Savoring The Many Tastes of Athens
Culture and cuisine come alive in Athens
You will need a guide to show you the culinary delicacies, and explain how they are made. Nikos Theodoris and Anna Manias own Greeking.me – an award-winning tour service offering an Athens walking tour designed for food and culture lovers, which is both entertaining and steeped in history. Stories are woven from conquests, philosophers, art and ideologies, which are then wrapped around tasting the food while visiting bakery shops, tavernas, charcuteries, coffee roasters, and feta pie shops. You will visit the famous establishments, as well as the little hole-in-the-wall places during this well-paced, four-hour walk through central Athens.
Greeks love their aperitifs, especially tsipouro which is always accompanied by a nibble of mezedes or snacks. For a most appropriate place to stay (and to sip your tsipouro with a stunning view of the Acropolis), it has to be Hotel Grande Bretagne. She is a majestic hotel in the center of Athens with an old-world charm and impeccable service reminiscent of Paris. After checking in, head up to the Roof Garden Bar for out-of-this-world views of Acropolis. Be sure to ask for the bar supervisor, Spiros Mantzafos, who can further your culinary education by telling you all about tsipouro – including what it represents to the Greeks, and even how it is made.
While George II was the King of Greece, the King George Hotel opened its doors in 1936. This beautiful boutique hotel is the sister hotel of Hotel Grande Bretagne next door. And while this is not ancient history, Tudor Hall Restaurant shares a highly awarded wine cellar with the Grande Bretagne, and can come up with some historic vintages for you. Reserve a table in the elegant dining room, or step out to the less formal open patio to “have dinner with the Acropolis” while dining on local delicacies. Head sommelier Evangelos Psofidis will be happy to suggest an excellent Greek wine while sharing the history of the vineyard's region. His pairings are perfection with Chef de Cuisine Alexandros Koskinas’ creations at Tudor Hall and Executive Chef Sotiris Evangelou’s Grande Bretagne cuisine. Two other fascinating pieces of the culinary culture in Athens are Bottarga and Pavlovas. Bottarga is Italian for the Greek word Avgotaraho, which is a paste of Grey Mullet roe and salt that is preserved in a pure beeswax coating. Established in 1856, Trikalinos Bottarga is considered to be the very best. Still operated by the same family in Athens, it can be found in high-end restaurants all over the world. I suggest you try it warm on toast rounds with a glass of champagne. It is served in Tudor Hall Restaurant, as well as Michelin-starred chef Lefteris Lazarou’s fabulous seaside restaurant Varoulko in Pireaus.
The origin of the Pavlova is a disputed one – thanks to the Australians and New Zealanders verses the English and Americans, and even the Germans vying for authorship of the first recipe. But none claim it as their own with more vitriol than the Kiwis and Aussies. As the story goes, it was named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova who toured Australia in 1926. In Australia and New Zealand, it is even elevated to national status and served for special holidays.
A great example is Effie Gialousi, a well-admired Athens chef who has opened her shop, Pavlova (Empedokleous 33, Athina 116 35). She is famous for bringing these puffy, light “cakes” of sugar and egg white filled with whipped cream flavored with lemon, chocolate or topped with strawberries, into the realm of the gourmet. Light as a cloud, they are divine. Pop into her shop to taste for yourself.
As you gain a deeper appreciation of Athens, you soon learn that there is never a shortage of food and culture!
Photography: Tudor Hall
Photography: Tudor Hall The story of a culture and country is told in part by the food. In Athens, the traveler wishing to learn its history has only to visit the market stalls, the street vendor's cart, and the venerated shops and restaurants to...
Greeking.me greeking.me Hotel Grande Bretagne Vasileos Georgiou A 1, Athina 105 64 grandebretagne.gr King George Hotel Vasileos Georgiou A 3, Athina 105 64 kinggeorgeathens.com Photography: GB Roof Garden