On one of Thissio's most beautiful streets, lined with mulberry and sycamore trees, young fig trees and bougainvillaeas, this peaceful bistro opened in 2021 with the aim of "weaving fine gastronomy into the urban fabric". This intention, combined with an innate unpretentiousness, is what distinguishes Merceri and its philosophy, which is reflected in their articulate, flavoursome dishes. Chefs and owners Melina Chomata and Maria Ntioudi (Merceri is one of the very few women-run fine dining restaurants in Athens) managed to grab the attention of the esteemed Michelin Guide within Merceri’s first year. Not particularly surprising since both chefs have had long careers in Santorini's finest hotels before landing on Iraklidon Street.
The two very modest Chefs have a soft spot for seafood as it gives them “more room to experiment,” so the menu here is mainly fish-based. Star dishes include the hot lobster cake with a singed potato crust and Syros gruyere, a silky appetiser with an endearing taste of the open sea, and the spirulina-infused paccherini pasta with black pork pancetta, shrimps, bergamot and trout eggs, a concours d'elegance of smokiness, ocean flavour and floral freshness. Do not miss the squid starter, expertly cooked and served over a bed of sautéed spinach and Tinos kariki cheese (the island’s version of blue cheese), and the tender tuna sashimi served with an exquisite homemade wasabi, perfect with a smoky Paloma or a quaffable Mercerita aperitif, the house’s take on the classic margarita. Main course highlights include a perfectly cooked fillet of amberjack with mussels and a crisp slice of charred fennel, and a delightful grouper fricassee with wild mushrooms and spearming. Make sure to save room for the extra orange-y galaktoboureko tart, Merceri's lighter take on the traditional Greek indulgence of syrupy, buttery custard pie. In late 2023, the restaurant also introduced its first tasting menu of seven dishes for €65, which is definitely one of the best value for money high-end dinners you can have in Athens, if you ask us.
Reviewed by Paul Pervanas