I can’t believe it’s already been 4 years since I first visited Greece. This time I was there for almost a week – Saturday night to Thursday night – and it was mainly for work. And this time, the quality of the food we had everywhere really made a big impact on me; I came back to London thoroughly missing the food and the weather.

I arrived at my hotel at about 9pm on the Saturday night and after dropping everything off in my room, headed straight out again for nourishment. Nearby to my hotel is Ravaisi, a souvlaki place with outdoor seating (packed) and a long queue for takeaway – promising signs indeed! At €2 for each sandwich, I thought things would be petite and hence ordered one pork gyros sandwich and one of chicken too. They were huge – each the size of London burritos – and, of course, I couldn’t finish them. They were excellent though!

Gyros! At €2 each, I thought they'd be petite and hence ordered one pork and one chicken. They're the size of London burritos and they're fantastic!

The next day was a free day for me before work would kick in. The weather was beautiful and I spent the morning wandering around the Ancient Agora …

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… and then the Roman Agora.

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Lunch was at a suitably Greek time of 3pm and I headed over to Oineas, which seemed to have good reviews on Google. I wasn’t disappointed.

Al Fresco at Oineas

The restaurant had a good selection of meze and main courses and solo diners can still have a selection of meze by just choosing those that are offered by the piece. The cuisine is Greek but with a modern twist. Highlights for me were the incredible cheese pie made with kadaifi pastry and then sat in a pool of melted cheese …

Cheese Pie

… and this homemade little burger patty with a delicious spicy sauce.

Homemade Little Burger

My main course was a tender grilled calamari and homemade fries and its size did defeat me after all that initial cheese and meat.

Grilled Calamari and Fries

I thought I couldn’t fit in another bite but when a little slice of syrup soaked walnut cake was deposited on my table along with the bill, I tucked into that too!

Walnut Cake

That afternoon was spent at the National Archaelogical Museum, which is truly worth a visit if you have the time. The treasures within are indeed jaw-dropping.

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Dinner that evening was with an old friend I was meeting again after many years and he took me to spiti, an Italian restaurant in the outskirts of the city. Now here was where the locals eat! We split a couple of excellent salads. Here’s a tomato and caper leaf salad with a local cheese …

Tomato Salad with Caper Leaves

… and a refreshing salmon and avocado salad.

Salmon and Avocado Salad

My main course was a grilled croaker served with a little mound of Swiss chard and tomatoes and an excellent lemon sauce.

Grilled Croaker with Swiss Chard

We couldn’t fit any more after this, which was a shame as the food really was very good. I loved seeing another side of Athens.

On my first night after work, a colleague brought us to Efxaris, around the corner from Monastiraki station. Despite its super touristy location, our colleague had been brought there in the past by an Athenian and the restaurant was indeed filled with locals. Between 6 of us, we split a fine moussaka, …

Moussaka

… a ridiculous meat platter (grilled meat, more grilled meat, grilled chicken, grilled kebabs, gyros, etc), …

Meat Plate

… an equally ridiculous seafood platter (fried and grilled and boiled things galore), …

Seafood Plate

… a Greek salad (not pictured), and finally a couple mountains of Greek yogurt with honey. Prices were extremely reasonable and I’d definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a place in the heart of the city.

A mountain of Greek yogurt and honey!

Sometime the next day, I discovered Greek spoon sweets, the jammy candied fruits traditionally served with a spoon to guests as a sweet welcome. These little figs were insanely delicious and I after this introduction, I bought a couple of jars of spoon sweets to take home and we’re enjoying them with Greek yoghurt at home.

Today I discovered Greek spoon sweets. These were little figs candied in lots of syrup. You eat them with a spoon and have them with Greek coffee. Sweet but delicious!

The second evening, another Athens resident referred us to Scholarchio, a highlight of my trip. Yes, it’s quite touristy but you do find locals there too and after our meal, my Greek friend did deem the food very good and the flavours correct. And best of all is the price – for groups, it’s €15 a head for a set number of dishes to share, mineral water, another drink (ouzo, beer, wine or soft drink), bread and dessert. To aid with selection of dishes (we got to choose 17 between 7 of us), the waiter brings a massive plate of the available prepared dishes …

The selection of meze at dinner yesterday! We had 17 dishes between 7 of us... 😬

… and also recites what can be ordered freshly made from the kitchen. You make your selection, start with what’s already ready to go, and wait for the rest of the dishes to be prepared. Let’s see, clockwise from the right in the photo below, we have giant beans, stewed pork in wine, dolmades in lemon sauce, and tyrokauteri (a fantastic spicy cheese).

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Let’s see, left to right below, we have fava (one of my favourite dips, Greek yellow split pea puree), tzatziki, taramasalata, and spicy pork sausages.

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More! Clockwise from the bottom: a new favourite – horta (boiled wild greens), another meat dish (beef?), meatballs in tomato sauce.

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It didn’t end there! The freshly fried stuff coming out of their kitchen was all excellent. Fried whitebait was crisp and non-greasy.

Fried Whitebait

Saganaki (fried cheese) was very popular at our table …

Saganaki

… as were fried aubergines.

Fried Aubergines

One of our other meat dishes was a tigania chicken, a sauteed chicken dish made with lemon and mustard. There was also a tigania pork with balsamic vinegar and honey.

Tigania Chicken

Courgette and feta fritters were also delicious if a bit salty; nothing a lot of tzatziki couldn’t solve though!

