Lunch or brunch, coffee or cocktails, views of the Acropolis or old movie projections. Here are some great places to eat and drink in Athenian hotels.
By Carolina Doriti
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As Athens moves up the ranks as a city break destination, boutique, concept and design hotels are appearing in all corners of the city. Abandoned historic or industrial buildings are being renovated in off the beaten path neighbourhoods that, in turn, are going through a transformation. These days, a cool Athens hotel is incomplete without a trendy in-house restaurant or bar. Elegant new lodgings are creating a buzz with Athens insiders, attracting locals as well as hotel guests. All of these hotels do the hip crowd’s favourite meal of the day (brunch), employ young and funky staff, and attract a crowd with the same vibe.
Located on a quiet street near the Central Food Market, this contemporary but casual 15-room hotel opened in summer 2019. It’s already pulling in a local crowd to the weekend brunch on their twin roof terraces, which enjoy quintessentially Athenian views of the Acropolis peeping out behind the dome of Agios Dimitrios church. The delicious brunch menu fuses Greek ingredients and recipes with contemporary techniques and impressive presentation. Apart from tasty sandwiches, pancakes and burgers, they serve a variety of great egg dishes, such as Greek Style Eggs, a dish inspired by the owner Panayiotis’ childhood memories of a dish his mother made. Also try the fried egg with a slice of fried cheese (saganaki), grilled cherry tomatoes and syglino (cured pork from Mani), served with fried potatoes and toasted sourdough (the only kind of bread they use). For a lighter, more refreshing option, choose the toasted sourdough topped with mashed avocado, smoked salmon and a poached egg sprinkled with pink peppercorns. The Artist is also a great place to visit after dark, when they project films on the opposite building while you enjoy dinner or drinks at the bar. There’s a good selection of wines, many offered by the glass, and you can also enjoy great classic and signature cocktails (like the sultry Ophelia's Negroni, gin infused with basil and black walnut bitters) while gazing at the city below.
The Foundry’s twelve huge suites are more like fully equipped apartments. Built in 1930, the rough stone building was originally a type foundry. Inside, industrial features are fused with mid-century modern elements. Head up to the rooftop and you’ll find yourself on a lush terrace with a panoramic view of Athens, including the Acropolis and the National Observatory, sitting upon the Hill of the Nymphs. The communal tables and benches immediately give the concept away: this is an urban garden designed for picnics. (It’s open-air, so it’s only open during the warmer months). Order a picnic basket and it will soon arrive laden with fresh bread and rusks, wonderful artisan cheeses and cold cuts from around Greece, tomato chutney, salad and pickled eggs. Pair your treats with a glass of Greek wine or local craft beer, available at the bar. On weekend evenings, delicious, thin-crust pizza is baked to order in the wood-fired oven. Some of the toppings are grown right there on the rooftop, like the pears on the rich pear and gorgonzola pizza. Time your visit just before sunset to enjoy the magic colours of the Athenian sky while sipping a glass of rosé from their in-house cellar.
Zampano is part of City Circus, the first “new age” hostel in Athens that opened in 2012. Two 19th century buildings have been reconfigured into a quirky, vintage-themed inn, which is consistently rated one of the world’s hippest hostels. The ground-floor bistro, Zampano, is open all day, serving breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner with a regional Greek flavour. A clever mix of retro furniture from different eras creates an atmosphere more reminiscent of bohemian Paris or a Viennese café than downtown Athens. The menu has vegan options and healthy twists, like the Superfood Oatmeal (oats cooked in almond milk topped with seeds, goji berries, cranberries and molasses). Go Greek rustic with oven-baked eggs with potatoes, sausage, onions and cheese; or opt for brunch classics like eggs Benedict or Florentine. Every Sunday (1:30pm - 4:30pm), you can munch your brunch to the tunes of live gypsy jazz. It’s also a very popular spot for a late bite or a glass of wine at the vintage copper bar, after a show at one of the many theatres nearby.
A stylish new entry on the Athenian hotel scene, Blend is right in the heart of the historic centre of Athens. On the ground floor, Folk is an on-trend, all-day restaurant with a Scandinavian aesthetic that will set your Instagram alight. All the pale wooden seating is indoors. Yet the corner space is luminous, with hanging plants and wraparound windows with stools for people-watching over an excellent flat white. The healthy fusion cuisine marries the West Coast lifestyle with Mediterranean ingredients, all prepared with consideration and beautifully plated. A delicious brunch menu is served daily between 11am-7pm, so there’s no need to worry about waking up early. Choices go well beyond standard eggs, burgers and pancakes, though you’ll find excellent twists of those, too, from katsu sando (a milk bread bun filled with battered chicken and pickled cabbage) to fried eggs on cornbread with chipotle butter, coriander and lime. The lunch options are just as imaginative and as pretty as they are tasty: wild rice with a fried egg, purple broccoli, peas and mustard greens, or a vegan Buddha bowl with falafel, beetroot hummus, and naan bread, The bar turns out flawless coffees and great cocktails using premium spirits (do try the sriracha Bloody Mary). Their matcha latte with a shot of espresso and cocoa will bring you back from the dead, no matter what you did the night before.
