Food and drink

Often when I travel I buy my food cheaply from supermarkets and prepare it for myself in the hostel – not so here. I sampled all manner of delicacies and was treated to traditional food from all parts of the country. I also learned about a long-standing Greek Orthodox funeral food custom.

Fresh deep fried ocean food

Calamari, fish and chips, restaurant food, Greece

Street Food

Street food is good! I had a vege open pie from Feyrouz on Kapori in Athens, and at Falafellas on Ailiou I had falafels in pitta with aubergine (egg plant), yogurt, tomatoes and the option of spices for 3.80 euros for a medium, normal lunch size. Small outlets sell coffee and sandwiches with a wide array of fillings, such as the corner of Eyripidou and Eolou. At this place a take-away iced, decaff cappuccino is 1.20 euros and you get a bottle of cold water thrown in.

Fresh Fruit Juice

Likewise, juice shops are everywhere in the Greek capital and most refreshing in the heat. Nova Gea, 6 Vyronos, had a novel way of serving where you placed your jam jar under the tap at the base of the counter and waited for it to pour in.

fresh fruit juice served in a jar

Nova Gea Juice Bar, Athens, Greece

Restaurants

For meals with friends, try Avocado (vegetarian) where there are books to read.

People sitting outside restaurant eating in Athens

Avocado Restaurant, Athens, Greece

There are so many places where you can eat under the stars in Athens. I loved Seychelles for an array of delicacies including flava bean puree, sardines wrapped in vine leaves, a cooked green veg salad (pvlita) and carob rusks; and Katsourmpos for Cretan food where I sampled chips cooked in goat’s butter with eggs on top, and Greek salad with bread soaked in the wonderful dressing.

Fish pate sprinlled with chives

Taramasalata with prawns and toast, Athens, Greece

Home Cooking

The best meal was one prepared by my hosts (Italian and Greek) of barbounia (red mullet fish), Greek cooked vegetables with a sauce made of mustard, spices and olive oil), and salads (Greek and Greens), all washed down by tsipouro (an un-aged brandy) which they had bought from a monastery on Paros – lethal at lunch time.

Table set with Greek vegetables for lunch

Salads on the table, before the fish arrived! Athens, Greece
Green pouring mayonnaise with herbs
Sauce for the Greek vegetables – mustard, spices and olive oil
Cooked fish with head and tail

Sea Bream (Tsipoura), Athens, Greece
Greek un-aged brandy

Tsipouro – deadly! Athens, Greece

Cafe advice

The café at the Acropolis Museum (outside which proudly flutters The Flag of Europe) was cool to cold with air conditioning and has an amazing view of Mount Lycabettus and the…. Acropolis – watch out you don’t get stuck in the Ladies loos!

Glass doors with mountain reflected in them

Reflection of Mount Lycabettus in the roof cafe window, Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece
The Parthenon in the distance

View of the Acropolis from the roof cafe at the Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece

Supermarkets and Food Shopping

There are not many large supermarkets in the neighbourhoods mentioned above, however google for any Sklavenitis (8 minutes from Psyri) or AB Vasilopoulos (9 minutes from Psyri) which are the major chains in Greece. Cheese and fish counters are of particular note, but you won’t find biscuits or oat cakes (a Scottish delicacy)! The range of cakes, pastries and biscuits that you will find in the bakeries, however, is vast and there are sugar free options as well as artisan bread.

Red and orange strings of dried chillis

Herbs and spices hanging outside a shop in Athens, Greece

You can buy a dazzling array of fruit and veg from wayside shops and stalls in Aristofanous; there is a Central Municipal Market off Athinas (the name of the road); and there are fascinating individual shops selling cheese, olives, flowers, hardware and useful things to put on an altar on Evripidou.

Honey and jars of marmelade

A stack of olive oil and other Greek specialities
Goats and cow scheese counter with seller

Cheeses from all around Greece being sold in Athens
Wooden crates of spices and bunches herbs

Herbs (chamomile) and dried fruits (orange and apple) in huge sacks, Athens, Greece
Loops of pork and chorizo

Meats and sausage, Athens, Greece

Other Shopping

Garlands of pretend flowers, incense holders

For making an altar, Athens, Greece
Naked male figure and clothed goddesses
Greek statuary is sold in various forms

Unlike Estonia and Norway, where the alcohol is sold in separate stores (not beer), here you can get it in the supermarkets, but it was much more expensive than I thought it would be – about the same as the UK. On the other hand, in the small villages near where I have stayed a couple of times in the north, you can get a bottle of retsina for 1.25 euros.

Emptying bottles for recycling
Recycling seems to happen in the suburbs but not in the centre, as far as I could see

On my beach day I was taken for a late lunch at Theodore and Helen’s (Leof. Legrenon, Lavreotiki 195 00 Te; +30 2292 051936) – where the platter of salads including the sea greens (which were the best) and the mussels were sumptuous.

Feta cheese, beetroot and sea greens

Platter of salads, Athens, Greece

Sample menus with prices and deep fried strips of courgette (zucchini) in the restaurant outside Athens near Kape Beach

Stalls and shops line the streets around the Acropolis selling clothes, trinkets, leather goods and jewellery. Some shop keepers call or tempt you in, others sit outside smoking and looking very hot. If you pass by every day as I did, you start to see the displays changing, and without meaning to, you stop and browse. I had to rein myself in from buying anything that would take my rucksack over weight, even though I wanted to get mementoes for my daughters and family.

Shop dummies wearing fur jackets with dogs

Two different sorts of fur coats, inside and out. Athens shop front and dogs, Greece

Coliva – Greek Orthodox Funeral Food

I was in Athens to lead a workshop for Shiatsu practitioners who are working with the dying or those suffering loss. On the second day, Panayiota who was organising the event, brought in a cake made by her sister.

Funeral cake with white sugar and silver cross on top
Coliva – Greek food for mourners

This beautiful creation is called Coliva and it is for Greek Orthodox mourners to eat after the interment. The server mixes it up and then you can see that it is like a loose melee of mixed nuts including almonds, pomegranate, raisins (golden and black), white sugar  and sometimes also coriander and parsley – lively colours and a variety of textures and tastes. It tasted really good and fortifying. Portions are put into individual, brown paper bags and handed to each person, and eating it together symbolises the sharing of the pain of living without the deceased.

Initially this dish was prepared to appease the gods of Hades, the underworld, so that they would give up the body after death, allowing it to go to a better place. Nowadays, it is to fortify the grieving.

Metal life-size figure with Athens logo
A robot in a shop window carrying a ‘We heart food’ bag

Here is some advice from a local friend who was so kind as to send me suggestions:

If you are hungry you can stop at the oldest pastry shop Ariston (Voulis 10, Athina 105 62, Greece) which is parallel to Ermou Street. Ermou Street is the biggest shopping street.

For coffee or a cold drink you can visit A for Athens, it has a great top floor café open to everyone and you can see the Parthenon. And if you are hungry you can go at Savvas across the road (Ermou 91, Athina 105 55, Greece).

For drinks, here is a hidden bar at The Art Foundation Taf (Address: Normanou 5, Athina 105 55, Greece)

Another couple of places for nice traditional sweets are Krinos and Sermpetiko Nancys Sweet Home (Pl. Iroon 1, Athina 105 54, Greece)

Chocolate and sweetmeats
Greek sweets sold from a bakery come wrapped in silver foil

Finally, I found this recommendation: Vasilopoulos deli in Klafthmonos square is where you can find a bit of everything, some of the best products from around the globe. 10 minutes walk from Psyri.

2 thoughts on “Athens – food, drink, shopping

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