How to Brunch like an Athenian
Athens is waking up to the best meal of the day, writes Amanda Dardanis
There was a time– not so long ago – when the Athenian breakfast of champions was a frappe, cigarette and koulouri. But brunch is the perfect fit for the late-to-bed; late-to-rise Mediterranean lifestyle, and we’re now spoiled for choice when it comes to that luxurious meal between breakfast and lunch.
Tucked away in a pocket of Mitropoleos Street, Hip Café serves up the spirit of New York to central Athens. With fresh, white-on-white decor overlooking a leafy urban courtyard, Hip is one of the few locales in Athens to deliver daily brunch – instead of just Sundays – and they are fully-committed to the indulgence required for a truly successful brunch: There are five different varieties of sweet pancakes plus extensive gourmet egg dishes (our favourite, the eggs benedict-twist with smoked salmon and lime). Hip also does egg-white omelettes for those who can’t quite bring themselves to fully surrender. Extra bonus points for serving their tea in hospitably massive pots.
Time: Mon-Fri (8am-11pm); Sat (9am-11pm); Sun (10am-6pm)
Feel: bright and breezy
Top Taste: the fluffiest of pancakes served with Hip’s Olympus herbal tea (brewed with thyme, sage, chamomile and lime flowers)
Mitropoleos 26, Syntagma
During the week, Ninnolo is your go-to-place for heavenly home-made gelato but on Sundays, this atmospheric meeting spot in the heart of Kifissia morphs into a brunch wonderland. There’s a clever weigh-and-go system where you load up your plate as many times as you like from their ambrosial buffet and they simply charge by the kilo at the end! The weekly brunch focuses on “creative family-cooking” around best seasonal produce. Feast on dishes like eggs benedict, asparagus frittata, broccoli and stilton quiche, or baked field mushrooms with parmesan. Kids will adore the chocolate fountain!
Time: brunch every Sunday (11am-4pm)
Feel: chic and family-friendly
Top Taste: a toss-up between the broccoli and stilton quiche and the field mushrooms
Agiou Dimitriou 8, Kifissia
The cutely-named HandleBar started out life as a rendezvous point for keen cyclists (due to the bike repair shop next door) but quickly became a word-of-mouth hit for those seeking a slice of Britain at the start of their day. Go the full monty with boiled eggs and soldiers (toast fingers); kedgeree with smoked trout; flapjacks with raisins; hot buttered crumpets; and freshly-baked scones with their home-made strawberry jam. Handlebar also has vegan “on the go” healthy snack boxes – and a very dangerous on-site English Shop where you can purchase much-loved British delicacies such as pickled onions, sherbet lemons and hula hoop crisps!
Time: breakfast served daily from 10am
Feel: laid-back cool
Top Taste: hot buttered crumpets. Without a doubt.
Melanthiou 8, Psiri
The line of gaily-coloured parasols suspended from the laneway outside heralds the bohemian vibe at this hugely popular gastro-café near buzzy Agias Irinis square. Both the food and mood at Mama Roux, one of the capital’s first brunch pioneers, are inspired by the owners’ exotic travels. High notes are the Croque Mama-Mia and the New York bagels and lox (paired with a cheeky morning-after Bloody Mary!). Just opened this month is a Mama Roux South outpost in Glyfada.
Time: Sundays (12-5pm)
Feel: bohemian and buzzy
Top Taste: Bellinis and home-made hazelnut spread on English-style muffins
Aioulou 48, Monastiraki
Sunday brunch enthusiasts return frequently to this stylish venue in central Neo Psichiko for its scrumptious mix of Mediterranean and American morning fare – and the Albion’s beautiful garden terrace. A whimsical oasis in reviving turquoise and mulberry hues, you’ll want to linger all day long. In the mood for eggs? They do a very satisfying strapatsada (traditional Greek scrambled eggs with tomato and feta) and a marvelous Eggs Florentine. Rejuvenating health juices, accompanied by much naughtier smoothies (banana and Nutella anyone?) are also a specialty.
Time: Sunday (11am-4pm)
Feel: serenely stylish
Top Taste: eggs florentine and what’s rumoured to be the best Americano coffee in Athens!
Omirou 6, Neo Psichiko
Head to To Tsai, located on a quiet Kolonaki street, for a more authentic Greek experience. With its high ceilings and elegant cool space, Tsai’s many fans hail it as the best tea-house in town. Distinctive tea varieties are served in the traditional Greek way (Tsai also offers tea tastings) and every weekend, they host a well-priced all-you-can-eat brunch buffet loaded with wonderful goodies such as almond and raspberry tart, pancakes with cinnamon and raisins, and carrot and ginger soup.
Time: Saturday and Sunday (12-5pm)
Feel: classic Athenian elegance
Top Taste: the house cheesecake and To Tsai’s specialty iced-teas made with gin and fruit
Alexandrou Soutsou 19, Kolonaki