ELEGANT DINING AT 2 MICHELIN STAR SPONDI IN ATHENS
Our recent trip to Athens just happened to fall quite conveniently on Valentines Day, which meant the greatest foodie gesture of love would be to dine at the truly elegant 2 Michelin star, first Relais and Châteaux guide restaurant in Greece, Spondi. I came across Spondi whilst putting together our Athens itenary and the draw was its menu combining the haute cuisine with a modern twist of Greek traditional flair.
After alighting the taxi and walking towards the exterior of Spondi, guarded with two large clay plant pots at either side of the arched entrance, you could walk by without knowing what exists beyond this. However, the eagle eyed amongst you will sense that something magical lies afar the modest façade. Something quite romantic, elegant and mesmerising, which will draw you in and want to discover more as you walk beside the outdoor terrace.
SPONDI: THE RESTAURANT
Spondi was opened back in 1996, by Apostolos Trastelis and prides itself on a seasonal changeable menu sourcing ingredients, which are available in abundance locally. The maître d explained that Spondi was awarded its first Michelin star in 2002 and the second in 2008 and has consecutively for the past 12 years won the accolade of being the ‘best restaurant in Greece’. Locals told me, Spondi has been the talk of the town ever since it opened and its located in the heart of the city, about a 100 yards or so behind the magnificent Greek construction known as the Parthenon.
The restaurant itself spans three regal floors, with stunning interiors comprising crystal chandeliers, ambient mood lighting in gold finishes, Christofle cheese and dessert trolleys, almost gothic styled diamond tufted upholstered sofa styled seating accompanied by leather chairs and the crispest white cotton table cloths. The interior styling is very much in keeping with the building and all ties in perfectly to set the mood for an unforgettable culinary experience.
Our visit was obviously during the winter months and therefore we dined in the part of the restaurant, which was referred to as the cellar and that was reflected in the open brick walls and lower ceilings, which created a somewhat undisturbed winter warming setting. During the summer season, dining would predominantly take place on the outside terrace, which is the draw of living in a city with almost perfect sunshine weather for most of the year!
The indoor restaurant in the cellar also had a lavishly upholstered waiting area close to the entrance and kitchen and opposite this was a small bar area, which could also team up as a private dining room for small parties. All interiors were in keeping with the same interior decorated theme and completed each other flawlessly. But as I’m sure you will be able to guess, the real star of the show at Spondi is the cuisine and worry not, I have a comprehensive review of that to come as I finish setting the mood of the carefully constructed scene for you.
Dr C and I were shown to our table by the maître d with a choice of Kir Royale or champagne being poured and pressed into our hands almost immediately. We were sat on a beautiful round table and upholstered sofa style wall seat, adorned by the gleam of light from a large crystal chandelier hanging above us. The table was laid with shiny silverware and a large decadent gold plate, which was removed on presentation of our appetisers.
We were presented with the specially created Valentines Day menu, which we looked through in excitement whilst the Sommelier suggested the best bottle of wine to accompany our cuisine to come. We were keen to try a crisp white wine, which we insisted should be Greek and I can vouch it complemented the seven course set menu impeccably.
Our table was also served with a generous helping of different breads to accompany our meal, such as plain bread, Parmesan breadsticks and crispy focaccia with sprinkles of fresh oregano. A lovely extra, virgin olive oil was also provided, which was sourced from the island of Crete.
Our dining commenced with an appetizer of beetroot topped with beetroot leaf. A warm clear consume was poured over the dish creating the vibrant deep pink colour of the beetroot to run into the dish like a dye. The colour was beautiful and a real spectacle to watch. Palettes suitable cleansed, we were ready to proceed with this gastronomic journey.
This was swiftly followed by a brown oblong box containing two small spherical shapes resembling croquettes. They were laid over some green bedding, which gave the illusion almost of a nest upon, which sat freshly laid eggs. These croquette balls infact contained a concoction of the most divine taste of smoked milk that was truly a taste sensation I have never experienced before. What do they say, the best things come in small packages! Certainly true in this case.
Now, they were only the precursors to our menu, so here begins the seven course valentines menu at Spondi.
COURSE 1: FOIS GRAS
The first course was an artist’s delight, with strategically placed discs of foie gras in the form of terrine and mousse with flavours of raspberry, apple and pear scattered around the plate. As I’m a pescatarian, I didn’t try the fois gras but I was suitably informed it was buttery soft and smooth. I can however say that the accompanying foods on the dish were all very complimentary and had an individual unique taste, which seemed to me went well with the fois gras.
