Think you know Greek cuisine? Well, think again. The country’s food
scene has undergone a spectacular evolution, says Nathaniel Cramp
There’s so much more to Greek food than souvlaki and moussaka. The last few years have seen a spectacular evolution in Greek gastronomy and, with the incredible produce that is available on their doorstep, local chefs have firmly put Greece on the international food map.
Athens is home to four Michelin-starred restaurants, with another four having been awarded the prestigious Bib Gourmand. There are plenty of other places that are pushing the local cuisine forward, too. As the city itself undergoes a renaissance, and the art scene blossoms, the food offering is definitely following suit.
However, it’s not just in the capital where Greek cuisine is developing. In the north of the country, Thessaloniki is known as something of a culinary paradise, with interesting twists and authentic flavours from Pontus and Asia Minor.
Traditional recipes as well as modern trends have created a wide range of choice and the city’s many restaurants create original tastes against the canvas of Mediterranean cuisine. Excellent fish and seafood dishes are accompanied by strongly-flavoured Macedonian wines. Succulent salads complete a perfect meal.
For those with a sweet tooth, trigona panoramatos – custard cream-filled pastries – have become the city’s trademark along with bougatsas, which are available from numerous small shops.
You don’t have to go far to find a good taverna or restaurant in Thessaloniki and there are several areas that are well known for their eateries. Modiano open market in the heart of the old city is undergoing a refurbishment and is set to reopen in 2020. Meanwhile, the Ladadika quarter is one of the most picturesque areas of the city – a former commercial centre that was restored at the end of the 1970s when the old shops were turned into tavernas, restaurants and bars. Every night it is teeming with people who love good food and the feel of old Thessaloniki.
At the other end of the country, the South Aegean – an administrative area that takes in a number of the Greek islands including Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes and Kos – has been named as a European Region of Gastronomy 2019. The idea is to showcase the gastronomical heritage of the islands around the world, and introduce such delicacies as savoro – fried, floured, salted fish with a sour marinade – to the wider world.
The flavours here are unique: on Paros you will find grilled sun dried chub mackerel; on Rhodes oven-baked fish with sesame paste; on Mytilini red mullet coated with a barley rusk crust. Meat dishes include slow-cooked lamb and syglino (a fatty, smoked pork), while the rich volcanic soil that feeds the region’s exceptional fruit and vegetables also produces thriving vines. No surprise, then, that viticulture is undergoing a renaissance
Unique, mind–blowing gastronomic experiences, creative signature dishes, experimentation and new techniques, Michelin-starred restaurants: all of these make up today’s Greek cuisine.