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Looking for an easy lunch, but want more than poached eggs and quinoa? Υou want style (and maybe a glass of crisp Greek wine). These five eateries combine great design and atmosphere with trendy comfort food, all in prime downtown locations.
Whimsical and understated, with a “Berlin meets Melbourne” look and feel, Philos is the HQ of avocado-and-eggs-all-day brunchers. Healthy buddha bowls, tangy salads (strawberry with goat cheese, arugula and and spearmint), red velvet pancakes, avocado and eggs galore fly off the counter all day. If the menu sounds suspiciously Instagrammable, worry not: the food is always fresh, the service prompt, the prices fair.
Nested in a lovely neoclassical building dating back to 1937 that looks like a theatrical set painted by Yannis Tsarouchis, Philos has the charm and wrinkles of an old friend (philos means “friend” in Greek). The distressed walls, vintage tiles, origami birds hanging from the tall ceilings all create an atmosphere of presence and longing, evocative of a Haruki Murakami novel.
Philos is also a concept store that sells tableware and some cool fashion accessories, though you would be quite forgiven for not realising this even if you came once a week. Walk up the squeaking wooden staircase to the first floor to check out some cool items for sale or to visit the most relaxing restrooms imaginable (think fragrant candles and the sounds of birds chirping). It feels like you are in a quirky old friend’s home.
Philos appeals to characters that look as if they popped out of an issue of Monocle Mediterraneo. Case in point, cool magazines such as Purple Fashion, Dazed and yes, Monocle, are on sale beside the entrance.
The design is beautiful, the atmosphere relaxing and the food unfussy. Lucky are those who live in the neighbourhood and can visit often for lunch. The only thing we have gotten rather tired of is the blasé Hotel Costes soundtrack.
A whopping new entry on the Athenian foodie scene, this is the Greek answer to New York’s “Eataly”, but with a boutique hotel upstairs. In the heart of Athens, between Plaka and Syntagma, Ergon House features modern Greek comfort food, specialty coffee, deli products and everyday groceries. What’s not to like?
In an airy building that used to house the Cervantes Spanish Institute, 3.600 square metres of neatly designed spaces cater to hungry visitors’ every need. You can find Jerusalem artichokes and fresh fish for cooking at your Airbnb apartment or you grab a quality iced coffee on your way to the Acropolis. Or sit down to enjoy a cheese pie with feta and dried mint drizzled with thyme honey and a variation of the Cretan dakos (tomato, soft cheese, and olive oil with carob rusks).
Or book a room for the night and dig into the breakfast menu (served until 2pm). Designed by Thessaloniki and London based architects Urban Soul Project, the style of the rooms have something of a Macedonian ondas (a traditional elevated bed/mezzanine) paired with contemporary Japanese minimalism.
And Ergon Home continues to expand: The latest addition to this humming and buzzing “foodie” hotel is its rooftop garden, the Retirè.
- 23 Mitropoleos, Historic Centre, 105 57
- +30 210 010 9090
Quinoa lovers of Athens, unite! This Kolonaki institution combines healthy food with comfort eating. From the real, yummy bread to the great coffee, It cares about your lunch break.
Classic choices include poached eggs on avocado toast (oh no, not again!), fantastic tarama (fish roe spread) enhanced with avocado and laced with fragrant orange, barely seared salmon with snow peas, grilled organic chicken breasts marinated in yoghurt, and a bowl of al dente lentils with celery and feta. Want a stylish snack on the go that won’t get soggy or oily? The menu here is perfect for takeout.
On the ground floor of an inconspicuous building, It has a refreshing design halfway between a vintage French classroom and a Californian health food store. Do not despair if the small outside area is full (It takes reservations all day and is often packed). There is more air-conditioned space inside and upstairs. The coolest tables are at the slightly elevated rear of the restaurant, next to the beechwood shelves displaying coffee beans, organic olive oil in sophisticated ceramic bottles, and colourful recipe books.
An Athenian landmark, Zonar’s (recently renamed Athénée due to a legal dispute) celebrates 80 years as the city’s “grande brasserie” in 2019.
Alas, the old decor (and inimitable atmosphere) has not survived consecutive renovations; but Athénée is by no means an unimaginative place. It somehow manages to combine the elements of an all-day coffee shop, trans-generational meeting place, trendy night spot, fine dining restaurant and quality sushi bar all in one without bursting at the seams.
With its wood panelling, velvet booths, fireplace and signature copper canopy over the bar, Athénée is the metropolitan haunt fit for visitors staying in the upscale hotels in and around Syntagma Square. This is the address of choice for power lunches in the city centre. There is always a local or visiting celebrity to be spotted here. The owners, Spiros and (especially) Chrysanthos Panas (the “Costes brothers of Greece”), are fame magnets.
The prices are steep, the service not always perfect, but the whole setup is really comfortable and grand. And besides you pay to enjoy one of the best “tableaux vivants” the city has to offer.
Evita and Alex are the stylish duo behind a “bourgeois—bohème” hangout named Different Beast in Kifissia (a chic residential suburb north of Athens). They recently took over the ground-floor restaurant of the new Blend hotel in the Historic Centre and named it Folk.
Folksy and homely with exposed brickwork, hanging plants and Scandinavian furniture, this joint brings an air of L.A. hipsterism to the booming city centre. This is one of the best places to soak up the vibe of the “new” Athens, on a lovely new pedestrian street, opposite the imposing Chryssospiliotissa church, and in between old shops selling pyjamas, candles and doorknobs.
The concept behind the menu is laid back, California style: street food and high-end dining effortlessly coexist, just like the well-heeled tourists and cool Athenian kids in shorts and baseball caps hanging out at the tables. Folk. is a place to sip a cortado (an espresso with an equal amount of hot milk) while working on your laptop, to enjoy an aperitif outside as the Athenian sky turns pink in the evenings, or even to have breakfast if you’re staying at the hotel (walk-ins are also welcome in the morning).
From the breakfast menu, we tried a toasted brioche with homemade ricotta and fruit compote. Apart from great coffee, Folk. has a good selection of herbal teas and sophisticated concoctions with turmeric, matcha and other health boosters, for those always ahead of the lifestyle curve. From the brunch/lunch menu, we enjoyed the buddha bowl with falafel, beetroot hummus, purple cabbage slaw, avocado, pumpkin seeds, mustard leaves, pea sprouts and a naan flatbread. The blistered, Spanish style egg over wild rice, purple broccoli, kale, fresh chilli and spring onions is really quite addictive.
There is a reliable cocktail selection (Negronis, anyone?), a neat selection of 17 wines from all over Greece, and an array of bottles with cool logos such as India Pale Ale from Santorini, or Athenian pink grapefruit soda. Folk. is laid back, easy and hip. Check it out.