Chanoy Honeymoon: Athens, March 2016

Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this post.

I remember only bits of pieces of my final year in high school studying Classics. Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns. The Parthenon, the Erechtheion. Oedipus, Antigone, The Iliad, The Odyssey. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Pericles and democracy. Gods, goddesses, legends and myths. Bits and pieces of reading old texts, learning about long-dead thought leaders and ancient architecture.

When we visited Athens, the remnants of Ancient Greece appeared to me as though they were the bits and pieces of my Classics training. Nothing about the Acropolis is complete. Time has weathered and wearied structures, foreigners have stolen other parts of it. Famous individuals are remembered now only in statues around the city and occasional mentions in old texts. The gods have been replaced by a surprising number of Orthodox priests roaming around the city.

Modern Athens is young, new and exciting, but somehow muted as though yearning for the glories of the ancient past. The economic crisis continues – one guide told us that most people have two jobs to survive and obviously there aren’t enough jobs to go around either. There’s a large homeless population, and people count their dollars more carefully than ever. Refugees from the Middle East are present, either on the streets or in tents set up on the side of highways. We even witnessed a refugee rally on our first day in Athens.

Still there are those who have come through the economic crisis unscathed – you only need to count the number of luxury yachts in Piraeus harbour to figure out how much wealth is still in Greece.

If you’re not a fan of large tourist crowds, Athens can be hard to handle. The Acropolis and other historical sites are usually overcrowded during most of the day – we ended up visiting as soon as they opened their doors at 8am in order to experience the ruins without crowds. You’ll soon realise that you’ll have to do that at most places in Athens – always arrive as soon as they open their gates so that you get half an hour in peace to explore at your leisure before the tour groups arrive.

Somehow, I’m more comfortable in local crowds than I am in tourist crowds. I had no issues managing the crowds at Athens Central Market – but then again, it’s a lot easier to handle Greek housewives with their shopping trolleys over loud American and Chinese tourists! If you like markets, Athens Central Market is a must. The produce is amazingly fresh and cheap, and anything you want can be found there. I still can’t get over how cheap it is – we paid 1 Euro for a full kilo of strawberries, and 5 Euro for five massive pork chops weighing a combined 1.5 kilos. A true bargain – it’s worth visiting and picking up some produce to cook at home!

You might not want to cook at home with the number of great places to eat though! Food is relatively affordable and fast food places are particularly cheap (I recommend Kostas for souvlakis and Falafellas for falafels). Burgers at FOOD Str are great value and seafood at Epirus Tavern in the markets is unbeatable. You also want to sit at a cafe to enjoy a Greek coffee (for example, Flocafe in Piraeus), maybe try some traditional Greek food at Melilotos on the right day, and you definitely want to try all the desserts that Athens has to offer!

Athens was a particularly relaxing stop on our trip. We ate some great and cheap food, we visited some iconic sights and most importantly, we didn’t rush around trying to do too much all at once. We treated ourselves as true Athenians – we kept ourselves busy in the mornings, we had great food for lunch, and then we wiled away the afternoons with cold drinks and a bit of people-watching. What could be more Greek than that?

Dessert Hunting in Athens, Greece

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. 

Review: Melilotos, Athens Greece

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!

Handmade eggplant salad with walnuts, 4.90 Euro
Handmade eggplant salad with walnuts, 4.90 Euro

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.

Traditional meatballs in tomato sauce with mint, papardeles pasta and melted metsovone cheese from Metsovo baked in the oven, 10.50 Euro
Traditional meatballs in tomato sauce with mint, papardeles pasta and melted metsovone cheese from Metsovo baked in the oven, 10.50 Euro

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.

daily special: Fried squid with a potato salad, 8 Euro
Daily special: Fried squid with a potato salad, 8 Euro

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.