Courgette and Feta Fritters

There were other dishes too – too many to keep track of! I recall a Greek salad and fried courgettes and fried potatoes. And maybe another meat dish. How many is that already? Dessert was another slice of the typical syrup-soaked cakes I’d been seeing – this time orange.

Orange Cake

It’s a fun place to eat and to eat well too. I enjoyed working my way through an excellent spread!

On my last day, a quick trip to the supermarket about a 2 minute walk from my hotel ensured that my dried oregano supplies are now at their freshest. I also loved seeing the impressive range of feta and Greek yoghurt available!

Greek yogurt in Greece! #latergram

Before heading to the airport to catch my flight home, I also couldn’t help popping back into Ravaisi to get one last stick of pork souvlaki (they call each souvlaki stick kalamaki) – this was a perfect snack!

One pork souvlaki snack!

Ah, I really do miss Athens and all the amazing food I had there! One thing I did notice was how fabulous all the tomatoes were at all restaurants, even at the cheapest places. Actually, all the ingredients were top notch everywhere…this is some excellent Mediterranean cuisine! As usual, all my photos can be found in this Flickr album.

It was certainly a whistlestop visit to Athens. We’d be there for 36 hours and hoped to see everything; unfortunately, the heat and Greek opening hours forced us to hit the high spots. After a late start (the breakfast at our hotel was just too incredible to rush), we visited the Acropolis where we marvelled at all that white marble and acquired serious tans.

Parthenon

When we crawled back down off the rock, it was off to search for some lunch and we picked Diogenes out of one of our guidebooks. We dined in gorgeous settings, sitting on their shaded terrace overlooking the Lantern of Diogenes.

Aubergines Diogenes were baked aubergine halves bathed in tomato sauce and topped with feta. I’d never thought of baking feta before and I loved its salty tang on top of the rich mixture.

Aubergines Diogenes

We couldn’t handle another big chunk of feta by this point in the trip and so settled for a much simpler, but no less generous in size, salad.

Salad

Looking for something relatively light as a main, I turned to one of the day’s specials of stuffed courgettes with a lemon sauce, the lemon sauce being avgolemono. The hollowed squashes were stuffed with herbed rice and meat and the gentle lemon sauce was delicious on top.

Stuffed Courgettes with Avgolemono

My friend had been dying to try moussaka in Greece and the version at Diogenes did not disappoint. I’ll admit that it didn’t look like much but it was delicious.

Moussaka

Sure, it was a bit touristy but the food was very good. I think lunch ended up costing about €20 a head.

Diogenes
Lysikratous Square
Plaka
Athens, Greece

As I mentioned previously, suddenly we realised that all the other archaeological sites we’d hoped to visit were closed, having shut their gates at about 2pm. That afternoon passed in a bit of a blur and I vaguely recall visiting a cafe for coffee and then falling asleep on their roof terrace. Oops.

We did manage to wake up and walk over to Syntagma Square and then across to the Greek Parliament where we watched the guards.

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Further on, we also came across an adorable deli in Kolonaki – Degustation – run by a very kind Greek-Australian who told us not to worry about the groups of waiting riot police in the area. That’s what happens when you’re hanging around the Greek Parliament at night.

It was pretty late in the evening when we finally sat down outside the Mezedopoleio Filema for dinner. As you can probably guess from its name, it serves meze and only meze and that was just what we needed. I didn’t expect the meze portions to be so huge though! Fava was a dip of mashed yellow split peas scattered with chopped onions and drizzled with olive oil. I adore lentils so this simple dip was right up my alley.

Fava

Tomato balls were humongous fried tomato fritters, all crisp yet juicy – I never would have thought to make tomato fritters.

Tomato Balls

Filema Meatballs were huge fried juicy meatballs served with yoghurt and a tomato salsa. Each meatball was almost as big as my fist.

Filema Meatballs

The fried cod was the only semi-dud – I think we had been expecting fresh cod but I think we ended up with what was originally salted. The skordalia, a garlicky potato mash, was utterly scrumptious but do make sure everyone eats some before you end up the only stinker.

Fried Cod with Skordalia

The place is a total bargain – the bill was under €30 for all this food and a large bottle of water and it could easily have fed 4 people.

Filema
Romvis 16
Athens, Greece

The next morning, it was time to take in the new Acropolis Museum – everyone who heard we were heading to Athens was raving about it and insisted that we go. And so we did. And it was magnificent. And you should definitely visit it if you’re in Athens. (To keep it a surprise, I’d refrain from looking at my Flickr photos.)

The Museum

Try to leave some time to have a coffee at their cafe – choose a seat on their terrace and you’ll be rewarded with a splendid view of the Acropolis.

Coffees with a View

We just had enough time to squeeze in a quick lunch before heading to the airport for our flight home. We met up with colleagues at Monastiraki Square where all the famous souvlaki restaurants are and the one our Athenian colleague brought us to was Savvas. Beef souvlaki sandwiches all around (under €3 each) and plenty of tzatziki on the side to dollop over it.

Souvlaki

Greedy me couldn’t resist ordering a side of fried aubergine as well. Big chunks of soft fried aubergine were covered in yoghurt and tomato sauce and were incredibly delicious.

Fried Aubergine

Shame we didn’t have the stomach space to try all the other souvlaki places along the street!

Savvas
Mitropoleos 86
Athens, Greece

There’s lots of good eating to be had in Greece, even in Athens. I do hope to return to see the rest of the temples, hills and markets I missed. A warning though – you might end up being dinner yourself. I was eaten alive by mosquitoes – use lots of insect repellent!

All my photos from Greece can be found in this Flickr photoset.