Review: FloCafe, Piraeus, Athens Greece

A mere twenty minute drive away from central Athens lies the port of Piraeus – a town that thinks it’s independent but in reality acts as a satellite suburb of Greater Athens. With a long history stretching back to classical times as the chief port for the Golden Age of Athens, Piraeus as a town has gone through many ups and downs.

At the moment, it’s in a Renaissance period of relative prosperity. Chinese cargo ships anchor at Piraeus as their gateway to the European market, cruise ships with thousands of foreign tourists dock in its harbour every day, old warehouses have been turned into hip clubs and bars for the young and cool Athens crowd, and local families stroll along kilometres of harbourside paths to enjoy the fresh breeze of the Aegean sea.

We joined the local crowds one sunny Sunday afternoon (20 degrees in winter!) and strolled for a while along the harbour before turning into the nearest cafe for a quick and casual lunch. This was actually one of the few establishments on the Marina Zeas that actually offered a minimal food menu – most places are coffee and cocktail bars where locals linger on the outside patio for hours sipping a single drink. FloCafe at least offered a dozen sandwich and salad options for their customers alongside an extensive drinks menu.

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Floshake Mandarin with mandarin sorbet and brownie pieces (4.50 Euro) and Freddoccino (4.80 Euro)

Needing some cool refreshment after the absurdly warm winter’s stroll, we ordered a cold drink each – a Freddocino for K, and a house-named Floshake Mandarin for me. A Freddocino is not dissimilar to a iced frappe but in this case, with the addition of a little bit of chocolate powder to soften the bitterness of the coffee – very drinkable on a warm afternoon.

My Floshake Mandarin was very sweet and refreshing – I only wish they hadn’t advertised it ‘with brownie pieces’. Chocolate sprinkles do not equal brownie pieces! I’d been hoping for a chocolate orange jaffa style of smoothie drink – this was anything but. If they had simply described it as a mandarin sorbet smoothie, I’d have been much more satisfied – as it was, I felt like I’d been lied to!

Chicken Club Sandwich with chicken fillet, turkey, edam cheese, tomato, lettuce, mustard sauce (7 Euro)
Chicken Club Sandwich with chicken fillet, turkey, edam cheese, tomato, lettuce, mustard sauce (7 Euro)

First rule of thumb when ordering off a sandwich-only menu – always order the Club Sandwich if it’s on offer. For me, it’s all about the variety in the sandwich, with (usually) chicken, bacon, lettuce and tomato, sauces, maybe some slices of cucumber, definitely some cheese…it basically ticks off all the food groups.

The chicken club at FloCafe was a little bit uneven in bits, with a chicken fillet that didn’t quite cover all four corners of the sandwich. The tomato and lettuce was extremely fresh though, and the turkey slices helped to make it slightly healthier than the usual bacon variety. With some plain potato chips/crisps on the side (curiously served with ketchup and sour cream, as though you were supposed to dip the chips in the sauces), it was quite a filling meal, and good value.

Baguette with vegetable kebab, lollo verde and olive-sweet chilli sauce, 3.50 Euro
Baguette with vegetable kebab, lollo verde and olive-sweet chilli sauce, 3.50 Euro

We also ordered a sandwich off the vegan menu – a Baguette with Vegetable Kebab. Vegan food is hard to find in Greece…and well, this explains why. The kebab was like a Quorn faux-chicken tender, but very limp and not as crunchy and crispy as it could have been. With nothing but lettuce in a soft white baguette, it made for an awfully plain sandwich without much to recommend it.

There’s not much to FloCafe, other than the fact that it’s one of the few places in a 1km stretch of the Piraeus waterfront that offers more than coffees and cocktails. If you can hold onto your hunger and walk a kilometre and a half down the waterfront back towards Athens, there’s a half dozen or more restaurants serving proper food that you can choose from. However if you’re just after a sandwich to go with your Greek coffee as you wile away hours of a sunny afternoon, FloCafe will do the job.

FloCafe is located on Marina Zeas in Piraeus (Athens), but has multiple other locations elsewhere in Greece. Check their website for more details.

Review: FOOD Str, Athens Greece

It’s really easy to think of Greece as being all souvlakis and gyros, spanakopita and horiatiki, baklava and loukoumades. A lot of restaurants and fast food joints offer those options, but let’s be honest – eating outside the boundaries of your national cuisine can be exciting, the act of which is readily practised by the younger generation who are keen to embrace global eating trends.

Our free walking tour guide around Athens, Vasilis, was a young, dynamic and engaging guide who said to us, “You obviously have to try souvlakis and gyros while you’re here, it’s our national food. But my friends and I also like to eat burgers, and the best place in Athens for great burgers at a good price is FOOD Str“.

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Keen to eat where all the cool, young and hip crowd eat, we headed off to FOOD Str after our walking tour to see if it was just as good as Vasilis claimed it to be. It was quiet when we were there around 1pm, as the official lunch hour for local Greeks seems to be much later – between 2pm and 3pm.

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We ordered two burgers, two soft drinks, and one serve of fries (or ‘potatoes’ as described on the menu’) to share. This came to about 14 Euro – a bit more expensive than burger meals at McDonalds, but very reasonably priced for the hand-made quality of the food here.

Fish Burger (breaded cod, beetroot, mayonnaise, in black bread coloured with cuttlefish ink), 4.80 Euro
Fish Burger (breaded cod, beetroot, mayonnaise, in black bread coloured with cuttlefish ink), 4.80 Euro

K chose the interesting Fish Burger, a strange concoction of black, purple and golden brown that looks less than appetising but this is where appearances can deceive. The fried cod fillet was crispy, crunchy and perfectly fishy, the beetroot and mayonnaise added some much needed sweetness of flavour, and the soft black-tinged bread was surprisingly soft like a brioche bun, making the perfect sandwich for the tasty fishy filling. This burger is a tad more expensive than others on the menu, but well worth the extra expense if only to try some of Greece’s excellent seafood in a burger form.

