Pancake Paradise in Athens!
Seriously cold weather calls for serious comfort food. Amanda Dardanis visits Greece’s first high temple to pancakes to see how it stacks up.
Pancakes. As a foreigner living in Greece, they used to be one of those things you just had to make your peace with waving goodbye to (along with bagels, English-style muffins and IKEA being open on Sundays). What with year-round sunshine and the liberated lifestyle, it wasn’t such a bad trade-off.
But bit-by-bit, as the Brunch Invasion gathered pace, pancakes started to pop up more and more on Athenian menus.
Then, we got wind of a magical place where pancakes ruled the land. A whole eaterie devoted entirely to the humble hotcake. Surely it was too good to be true?
Praise the Gods, it wasn’t. Melinikon – The Greek Pancake House (and Athens’ first pancake house), was founded by Greek native Fotis Kokosioulis on Kolonaki’s stylish Skoufa street in 2014. Kokosioulis had lived in New York for 13 years and wanted to transport his great passion for New York-style pancakes to the Greek capital.
We went to investigate this pancake Mecca with great excitement, along with a dozen other pancake devotees (both young and old), on a recent Sunday morning.
Tucked away in a cosy, two-storey hutch, Melinikon is a transformed industrial space with a friendly village vibe created by low-slung pallet sofas, communal benches, exposed brick and black cyclone fencing.
It’s immediately clear that Kokosioulis has also imported the American concept of “super-choice”: there’s an almost paralyzing array of hotcake options to decide from.
First, you choose your dough: regular (wheat flour); wholemeal; vanilla; chocolate; or choc-chip.
Next you choose your topping. And that’s when things start to get a bit more challenging.
Do you go entirely purist sweet tooth? If so, there are at least 17 “Serving Suggestions” – ranging from the Classic American (vanilla pancakes with butter and maple syrup); to Pavlova Pancake; Crème Caramele Pancake; Apple Pie Pancake; Profiterole Pancake; Banoffee Pancake; Golden Cookie Pancake – and our table’s runaway favourite: the Red Velvet Pancake (2 Red Velvet Pancakes with cream cheese, white praline chocolate, strawberries, crunchy merengue and icing sugar).
Or do you vote in the Savoury Camp and choose from tasty toppings such as the Hot Dog Pancake (with sausages, caramelized onions, ketchup, mustard, coleslaw and french fries); Chicken-Roka-Parmesan Pancake; Melinikon Pizza; Club Sandwich; or Brunch Pancake?
(The Brunch Pancake – a single pancake with fried egg, frankfurter sausages, bacon, edam, caramelized onions and bbq sauce – scored the highest with our gang.)
Or perhaps you should ditch the menu completely and go Free-Style. Concoct your own perfect creation from a lengthy list of possibilities that includes a whole section alone on Syrups and Homemade toppings: (sour cherry, caramel, Greek honey, maple; butterscotch sauce; vanilla pastry cream; praline; coconut; seasonal fruits, soft cheese); alongside equally tempting savoury and salad embellishments.
Do learn from our experience though: While the Oreo Therapy Pancake is pure kiddie catnip, it’s way too rich for one child and can easily be shared between 4. Adult share platters such as the Brunch Platter or Classic American for 2 are also a sensible option for those whose eyes are routinely bigger than their stomachs.
The only disappointing note on the menu was the Salmon Pancake. There simply wasn’t enough smoked salmon and the lemon sauce and cream cheese combination didn’t quite gel for us.
The service is good-hearted, if a little impractical. There are only a small number of working hot plates, so big group orders such as ours can take a long time to deliver from start to finish, which means you’ll be eating out of sync (although to be fair, our waitress did warn us!). On the plus side, the pancakes are all griddled in full sight of diners, so at least you know they are not just whipping them out of the freezer!
We definitely recommend booking a table on weekends when Melinikon is very popular with the Kolonaki Set.
Melinikon, The Greek Pancake House, Skoufa 37, is open from 8am Monday-Friday and from 9.30am on Saturdays and Sundays, tel: +30 211.409.1430, www.melinikonpancakes.gr