Food is always one of the highlights of our travels, and we were happy to discover many gastronomical delights on our big, fat Greek adventure. We found Greek cuisine to be fresh, wholesome and varied, digging into a range of ingredients and food groups while putting dishes together. Greece also offers you a range of sophistication in food- from the rustic offerings of the local tavernas, to the fresh and flavourful street side offerings, to the delicate wine-and-dine options at fancier restaurants.
Here are some of the star dishes, restaurants and food experiences that stood out for us:
- The Omnipresent Souvlaki & Gyros: Wherever you go in Greece, you will never be too far from a juicy Souvlaki! Both Souvlaki and Gyros are considered street food in Greece; the former contains chunky meat pieces that are skewered and grilled, while the latter is mostly the shredded outer layers of roasted meat. Either is served on its own garnished with lemon and with a side of fried potatoes, or inside a pita wrap, with fresh tomatoes and sauce added. Very wholesome and makes for a delicious meal-on-the-go! Unfortunately the famous Kostas at Plaka (Athens) was shut for the summer holidays, but we did eat some memorable Souvlaki & Gyros at the Taverna Meteora (Meteora), Piatsa Syntagma (Athens), and Estia (Athens).
- Cheeses Galore: The Greeks love their cheese and needless to say, the forms, shapes and textures you get to sample in their cheese-centric dishes are a delight for anybody who loves their cheese. We particularly loved the Saganaki (deep fried feta coated with honey and sesame) and the Bougiourdi (baked gooey yellow and white cheeses with tomatoes, onions and peppers). Yum!
- The Manti at Savvas: Savvas is an 80 years old chain of restaurants in the Monastiraki area of Athens. We visited both the Savvas Kebab as well as the Savvas Roof Garden Restaurant and they were both fantastic. But our experience at the latter will always be more special for me, especially as the place was well lit and pretty and we had the most cheerful young man serving us, who recognised us to be Indians immediately and could not stop talking about Shahrukh Khan and Amitabh Bachhan! It was also here that we tasted the absolutely delicious Manti (pockets of spiced ground beef topped with yoghurt, herbs and paprika).
- Discoveries on the Ride & Bite Tour: While in Athens, we took the Ride & Bite Tour offered by Let’s Meet in Athens. Our lovely guide Iris met us with our solid Dutch Bikes at their office in Thissio, and we spent the evening meandering through the historical and cultural by-lanes of the city, listening to snippets from Greek history at each stop, and sampling some lip-smacking mezedes (Greek tapas) alongside delicious homemade Greek wine at lesser known mezedepolios (small traditional restaurants where they serve small dishes often in combination with a glass of ouzo, raki or wine). It was truly a wonderful experience and we would highly recommend it to future travellers as a unique way of discovering the city.
Here we are all smiles at Manas (Athens) trying the Moussaka and okra-and-sole fish dish.
- Coffee Lovers’ Rejoice: Frappe & Freddo Cappuccino is Everywhere! Indeed. The Greeks love their coffee-on-the-go and you will see them carrying it EVERYWHERE- the cabbie will have his Frappe (Add some milk and sugar to two or three tablespoons of Nescafe, stir very well in a shaker, pour some water and lots of ice cubes and there you go, your summer frappe is ready!) tucked in below the steering wheel, the guide won’t stop sipping his Freddo Cappuccino (A milk foam called “afrogala” in Greek, lots of ice and some syrup depending on how sweet you like your coffee) throughout his tour, and every little canteen, even aboard a bus or train, will have these on the menu. Caffeine addicts like me had nothing to fear 😀
- Ending on A Sweet Note: Fro-yo, Gelato & More: It would be unfair to call these desserts because we pretty much tried to down as many bowls od frozen yoghurt and gelato in a day as we possibly could! Traditional greek yoghurt is slightly sour and eaten only with nuts and greek honey, but now Athens also offers yummier, creamier versions with a million exciting toppings! We went kind of crazy at Yogolicious in Plaka 😛
And of course, there are endless flavours of Gelato to choose from as well. Our top gelato was the Yoghurt & Sour Cherry flavour at The Blue Mule in Hydra. We also tasted some delicate and flavourful traditional greek sweets at Mitropolitikon in Plaka, Athens; particularly liked the almond pie and the amygdalota (rose water, almond and sugar).
Our gastronomical adventures didn’t end here, of course. We could go on and on talking about the Greek cheese pies, the koulouri (sesame topped bread), and a gazillion other tastes and flavours, because that is what Greece is- a feast of flavours! So the next time you’re there, kali orexi! Enjoy your meal!