FOOD Str Burger (beef, mushrooms, crispy lettuce, red and yellow peppers, carrots, handmade tomato sauce, mayonnaise), 3.80 Euro
FOOD Str Burger (beef, mushrooms, crispy lettuce, red and yellow peppers, carrots, handmade tomato sauce, mayonnaise), 3.80 Euro

I went for a more conventional burger choice – the house burger, or FOOD Str Burger. While the mix of the beef patty itself wasn’t anything spectacular, the effect of the charcoal grill added a remarkable smoky dimension to the meat. With the sweet caramelised mushrooms and peppers, and just the right amount of fresh crisp lettuce to bring a bit of crunch to the burger, this was a real winner.

Fresh Potatoes with Blue Cheese, 2.60 Euro
Fresh Potatoes with Blue Cheese, 2.60 Euro

We shared a serve of the Fresh Potatoes with Blue Cheese – which in this instance, I imagine is a description of the fact that the potatoes are freshly cut before being fried into deliciously crispy and crunchy chips perfect for dipping into a strong blue cheese sauce. My only disappointment here is that the dish wasn’t served as I had imagined it – with a runny blue cheese dressing drizzled over the whole cone of chips. Still, I imagine this dip-on-the-side is more of a crowd-pleasing dish, as you can choose how much blue cheese to have on your chips. Personally I prefer ALL THE CHEESE…but hey, I’ve never been good at controlling what I eat!

FOOD Str is a burger joint that stands up against any other gourmet burger joint in Athens, or even in Sydney or Melbourne with their gourmet burger obsession. Burgers and fries alike are freshly made rather than having ingredients pre-prepared, giving a quality that’s hard to find elsewhere. Don’t be intimidated by the menu being in Greek – the waitress is very friendly and can provide you with an English menu on request!

FOOD Str is located at 14 Kalamiotou Street in Athens, Greece.

Review: Percy and Percy, Bendigo

I spent my 30th birthday weekend in Bendigo, a regional Victorian town that I last visited on a school trip when I was still in single digits. As I said to everyone on our return, visiting Bendigo as an adult is very different to visiting Bendigo as a child. For one, you’re not forced to go on excursions to the former gold mine, but more importantly, you can pick exactly where it is you want to eat rather than eating soggy peanut butter sandwiches packed the night before.

In this case, I had done a lot of research before we got to Bendigo and had planned all our meals in advance. Percy and Percy was my pick for a light breakfast on Saturday morning – light being key, as I had made an early lunch reservation for 12pm.

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Located slightly out of the main town centre on a quiet residential street, Percy and Percy is still easily accessible on foot, like much of the small town. Having taken the V-line train to Bendigo from Melbourne, we actually spent all weekend walking around town without wheeled transport at all, and found it all very accessible.

Given that we expected to be quick with our light breakfast, we chose to sit outside on the casual bench seating rather than inside or in the busy courtyard. It was a beautiful day for it, with blue skies and warm sunshine. Luckily, we had that good weather for most of the weekend.

Soy Cappuccino and a Skinny Hot Chocolate (approx $4.50 each)
Soy Cappuccino and a Skinny Hot Chocolate (approx $4.50 each)

I started with a Skinny Hot Chocolate, adorably served with both a marshmallow and a Tiny Teddy which was a real blast from childhood. The hot chocolate was beautifully rich and creamy, an ideal hot chocolate that wasn’t too sweet. K opted for a Soy Cappuccino, not wanting to aggravate his lactose intolerance – not comparable really to a regular coffee as the Bonsoy soy milk always has a stronger nuttier flavour that can sometimes overwhelm the strength of the coffee.

Dr Marty's crumpets, $7.50
Dr Marty’s crumpets, $7.50

While I was very tempted by other more elaborate items on the menu (the massive Breakfast Board looked ideal!), I kept it simple and light with a serve of Dr Marty’s Crumpets served with giant wedges of salted butter, local honey and Bonne Maman jam. I definitely count Dr Marty’s crumpets as some of the best that Melbourne and its surrounds has to offer – thick, chewy and spongy, and manages to absorb all the honey you would want to slather onto the crumpet.

The Good Loaf's Raisin Toast and Gourmet Fruit Toast, $7.50
The Good Loaf’s Raisin Toast and Gourmet Fruit Toast, $7.50

K chose a lighter breakfast as well – Raisin and Gourmet Fruit Toast from Bendigo’s local gourmet sourdough baker The Good Loaf. I had a personal preference for the raisin toast, which I thought was perfectly dense and chewy, soaking up melted butter which gave it the creamiest and richest mouthfeel. K preferred the fruit toast with its big chunks of orange peel and slightly brioche-like sweetness. Both were really as good as the other and it was to my disappointment that I found out The Good Loaf was closed on Sundays so I couldn’t buy a loaf to take back to Melbourne!

While we only sampled the simplest of items on the menu at Percy and Percy, I was impressed with their service, with their judicious choice of the best food items available in Bendigo and its surrounds, and with their deliciously rich and creamy hot chocolate. If only we had capacity for more meals in a single weekend, I would have gone back to Percy and Percy for a larger and more substantial brunch, sampling some of their more elaborate breakfasts. Next time!

Percy and Percy is located on the corner of Hargreaves and Baxter St, Bendigo.