ and it was served with potato ravioli, yellow beetroot and red onion.
Cheese was an optional course (is cheese ever really optional?) and there’s a great selection of which we sampled a few.
Dessert was Chocolate ‘Coeur de Guanaja’ and the light ‘Opaline’ which is a mix of Greek yogurt, candied mango, banana sorbet and cardamom plus a little surprise for Mr S. We usually try a good mix of restaurants with local places as well as the more trendy buzzy places and I usually only book one real gourmet fine dining experience. In this case Spondi was the ideal to complement the more relaxed options that we had throughout the rest of the holiday.
Have you been to Athens? Where did you eat?
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