A Chef’s Guide To Athens

By Ellie Smith

2 months ago

Where to eat in the Greek capital, according to chef George Papaioannou


Athens is known for its history – but also for its eclectic food scene. Relaxed, family-run tavernas and street food hotspots serve up some of the best gyros and souvlaki in town, alongside fine dining restaurants offering fresh takes on Hellenistic cuisine. But where should you prioritise on a trip to the Greek capital? We asked local chef George Papaioannou to share his favourite restaurants in Athens.

George Papaioannou

Chef Papaioannou is one of the top chefs in Athens. He heads up an eponymous seafood restaurant, which focuses on classic Greek ingredients: olive oil, vegetables, fresh herbs and fish, including varieties from lesser known parts of the Aegean. Papaioannou has won awards for his cooking, and is renowned for his commitment to top ingredients, with links to local fishermen and farmers hailing from the Attica region. Signature dishes include the crawfish orzo, steamed dusky grouper, and the legendary taramasalata – easily some of the best in town. The restaurant is expanding too: this summer, a second branch will launch on the nearby island of Mykonos, on Agios Stefanos beach. But here, Papaioannou is focusing on his top Athens restaurants.

George Papaioannou

Best Restaurants In Athens: George Papaioannou’s Pick

Barbounaki Vouliagmeni

My ultimate favourite for a relaxed seafood experience is Barbounaki Vouliagmeni. It’s nestled within the Vouliagmeni Nautical Club and offers a serene atmosphere perfect for indulging in the finest daily catches of the sea such as mouthwatering prawns, marinated sardines and delicious crawfish risotto – what more would you want? It offers a dining experience that will make you feel more relaxed and carefree, and also avoids the tourist crowds – it’s a true Greek local. If you’re putting this restaurant on your bucket list, definitely order my standout dish: the pasta with fresh prawns, a flavourful blend that tantalises the taste buds.

Apollonos Street, Vouliagmeni 166 71

Rick’s Steakhouse

When I seek good steak and the ambiance of old New York, the paths always lead me to Rick’s Steakhouse. A journey to another era, where the environment envelops you, and combined with the live piano, the atmosphere is nothing short of enchanting. I enjoy indulging in a New York striploin here, cooked medium-rare, just as it should be. I highly recommend it, it’s simple, but there is nothing better than the best quality meat, cooked to perfection.

Pentelis 1, Kifissia 145 62

Lolita’s

The Italian spot you’ll fall in love with is none other than Lolita’s. Red hues prevail, and downstairs, you’ll find the Salon Rouge featuring live performances. The restaurant in itself is romantic – warm lighting, grand wooden interiors with the aroma of simmering sauces. My go-to dish is the gnocchi with spinach, Aegina pistachio, crispy prosciutto, and gorgonzola sauce, from the antipasti list.

Kifissias Street 340, Neo Psychiko 154 51, lolitasathens.gr

Athens

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Drakoulis Dry & Raw Kolonaki

Premium meat cuts and party vibes come together at Drakoulis Dry & Raw in Kolonaki. Dim lighting, top DJs spinning electronic beats, and the best meat in town, all in one place. I highly recommend it – they also have a restaurant in Mykonos called Drakoulis Garden.

Filikis Etairias square 14, Athens 106 74

Kiku

When I crave Japanese cuisine, I visit Kiku in Kolonaki. My favourites include the hamachi carpaccio, wagyu gunkan, signature rolls like the shrimps and scallops, and of course, the miso black cod prepared to perfection, a twist on the classic dish. The fish at Kiku is extremely fresh and local – and you can taste it in every single bite. I always enjoy pairing my meal with sake, and Kiku offers an extensive selection. However, if you’re not a huge fan of sake and find it sometimes too strong, the bar (where you can stay until the early hours of the morning) has a selection of sake-based cocktails – the mixologists are incredibly talented and can also mix you up your favourite drink with a Japanese twist. As well as Athens, Kiku also has a restaurant in Mykonos (you can tell I’m a big fan of the island!).

Xenokratous 21, Athens 106 76, kikurestaurants.com

Malconi’s

Malconi’s is located in the bustling Kolonaki area and is not just an Italian restaurant, but also the ideal spot to enjoy an aperitif after work or some drinks in the evening. All my friends go there after work, and it’s one of the most popular spots to meet friends. When you go, you’ll see just how lively and popular it is amongst the locals. I would suggest indulging in a classic gin and tonic before sitting down for your meal. Try booking an outdoor table and watch the hustle and bustle of Athens. My favourite dish is the truffle alfredo linguine.

Patriarhou Ioakim 43 & Ploutarhou 23, Athens 106 75, malconis.gr

Maison Colette

Μaison Colette is the new all-day hotspot in town – it only opened a few weeks ago and it transports you straight to a Parisian bistro. You shouldn’t leave here without trying the camembert, accompanied by raspberry jam and pistachios, as well as the beloved dessert crème brûlée, in a different version than usual, with raspberries. You can thank me later.

Dim. Vasileiou 14, Neo Psychiko 154 51