Vegetarian restaurants and Greeks. They used to be about as popular a pairing as wet weather and weddings. But times they are a-changing, and now this nation of meat lovers is also embracing healthier, more energising diets, (as evidenced by the capital’s growing crop of vegetarian and greened up menus). If you like the sound of feta made with cashews, avocado mayonnaise, or chia seed pudding, keep reading as we share our pick of the best places in Athens to enjoy green grub.
NICE n EASY ATHENS
Omirou 60 & Skoufa, Kolonaki, 210.361.7201, niceneasy.gr
Long the go-to place for the health-conscious, Nice n Easy remains one of the leading purveyors of the farm to table trend here in Greece, thanks to founder Dimitris Christoforidis and his Chef Christos Athanasiadis and their undimmed passion for organic eating.
In fact, it was long before bio and organic became mandatory prefixes to be added onto restaurant menus that Christoforidis introduced the concept of refined healthy eating to Athenians when he launched Nice n Easy, nearly ten years ago now.
Christoforidis’ tryst with the restaurant biz dates back a couple of decades when A-list celebrities would queue up to dine at his LA restaurant, Sanctuary. Sinatra, after whose 1960 Grammy-winning album, the restaurants are named, was a regular (which explains the retro Hollywood-themed fit-outs you’ll see at Nice n Easy’s three venues here in Greece.
Experience their adventurous take on indigenous Hellenic fare (with a special emphasis on fair trade ingredients and antioxidant recipes) at Nice n Easy’s flagship Athens branch or their other inviting outposts in Kifissia and Mykonos.
The Sean Connery – freshly baked wild salmon with a herb and citrus crust on a quinoa tabbouleh base – the pale, luxurious fillet off-setting the crunchiness and bite of the ‘it’ grain, quinoa – and the Audrey Hepburn, a tasty tangle of sautéed wild mushrooms with thyme and gorgonzola cheese.
Nikis 30, 210.323.7878, avocadoathens.com
One of the capital’s first vegetarian pioneers, Avocado arrived five years ago and probably remains the city’s best-known Vegetarian Ambassador. This convivial eaterie was launched by Eraj Shakib, who moved to Athens from San Francisico a decade ago. His vision was to create an offspring for the yoga studio across the street, in which to provide clients with a completely meat-free environment and a peaceful sanctuary in the thrust of downtown Athens. Since then, Avocado has built a loyal clientele who return for the utterly delicious dishes, which contain no artificial ingredients or preservatives, and the friendly vibe. The options are bountiful from entrees, pizzas, stir fries, super-food juices and organic wines, as well as handmade breads and desserts. Book the upstairs space in advance if you can. It’s a wonderfully-chilled nook where you recline on floor cushions while you eat, making for an especially memorable meal.
Top Tastes: the veggie burgers (€10.50), coconut-milk curries, ginger and passionfruit smoothie.
Akadimias 84, Omonia, 211.411.4420, www.mamatierra.gr
Its name means “Mother Earth” in Spanish – and newcomer Mama Tierra, not far from the Novotel, does indeed execute its super tasty vegetarian and vegan fare with a maternal flourish. We love this small and cosy hutch where chef Polash Alam combines flavours of the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America to create dishes with an authentic ring of “home cooking” at very reasonable prices (most things on the menu are between about €5-7). Their home brewed Kambudcha tea is also excellent.
Top Tastes: vegan mousakka; mushroom burger (two patties made from fresh champignon and pleurotus mushrooms with herbs and homemade mayonnaise); and a stand-out falafel platter with smooth and creamy hummus. For a glorious sweet note, try their figs cooked in red wine with cashew cream, cardamon and agave syrup.
Grigoriou Lampraki 69, Glyfada, 210.964.8512
On any given day at Yi (or Γή – earth – in Greek), you’re likely to find laptop-wielding customers taking advantage of the speedy wi-fi connection to tap away over an almond milk cappuccino – as well as mums with young children who adore Yi’s strictly no lighting up policy.
