An iconic European capital abuzz with a feeling of reinvention, Athens effortlessly blends its ever-present ancient history with world class bars, rooftop locations and gastro eating experiences offering modern twists on Greek cuisine. Urban spaces are burgeoning within old neighbourhoods, crafting a new identity soaked with artist flair amidst neo-classical Acropolis views. Here are some of our favourites eating and drinking spots.
Organic bistro restaurant Nice n’ Easy is a refreshing dining choice merging local produce with contemporary Mediterranean dishes. With a farm-to-table philosophy, Greek producers sit at the heart of the restaurant’s expansive menu, which includes a raw bar, fresh salads, an array of gluten free options and vegan Buddha bowls. Across the a la carte menu, each dish is equated with the name of a film star, offering a quirky touch when ordering. To start, we feasted on “The Otis Redding” – Greek buffalo burrata, pistachio pesto, pumpkin confit, green wheat and truffle – an exquisite blend of creamy and nutty flavours and the ultimate choice for cheese lovers. For dessert, the chocolate pie is a no brainer choice – equal bars rich, velvety and devilishly sweet.
Just a 15 minute walk from Nice n’ Easy you’ll find The Clumsies. Scoring #6 in the the Worlds 50 Best Bars in 2019, some would say this sophisticated establishment is the best cocktail bar in the city. We’re inclined to agree, having sipped on the best G&T cocktail ever tasted. Really.
Though an all-day bar, The Clumsies really comes alive at night, with dimmed lights and a shabby chic design that spans a warren of interconnected rooms, offering a unique sense of both space and intimacy. We took bar seats in the main room and watched, mesmerized as a bartender poured an emerald green liquid into a frosted glass and finished with a questionable tooth brush. And if that doesn’t spike your interest, nothing will. Bright and beautiful concoctions are wielded with effortless skill and the atmosphere is electric. Abuzz with locals, this is where the cool crowd mingles. No doubt about it.
Tucked away in the back streets just a stone’s throw from Monastiraki Square, an unassuming entrance gives way to Couleur Locale. Don’t be put off by the dark winding stairway – if the quiet beat of DJ decks can be heard from the alleyway, rest assured you’re in the right place. Even before we stepped inside, it was clear this rooftop venue was a closely guarded local secret – somewhat protected from your average crowd of tourists. The crown jewel of the venue is its view; the ancient Acropolis is swathed in light against the night sky, making for an unrivalled backdrop for this effortlessly cool rooftop scene. The terrace is dimly lit and illuminated only by neon signs and candlelight. DJ sets play well into the night and the cocktail menu is top notch. To really enjoy a local vibe in full swing, visit later in the evening, as Athenians start their night’s out far later than us Brits. If you’re heading back to your hotel before midnight, you’ll be missing all the action!
Another rooftop bar and restaurant with Acropolis views, City Zen is a must-visit spot for a leisurely lunch on a sunny afternoon. Located in the heart of the Monastiraki district, it’s perfect for a quick refresher following a morning of exploring. We spent an hour sipping Greek coffee and enjoying the bustling coming and going, while taking in that ever impressive view.
No visit to Athens is complete without a peek inside Ergon House. This modern, conceptual hub brings together a traditional marketplace of greengrocers, fishmonger’s, bakery, delicatessen, coffee roastery AND a bar and restaurant. Phew! At the heart of each element is a pledge to serve fresh, organic and artisan products sourced from across Greece, with an aim to support small producers and honour Greek culinary and agricultural traditions. The space itself is beautiful, with contemporary market stalls and an expansive 25-metre atrium. Abundant with a vibrant vertical orchard and framed with a central olive tree sround which tables and chairs are scattered, the greenery looks striking against the exposed stainless steel architectural structure.
The food itself is a delight – we started with blissfully warm sourdough and olive oil before diving into the starter menu; Gruyere from Ioannina with paprika in kataifi pastry with honey and pistachio nuts, followed by the smoked mackerel with grilled potatoes tomatoes, fresh herbs and oil and lemon sauce. The pasta menu is also exquisite – order the Tortelloni stuffed with porcini mushrooms, fresh cheese and fresh wild truffle for the richest, most delicious pasta dish we have tasted outside of Italy. If you can’t make it for dinner, pop inside for a coffee from the roastery and a wander around the aisles artisan produce.
Following a Be a Greek “Athens Heart” walking tour of the city with a hugely knowledgeable local Athenian guide, we were steered along the cobbled backstreets of the Acropolis for an authentic wine tasting experience with Dionysian Grapes where an expert Sommelier took us through the history of Greek wine-making. Home to some of the oldest wine producing regions of the world, our 8 glasses of famous native wines were luxuriously paired with a platter of salty Greek cheeses, baked bread and cured meats. The atmosphere was relaxed, and we sipped and nattered in an intimate space surrounded by bottles and bottle of the good stuff. For any wine and cheese lovers looking to explore what a Greek grape has to offer, this experience won’t disappoint.