This is Athens’ answer to Whole Foods, only with 38 minimalist rooms above the food hall. The Ergon chain of delis, specialising in regional Greek produce, has evolved to include their first “foodie hotel”. The action centres around the ground floor Agora, a sky-lit atrium with well-organised deli, fishmonger, butcher, greengrocer, baker and wine shop. Guests can take their pick from the produce and cook a meal in one of two kitchens upstairs, or hire the hotel’s chef to whip up something special. Or you can dine in at wooden tables and counter stools, surrounded by custom graffiti and vertical gardens. The comforting brunch menu features poached eggs served in a traditional koulouri sesame bread ring, with cream cheese and chilli butter, and Cretan-style fried eggs with creamed staka (goat’s milk butter) served on sourdough. Freshly baked pies are made the Kozani way, using buttery filo instead of olive oil. The real surprise is up on the rooftop. Head upstairs after 5pm (12pm on weekends) and you’ll find Retirè, a terrace decked out like an urban beach club, with reclining chairs and fairy lights strung under canvas sails. Sit back with a cocktail (the short list was created by the award-winning team from The Clumsies bar) and gaze up at the Acropolis. If you get peckish, they do good hot dogs and corn on the cob.
An art deco landmark updated with contemporary Greek art and custom-made furniture, Perianth hotel is the sexy new kid on the block on buzzing Agia Irini Square. The whole square is pedestrianised and cafés and restaurants spill onto the sidewalks. This is where locals come to sip iced coffee in the sunshine, while reading a newspaper, people watching or chatting for hours. On the ground floor of the Perianth, Il Barreto is an all-day Italian restaurant that looks more like a grand brasserie. The extensive breakfast buffet is also available for non-guests (an excellent option if you’re staying at an airbnb nearby). Their apricot and almond tart goes perfectly well with their excellent, single-estate coffee and quality teas. You can order cooked breakfast dishes, (like scrambled eggs with tomatoes and feta or asparagus omelette) throughout the day, or pop in for one of their sophisticated sandwiches (the baguette with chicken and mushrooms is highly recommended). Athenians stop by after-work drinks—a bottle of wine paired with a platter of cheese and charcuterie, or a chili peach martini made with tsipouro (Greek grappa). For something more substantial, try their freshly baked focaccia stuffed with gorgonzola and peperoncino, a thin-crust pizza (the vegetarian options are ace) or a classic pasta dish such as cacio e pepe (butter, pecorino and black pepper).
Dip a perfectly-seasoned fry into the ketchup at Muse Bistro and you know you’re onto a winner. It’s spiked with cardamom and cloves - and along with almost everything at this hotel eaterie, set inside a revamped 1930s bank building, it's made in-house. There’s fragrant peinirli with 24-hour matured dough and home-roasted nuts with paprika and thyme that pair perfectly with their sassy cocktails (carrot Margarita, anyone?). The six-storey Gem Society has swiftly become a local’s hangout (since opening mid-2020), thanks to inventive, affordable gastronomy and cracking co-ordinates— an olive pit’s throw from foodie hub, Evripidou Street, and the hip bars of Kolokotroni and Praxitelous Streets. There's a well-rounded all-day menu; but it's their à la carte game that dazzles. Greek classics get a glow up: Greek salad with cucumber gazpacho, feta mousse and olive crackers. Moussaka re-visited as ravioli with anthotyro goat’s cheese. Souvlaki revved up with crispy pulled pork and tomato marmalade. Indulge in fine dining fare (sautéed scallops with smoked trout and black rice chips) without robbing the bank.
Muse’s ace is its sociable design. An extended bench opens to the pavement where eclectic urbanites pull up stools day and night for just-out-of-the-oven breakfast baguettes, and post-work drinks. “We call it ‘the Hatch’,” says Gem co-developer Henry Gemayel. “We want our guests to feel connected to the street life of Athens.” And what of the hotel itself? Just like Muse, The Gem Society delivers refined quality at grounded prices. Expect beds you won’t want to climb out of —and a Cycladic spa cave, once a bank vault, where you can soak in a vast Jacuzzi that colour adjusts to your mood.