Just out of range of the main Glyfada drag, near the Holmes Place gym, Yi is a no-frills, vegan-raw based restaurant launched several years back with respect and love for the ‘green’ diet and ideology. All of the dishes and products are lactose, sugar, and gluten-free. Sweeteners are made out of Yi’s own syrups, created from dates, honey, raisins, figs, agave or maple syrup. Customers have also been known to beg for their carrot cake recipe!
Top Tastes: Vegan feta made with cashew base; stuffed mushrooms, delicious smoothies; and THAT carrot cake.
Ypsilantou 63, Kolonaki, 210.722.4737, www.simul.gr
Simul (Gastronomic Situ) opened up shop on the former site of Kolonaki stalwart Prunier in late 2015 and completely transformed the rather old-school French bistro into a minimal, chic and beautifully-lit space serving up an intriguing “Mix & Match” menu where food is interactive art. Not only vegetarian, green eaters seeking a finer dining experience will find plenty to love on chef Nikos Thomas’ creative menu which focuses on harnessing only the best available raw ingredients of the day. Expect to pay about €35-50 per person.
Top Tastes: the beetroot salad with carob, dolce gorgonzola, walnuts and rosemary; the ceviche specialty of the day (fresh marinated raw fish) with lime, chili, cilantro, kelp, grapefruit and afrala from Kythera; and the pumpkin ravioli baked with sage cream and mandarin (an absolute winner).
Skoufa 29, Kolonaki, 210.363.5773, www.itrestaurant.gr
Kolonaki’s stylish IT restaurant started life in 2003 as a humble take-away venture. But it wasn’t long before customers began pestering owner Kallia Kambouridou for an eat-in restaurant where IT’s marvelously imaginative menu, with its strong accent on wholesome, nutritious meals, could be relished on a plate.
Kallia responded in 2013 with “a casual dining concept” that focuses on high-quality, down-to-earth foods served in an eco-friendly yet modern setting (a vertical garden dominates one wall plus there’s an elegant book nook nook where you can browse through magazines).
Icons depicting “vegetarian, low gluten, superfood, low cal” help guide customers through a broad menu loaded with lean dinner choices priced between about €10-20; a wide range of “quick bites”, such as healthy wraps all priced around €5; and colour-popping salads (try their new coleslaw with Brussels sprouts, lemon, yogurt, tahini and cranberries, €7).
Top Tastes: guilt-free burgers with caramelized onions; fresh sea bass fricassee with coconut milk, lemon and ginger; tuna fillet with celery root, kale and carob syrup); Quinoa wrap with chicken, mango, coriander and sweet chili sauce.
Skoufa 40 and Omirou 60, 210.339.2370, www.rosebud.gr
How can we resist a café that serves up “healthy junk food” like vegan hotdogs and burgers? A comfy-cosy shabby chic setting and friendly staff add to the appeal.
Top Tastes: Their mushroom-packed burger with creamy Florina pepper sauce, capers and cheese – and of course those guilt-free hotdogs!
WILD IN THE CITY
Stoa Bolani, Voulis 7, 210.331.5776, www.wildinthecity.gr
You’ll search in vain for the grain on the menu at urban newcomer Wild in the City. No cereals or processed ingredients make their way into recipes here.
What you will find is an abundance of coconut, olive oil, avocado, nuts and flaxseeds, in keeping with their mantra that healthy fatty acids should be the cornerstone of one’s nutrition and healthy-eating lifestyle. Coconut oil is star of the show thanks to its non-burning properties (they help retain nutrients, you know).
Top Tastes: Bulletproof coffee mixed with virgin coconut oil and clarified butter (to even out that caffeine “rise and fall); and their home-made chocolate mousse and guacamole.
Insider Weekly, March 1, 2017. Compiled by Amanda Dardanis.