COURSE 2: JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE
Not being the greatest fan of artichokes, I was eager to try this dish but I needn’t have worried as I am converted! This was served almost like a chopped salad in a beautiful black dish which enhanced the aesthetics of the cuisine. The Jerusalem artichoke was mixed with the most divine truffle and a beautifully creamy variety of goats cheese originating from France called Saint Maure. The cheese is produced in the province of Touraine in France, situated in Indre-et-Loire.
COURSE 3: SEA BASS
The fish course was always going to be a winner for me as Sea bass really is one of my favourites. I was not disappointed as it was cooked to perfection. It was nicely filleted and fell apart seamlessly. The dish was accompanied by a salad of fermented oyster mushrooms, asparagus with a sprinkling of coriander leaves and a delicious creamy white sauce. The flavours were so unique to what I’ve experienced before and one of the best fish dishes I’ve tasted to date.
COURSE 4: HARE PIE
As I mentioned previously, Dr C had double helpings of this dish and he commented the meat was succulent and tender especially with the addition of the rich Grand Vernier sauce. The pastry was cooked to perfection and complemented the fois gras in the pie and also the assortment of winter vegetable. I did try these and each one had the freshest of flavours and oozed of home grown winter vegetable gardens.
COURSE 5: WARM SAINT NECTAIRE CHEESE WITH A BITTER SALAD
Reminiscent of one of my favourite courses but this dish was also a play on the classic cheese on toast. This was a far more superior cheese on toast, which comprised a piece of dark softly toasted bread accompanied by a slice of Saint Nectaire cheese, which is made in the Auvergne region of France from cattle milk. Finally there was a small bitter salad to break up the salty flavour of the bread and cheese. For some reason, maybe it was the familiarity of the tastes from this dish, it was hugely comforting and indulgent simultaneously and who doesn’t like melted cheese with toast?!
COURSE 6: PRE-DESSERT
Before the revealing of the ultimately romantic course of the night, we were prepared for the event with a palette cleanser pre-dessert of a blood orange sorbet with ginger and a scattering of mini meringue. What a clean refreshing punch of flavours this was and totally put me in the mood for the piece de resistance to come!
COURSE 7: THE DESSERT
Simply, named ‘The valentine’s day Chocolate’, wow wow wow, when it came out all I could see was ‘THAT’ gold rimmed plate with the white and red dessert on top. Once placed in front of me, I was simply in awe. So much so that I couldn’t even concentrate on the waiter’s description of the dish but on the other hand I couldn’t bring myself to dive in either. A dessert that is such a fine work of art and sculpture that it cannot be eaten but admired as a being born from great talent! The Valentines day Chocolate combined the utter luxuriously decadent flavours of white chocolate, red fruits, crunchy biscuit, some seriously impressive sugar work and a smothered ibiscus. I can only describe this as the dessert of love and quite apt for Valentines! It was sheer unadulterated perfection.
And just to extend the sweet treats for a little longer, we were presented with a couple of berry coloured chocolate shell-type quenelles.
Before carriages, we ended our evening with traditional Greek coffee, which is actually quite a light roast but still a lovely way to finish the evening.
Now, there’s just a small amount of detail that I left out in the review that I am going to reveal now. I was very lucky to spend some time meeting the genius behind this menu at Spondi, Chef Angelos Lantos. Chef Angelos started working at Spondi in 2005 and gained Spondi its second Michelin star in 2008.
I was emailed the menu ahead of our visit and when it was suggested that Chef would like to meet me, to say I was a little happy would be an understatement! I have the greatest admiration for his creativity, and authenticity of cuisine and of course the way he had fused together the perfectly crafted valentines menu. Chef Angelos gave me a tour of his pristine kitchen, where I met a couple of his nine sous chefs that would be preparing our food that evening. Absolutely, one of those exquisite gastronomic moments I will remember for many years to come.
Spondi is really special, the atmosphere, the surroundings, the quality of the service, the friendliness of the staff and the star attraction, the food, words cannot denote the romanticism of this place and I thoroughly recommend it if you are looking for a special place to dine in Athens. I extend my gratitude to Chef Angelos and his team of chefs, not forgetting the maître d, sommelier and the very knowledgeable front of house team.
The Valentines menu was set at £120 Euros per person for 7 courses or you could cut this down to five courses (eliminate the Jerusalem artichokes and cheese), which was priced at 90 Euros. Normally there is an a la carte menu to choose from or two tasting menus – The ‘Initiation’ menu, which includes four courses for 73 Euros and the seven course, ‘Discovery’ menu, priced at 136 Euros.
The valentines menu was a set menu therefore there was no flex on changing the courses around, however if you are vegetarian or vegan, the chef would be happy to specially create some alternative options with prior notice.
Tel: +30 21 0756 4021
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