PAPAIOANNOU

A treat is rare enough these days in a crisis torn Greece but a treat we decided on last Saturday night with a friend. We decided on a fish restaurant in the small, old port of Piraeus and considered one of the top fish restaurants in Athens. It is in a beautiful location, right in the old harbour and literally sits amongst the sail boats. We tried to book a table around 2 hours before our time of arrival but were unsuccessful. As any other Greek would do, we found a friend who knew someone from the inside and got him to book us a table. Slightly perturbed but none the less hungry we arrived at the restaurant late (11 was the earliest table even with our inside man) and starving.

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To my first surprise, there were no menus handed out. The waiter came by to take our order and basically spoon fed us what we were to order, something I soon realised happened on every table. How am I supposed to order without seeing the whole selection? Without having a few moments to ponder my choice and revel in my treat? To top this off, the main attraction of the restaurant that had drawn us there -the tuna fillet- had finished. The topic was a much discussed issue during the night.

15 minutes later we had been served our warm brown bread with fresh, bright green olive oil and herbs dribbled all over. Although we ordered the wine the moment we sat down (not one to waste time), it had still not arrived 10 minutes on. After we placed our order, we were stuffing back the bread so as not to die of starvation. Finally we decided to remind our waiter that we had ordered wine to which he simply smiled and continued his business. It reminded me of the many times I talk to my dad and he nods his head joyfully, but is actually completely ignoring me. Now some things that truly bother me in good restaurants (or any restaurants for that matter) are when they are late with the wine. Our starters began to arrive before the wine had even come to our table. We now reminded a different waiter and 5 minutes later, our white house wine had arrived.

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I could not help overhearing the table next us also having problems with the food’s arrival time. They had just eaten their starters and the waiter came around to ask if they would like their plates cleared and any dessert. To this they looked confused and explained their main dish had not yet arrived 45 minutes after completing their starters. The waiter apologised and went off to explain the situation to his superiors who all came up to our neighbours to apologise.www.jazzismus.com papaioannou

Even so, our food began arriving slowly (as it should-not all at once as is customary in many Greek restaurants) starting with our house salad and fish egg roe dip. The salad was a freshly cut mixture of lettuce, horseradish, cucumber, carrot and very large slices of tomato with a delicious vinaigrette. The portion was very large and much appreciated. The fish roe dip is a favourite dish of my companion for the night so I had an excellent judge for this dish (which he orders in every single restaurant he visits). According to my friend the expert, this dip was of a good consistency, slightly too runny, but the portion of fish taste to bread was perfect as was the quantity of lemon-making it an excellent dish. We also ordered fresh grilled sardines, shrimp and fried gavros-all of which were of a very good standard. There was also grilled octopus and kalamari which were cooked to perfection and tasted delicious.

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As the tables were very close together, we got talking with our neighbours who turned out to be American Cypriots living in Washington and celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. They had nothing but good things to say about their food, despite the confusion and terrible service and even offered us some of their dessert to try – which we gladly did. Loukoumades are fried dough balls dipped in honey and are a Greek delicacy. Although I am not generally a fan, these had an excellent crust and served with vanilla ice cream made for a perfect finish to our delicious dinner.

If one did not take the shaky start into account including the lack of menus, freedom of choice and the service that left a lot to be desired- the location of the restaurant combined with the delicious tastes we sampled definitely made for a delicious evening. The bill came to about 100 euros for 2 litres of wine and all the food mentioned which was predictable. Overall I would recommend the restaurant if you are prepared to overlook the poor service and sit in a beautiful location with great food.

 

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