Only 100m from the marble Panathenian stadium in downtown Athens is Spondi, arguably the most elegant restaurant in Greece. From 2001-2013 Spondi was voted Best Restaurant in Greece, by prestigious foodie mag Athinorama, for its style and originality, located in an historic neoclassical villa with a peaceful stone wall and tree lined-courtyard. And of course, it was voted best for its food now under the reign of master chef Aggelos Lantos.
French haute cuisine
This is about as far from traditional Greek food as you could imagine. It’s French haute cuisine with a modern Greek cultural style. Signature dishes include roast lamb in a crust of coriander and candied lemon; crab in a fine herb jelly with mousseline line and grated cauliflower, frog legs coated with peanuts and accompanied by a celery and coconut mousse, foie gras with xocopili chocolate and spices (pictured below). It has an extensive dessert and sweets menu and the cheese boards are faithful to the structure of haute cuisine, with wine recommendations for each cheese.
Two Michelin stars
The cellar contains 1,300 wines from all over the world, including the best Greek and French. Spondi was opened by Apostolos Trastelis in 1996. The menu changes with the seasons. It won its first Michelin star in 2002 and the second in 2008. This year it was placed 97th on the list of top 100 of the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants List. This is Spondi’s first entry on the prestigious list. The review said: “Lantos ensures each plate is generously arranged, with strong shapes, textures and colours, jolting exuberantly for space.” Pictured below is sea bass tatar, with celery, caviar Imperial de France and oyster.
Spondi’s splendid six-course Christmas menu (120 euros pp) includes: crab cannelloni with rice foam and mango vinegar; pan-fried foie gras with shiitake mushrooms and caramelised onion; sea bass nori with artichoke, cockles and yuzu oil; wild duck with beetroot and blackcurrant; farm camembert with roasted walnuts and candied dried apricots; hazelnut Vacherin with prune and Armagnac. There’s a similarly eclectic menu for New Year’s Eve at 130 euros pp.
The go-to place
Spondi is located in Pagrati (or Pangrati in English), an older suburb on the fringe of the downtown area. Although it has its fair share of grey, minimalist apartment buildings, Pagrati also has lovely, peaceful, narrow back streets lined with handsome neoclassical villas, styled with painted shutters and roofs decorated with ceramic akroterion. Menus include the tapas menu at 69 euros pp, the six-course Discovery Menu at 157 euros pp with Greek wines, or 195 euros pp accompanied by international wines. Or you may, of course, order a la carte.
The mood is soft and romantic, but also grand, juxtaposed with stone and brick walls and exposed brick vaulted ceilings. If Spondi is on your budget, many Athenians will tell you this is the go-to place to dine.
CHECK LIST FOR SPONDI:
- Spondi, Pyrronos 5, Pagrati, Athens 11636
- Tel: +302107564021
- French, Greek and English spoken
- Within walking distance of the Panathenian stadium, built in 1896 for the first modern era Olympic Games
- Short walk to other attractions of downtown Athens
- Closed at Easter weekend and for a week in the August summer holidays.