Do you ever have ‘off’ days? Perhaps you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, or you’re dealing with some bad news, or you simply had a terrible start to the day with no milk for your cornflakes and delayed public transport that made you late for work. It happens to the best of us.
That’s the excuse I’m using for the meal we had at Melilotos in Athens, Greece. While it’s generally very well-regarded with good reviews and high approval ratings, this family-run restaurant in the heart of the city didn’t quite deliver the excellent home-style Greek food that we had been hoping for.
It started when we showed up at the official listed opening time (12pm) and asked for a table for two for lunch. Unfortunately, the kitchen wasn’t actually ready yet, and we were asked to return in an hour when they were ready to accept guests. Fair enough, we figured this was the laid-back Greek style and so we went down the street for coffee and cake and returned at 1pm.
We were seated and given menus, water, and bread for the table. Our waiter recited the specials of the day for us – grilled squid and fried squid. I opted for the grilled squid but before long, another waitress returned and said that they could only offer me fried squid. I’m not sure exactly what changed in the five minutes between my order and the switch to fried squid, but given that we were the only customers in the restaurant at that point, I doubt that they had sold out of the grilled squid!
Our starter of the Handmade Eggplant Salad with Walnuts was extremely tasty – smoky grilled eggplant mashed into a salad, dressed with oil, herbs, and crunchy chunks of walnuts. While delectable on its own, it made for a fantastic topping for the heavy sourdough bread.
K ordered the Traditional Meatballs in Tomato Sauce with Papadeles Pasta. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this was an Italian pasta dish because while there are similarities, this dish is very much Greek. The inclusion of the mint evokes memories of minted Greek yoghurt dipping sauces. The meatballs are beefier and firmer than Italian-style meatballs, undeniably a Greek keftede rather than an Italian meatball. Overall, quite a tasty dish that undeniably evokes memories of yaya’s cooking.
My second choice Fried Squid with Potato Salad daily special was a disappointing use of squid. I’d ordered the grilled squid hoping for something similar to the great grilled octopus we’d had at Epirus Tavern, something fantastically tender and smoky. Instead, the fried squid proved to be quite chewy. Not necessarily the squid itself, but the batter which had been overworked. There was no crisp crunchy batter here, nor tender squid. Very disappointing, and not something I could recommend. I wish the kitchen hadn’t changed their mind about doing grilled squid instead.
Everything about our meal at Melilotos was just a little bit off – from the late opening time, to the daily special that went awry, and food that wasn’t quite as good as it had been described by other diners. I can only presume that they were having an off day – the main chef must not be on duty during Tuesday lunchtimes, and everything goes slightly awry during the week outside of the busier weekend dining hours.
If you visit Melilotos, make sure to do so during a standard Friday or Saturday evening, to ensure that you get the best possible meal delivered by the restaurant’s top staff. Proceed with caution on other days.
Melilotos is located at 19 Kalamiotou in Athens, Greece.