Upon arriving in Athens it didn’t take us long to start sussing out foodie places for our first Greek meal. After walking around the fresh market my hubby discovered a stairway into a little old tavern. With no signage or markings this little hideaway would be impossible to find unless you stumbled across it like we did. We squatted to look down the stairs and saw a few locals eating with tables lined up next to giant wine barrels that covered the wall.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
As we walked down the stairs everyone in the bar peered up to see who the newcomers were, we took a seat and waited for the young waiter while the old cook tossed fish on the grill. There were no menus so we didn’t really know what to do and of course we were unsure how much of language barrier there would be now that we were out of the touristy strip. Within minutes of sitting down a tin mug filled to the brim is slung onto the table placed on top of a takeaway container filled with a slab of ice to make a makeshift cooler.
We poured our water to find that it was wine, when we looked around we figured that it was his homemade wine that he serves to everyone who sits down whether you ask for it or not. That was our first surprise.
Next we patiently waited to see if a menu would come our way but instead a big bowl of soupy chickpeas is delivered to our table with a chunk of fresh bread. Within moments a big Greek salad appears on the table and unfortunately for me so does a plate of something that really grosses me out! I guess we were having the set menu of the day whether we liked it or not.
Anyway I am sure my eyes bulged out of my head in disgust when I saw what landed on our table. A whole plate of pan fried sardine looking creatures swimming in a tomato and garlic broth. I was nervous as I didn’t actually know how I would get away with not eating them, let alone trying one. Once all our dishes were on the table and these little guys were staring at me I knew I had to bite the bullet and try one. I hung one upside down over my mouth by the tail whilst hoping I wouldn’t have to actually go through with it. As time passed I knew I just had to do it and down the hatch it went.
It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, not the best but luckily it was fresh and clean and I had plenty of wine to wash it down. After drowning the rest in lemon juice and eating them whole I realised that maybe I wasn’t meant to eat the whole head and spine. It definitely made it more palatable once I was just eating the teeny white fillets instead. I am sure I wouldn’t order it again but if it landed in my lap I know I could be a bit more graceful about it.
What I loved about the place was that the meal was simple and the tavern was authentic and ‘old school’. The ingredients were local, fresh and in season and cooked with passion and confidence. I enjoyed the meal (in the end) and best of all we had an experience that was funny and memorable. I ended up trying something new and have something to add to my food repertoire. If we go back to Athens we will certainly go back and revisit the little old guy who gave us a day to remember.
Writing by Michelle Floate, photos by Michelle Floate and Wade Ranson.