If previous posts on this blog and various photos on Instagram didn’t already make you think I was an absolute pig…well, this blog post will do it. Here, I visit and sample desserts from six different places in modern Athens – traditional desserts like lukumades and baklava are featured, but I also visit places where all the cool young kids are spending their Euros for sweet treats as well.
In the interest of full disclosure, I also want to add – I did not visit all six dessert establishments in a single day! Visits were spread out over the course of our six day stay in Athens. Putting on weight while travelling around Europe is a given, but I didn’t want to exacerbate the problem by going overboard with extreme dessert consumption in a single day!
Which will be your favourite?
Stop 1: Lukumades
Our first stop was Lukumades serving up “Authentic Greek Delights”. They’re located right in the heart of the Monastiriki area of modern Athens…or at least they were when we went. We visited on our first full day in Athens and had a great dessert – then when we walked past again on our second day, the windows had been papered over with a “coming soon” message. I hope they were just renovating, and that it’s still open now for customers!
As their name suggests, they serve up a large range of lukumades, traditional Greek doughnuts, with a variety of toppings, syrups, fillings…whatever you could think of, they offer it. Also on offer are a range of drinks, coffees, and ice-creams as well. As you can see, they do a roaring trade!
We ordered their basic honey & cinnamon lukumades to share for around 3.50 Euro. While it seems like a basic combination, it works well as they use fantastic Greek honey, full of a floral scent and flavour that just covers the freshly fried lukumades in a sweet slick coating. The cinnamon adds just a touch of spice that stops it from becoming too sweet and cloying.
One serve of about a dozen lukumades is the perfect size to share between two people – any more and you would begin to feel sickly! A must-visit while in Athens – if it’s still open!
Lukumades is/was located on Aiolou in Athens, Greece.
Stop 2: Chillbox
Our second dessert stop at Chillbox didn’t have anything to do with traditional Greek desserts – though they do use Greek yoghurt for their frozen yoghurt if that counts! The main appeal of Chillbox was how it appealed to the younger generation of Greeks – on a Saturday in Athens, you’ll easily see two or three dozen young Greek girls walking around the main shopping area with a Chillbox in hand.
A frozen yoghurt chain with stores all over Greece (and other countries including in the UK and USA as well), Chillbox is a pretty standard frozen yoghurt store working on a weight-based payment system (around 2 Euro per 100gm). The frozen yoghurt and toppings are all self-service, and you know you only pay for what you take. Their main point of difference is presentation. Once you prep your own frozen yoghurt cup, it’s popped into a little take-away box so you can stroll down the street eating it without freezing your hands.
It’s not dissimilar to any other frozen yoghurt store anywhere else in the world, but if you want to look cool and hip to all the young Greek tweens – this is the place to go.
Chillbox is located at Evaggelistrias 2 in Athens, Greece, and many other locations worldwide – check their website.
Stop 3: Nanou Donuts House
Our third stop at Nanou Donuts House was one of convenience – there was a branch located just down the street from where we were staying in the Sepolia suburb of Athens. The interior is fairly stark, and all the donuts they have on offer are simply displayed on wire racks behind the counter – no fancy glass cabinets here.
We chose three donuts to take away – one heart-shaped jam-filled powdered sugar donut, one vanilla-glazed jam-filled semi-cronut, and one chocolate and hazelnut dusted, chocolate-filled donut. These donuts are the soft fluffy types – very light and aerated, and the only heavy thing about them is the jam/chocolate filling. They’re nothing out of ordinary, but if you want a light-ish sweet snack while out on the streets of Athens, Nanou Donuts House is a safe bet.
Nanou Donuts House is located at Voriou Ipirou 143 in Athens, Greece, and many other locations in Greece – check their website.
Stop 4: Meliartos
Our fourth stop was at Meliartos, which is more of an all-rounder cafe than specifically a dessert establishment. It’s split up into a few different sections – the all-important Greek coffee counter, a sandwiches and fresh salads counter, a Greek pie (spanakopita and more) counter, and last but not least, a desserts counter. They have a range of Greek desserts on offer (baklava etc) but if you’re interested in something a bit more international, they also offer standard single-serve desserts such as tiramisu, lemon tart, etc.
K tried a Freddo Cappuccino drink – essentially an iced espresso, with thick milk foam on top. He chose the semi-sweet option, but you can also choose unsweet or sweet. While the espresso itself wasn’t on par with Australian coffee standards, the milk foam on top was a good addition as it meant you could mix in as much or as little milk into the espresso as you wanted.
I got myself a slice of baklava and galaktompoureko. Everyone knows baklava – and this was a particularly good version with crisp filo sheets, sweet fragrant honey, and an absolute overload of nuts. Galaktompoureko is a little more unknown though and is essentially like a custard pie, but made of semolina. Again, with the flaky crisp pastry, but filled with a delicious semolina custard that’s nice and firm and not too sweet. Beautiful.
Meliartos is located on the corner of Ermou and Aiolou in Athens, Greece.
Stop 5: Yiaourtaki
Our next stop was at Yiaourtaki, a shop we had passed a few times before. Its sign advertising fresh Greek yoghurt was what drew me in – frozen Greek yoghurt still includes all the preservatives and stabilisers of normal frozen yoghurt, and I wanted to try something all-natural without all the nasty bits and pieces.
Unlike other frozen yoghurt shops, Yiaourtaki doesn’t offer self-service. Instead you choose your yoghurt (fresh or frozen) and toppings which range from about 50-80 Euro cents and the guy behind the counter will assemble your concoction for you. The downside to this system of course is that you don’t get any control over how large your serving is, and whether or not you can overload on one topping rather than the other.
I chose a fresh Greek yoghurt with Greek honey and pomegranate seeds as my toppings – I figured, what could be more Greek than yoghurt, honey, and the fruit that caused the goddess Persephone’s tie to Hades and the underworld? This proved to be an excellent combination of tart sour yoghurt, sweet blossom honey, and the occasional fruity burst of juice from the pomegranates. A fantastic dessert with no artificial sugars or flavourings – quite delicious.
Yiaourtaki is located opposite Monastiraki Square on Ermou 82 in Athens, Greece.
Stop 6: Ballader Atelier Patisserie
Our last stop was at Ballader Atelier Patisserie, which had coincidentally only just opened in Athens a couple of days prior to our visit. Mixing traditional French pastries with a touch of Italian gelatos and entirely Greek approaches, Ballader is unique in Athens for its complete dedication to freshness.
Many Greek bakeries around Athens will churn out trays after trays of cookies and biscuits, and you never quite know how old the cookies you’re buying actually are. At Ballader, all of the desserts are marked with a little sign stating the date and time that they were made (e.g. 21/3, 14.17), so you can choose the freshest pastries available. Anything not sold within 24 hours is considered no longer fresh and sale-able.
We chose to get our desserts take away to have later that night. The first – a lemon meringue tart with light meringue tufts that were ridiculously light and creamy on the palate. The lemon curd itself was very smooth and tangy, and while the tart was a bit thicker than I would have expected, it was such a great buttery pastry that I couldn’t complain. K who considers himself a lemon tart aficionado gave this a hearty thumbs up.
Our second choice was a banoffee tart, freshly made according to its little “birth date” sign! With an incredibly fragrant vanilla cream on top, fresh slices of banana in the tart case and a delicious caramel sauce, this banoffee tart ticked all the boxes. I regret not buying one of their macarons to try as well…but a girl must have her dessert limits!
Ballader Atelier Patisserie is located at Kapnikarea 2 in Athens, Greece.