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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Dinner at Spondi, the top gastronomic restaurant in Athens, if not in Greece

Heading out to Spondi tonight in Athens, living a Travelife.
Spondi is the city's top gastronomic restaurant.

For our last dinner in Greece, living a Travelife, it was just fitting that we went to Spondi, one of only two Michelin two-star restaurants in Athens.

It's also the city's reigning gastronomic restaurant.



Greece doesn't have a Michelin three-star restaurant at the moment, so Spondi is as high and as fine as you will get, if you want a restaurant based on rankings.

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OPERA OR DINNER?

Actually, for this last night, our choices were to attend the opera tribute to Maria Callas at an amphitheatre right under the Acropolis, or to have dinner in Spondi.

It was a really tough choice, but the stars aligned and pointed us towards a gourmet experience, and we were not at all disappointed.

AN AL FRESCO DINNER
ON A BEAUTIFUL SEPTEMBER EVENING



Spondi is a lovely restaurant located in a semi-residential neighbourhood of Athens.

In the winter, diners eat indoors in a rather glamorous venue with eclectic interiors.

But on a fine night like tonight, at the end of summer and the start of autumn, everyone ate in tables in the terraces, and the place was full.

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE



The menu at Spondi is not extensive, but it has enough variety to please everyone. There's also a tapas degustation menu and a gastronomic tasting menu for those with big appetites.

Both set menus were very good value.


By local standards, Spondi is definitely a pricey upmarket establishment.

But by international standards, it's a very reasonable place for dinner.

In fact, it's probably one of the most reasonably-priced Michelin two-star restaurants in Europe, so this is definitely the place to go if you wish to try a two-star restaurant on a budget.

CREATIVE DISHES



The food is very good and creative.

Like with other Michelin-starred establishments, Spondi observes an elaborate ritual for dining.

This begins with an amuse bouche, and includes a palate cleanser between fish and meat courses, a pre-dessert and an apres-dessert.



We shared three appetizers to start, including a delicious carpaccio of sea bass and Spondi's version of poached egg with truffles and bacon, cooked at a constant temperature for one hour.



SHADES OF JAPAN,
AND AN EXCELLENT LAMB DISH

Then, unable to decide on main courses, we order one scallop dish and one lamb dish instead, and shared these.

The scallops were especially creative, as one side of the plate had two scallops that were cooked, while the other side had chopped raw scallops topped with a wasabi sorbet, and everything was swimming in a broth of soy sauce and herbs.

If you're thinking shades of scallops sashimi, you're probably right.


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MY FAVOURITE DISH

Meanwhile, the lamb shoulder turned out to be my favourite dish.

I usually only ever order rack of lamb as I so enjoy the meat on the bone, and I've not found a shoulder of lamb to wax rhapsodic about in recent memory.

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However, this dish at Spondi, made with milk-fed lamb, was cooked to perfection.

Being the shoulder of the lamb, it was lean rather than fatty, which is something that usually puts me off.



But in this instance, I was in heaven, especially as the chef served it with his version of a milk rice pudding so that I actually was able to eat lamb with white rice in Europe for once.

WHAT A SURPRISE



The desserts, too, were extremely creative.

Again, we chose two desserts and shared. We had a salted caramel dessert and a poached peach dessert with a very strong peach sorbet.



Once more, I am not a fan of fruit desserts in general, and I will always choose chocolate or caramel over fruit in the menu. 

But, very interestingly, this refreshing dessert of poached peach in a peach foam, accompanied by a tangy peach sorbet, won me over completely.

A GREAT FOODIE EXPERIENCE


The verdict?

Spondi is a wonderful experience for serious foodies visiting Athens, especially if you're eager for a change of scenery after having your nth Greek salad and moussaka.



It's also one of the prettiest gourmet places in Athens, in case you're looking for a venue for a special occasion or a nice dinner date.

As for me, it was the perfect way to end a lovely holiday consisting of two weeks of fun in the Greek sun, living a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.






A delicious lunch at Tudor Hall, the best fine dining restaurant in Athens, at the King George Hotel


Yesterday, in Athens living a Travelife, we had a very long, lazy and liquid lunch at Tudor Hall, the rooftop restaurant of the King George Hotel.

The King George Hotel is now a member of the Luxury Collection/ Starwood group, just like its sister hotel next door, the Grande Bretagne.

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AT THE TOP OF THE LIST

The Grande Bretagne has long been the grande dame of Athens hotels, and this is where we were staying.

We were in good company, too, as other guests at the same time included Lady Gaga and her entire entourage, and an entire phalanx of European royalty and aristocracy.

Lady Gaga at the Grande Bretagne in Athens yesterday,
taken with my iPad

The European aristocrats and royalty were in Athens for a private celebration of the former royal family of Greece.

MEMORIES OF ATHENS

I've always stayed at the Grande Bretagne when I am in Athens, as I like its Old World feel.  It truly is an institution like no other in Athens, and they offer impeccable service.


However, I once stayed at the luxurious King George as well about ten years ago, and I still remember how we'd had dinner on this very same rooftop of Tudor Hall, with the amazing acropolis view in the background.

In fact, I still have a photo of that dinner at the King George Hotel ten years ago.

At Tudor Hall yesterday

ONE OF MY BEST LUNCHES
IN ATHENS


Yesterday's meal was equally enjoyable and truly so delicious.


When I walked in, later than my friends as I'd walked the eight floors up instead of taking the elevator, everyone was already having champagne and ordering all kinds of Greek specialties.

I ordered two perfect oysters and a cold carrot and ginger soup to start, and neither of these disappointed at all.



Usually I have my oysters raw, but the menu of Tudor Hall had the option of having them raw or slightly cooked with Greek herbs.

Just for a change, I chose the latter and it was very good.

TRADITIONAL GREEK FOOD
WITH AN EXPERT TOUCH



Then I just had to sample the traditional Greek specialties, just to see how a truly world-class restaurant with a first-rate chef does traditional Greek food.

I had the Greek eggplant dip, which was just spectacular.

The executive chef of Tudor Hall

A SPECIAL GREEK SALAD
WITH SANTORINI TOMATOES

This was followed by my nth Greek salad. 

I've lost count of just how many times I've had a Greek salad on this trip, but I suspect I've had it for 90% of my meals so far, as it's great detox food. This salad blew my mind away.

Tudor Hall's version of the Greek salad
with Santorini tomatoes

They served the Greek salad with flavourful Santorini tomatoes. Santorini tomatoes have got to be the best tomatoes in the world. They're small but ever so potent in terms of flavours.

Then, as you know, Greek salad always has feta cheese as well. In this case, the chef shredded the feta cheese instead of cutting it into cubes, making for a very different kind of salad.

THE FIVE-STAR VERSION
OF THE GYRO




I was so tempted to order a steak or a Greek spaghetti for the main course, especially as I still have not had a Greek spaghetti.

That's one of the last things on my list before flying out of Athens.

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But instead I decided to have a gyro, which is that very delicious pita bread sandwich filled with meat, lettuce, onions and sauce.

The Tudor Hall version has a deconstructed version, created with extremely juicy slices of fatty meat on a crispy pita bread with a Greek salsa and sauce.

This, too, was just amazing.

SWEET ENDINGS TO A VERY NICE TRIP




We ended our very long lunch with assorted traditional Greek pastries, including a sinfully good baklava served with a special Greek ice cream made out of tree sap.

That was it. My diet went out the window and I ordered a whole plate of baklava for myself, with an extra serving of that special ice cream.

I took this photo of Lady Gaga yesterday
with my iPad
And then we returned to out hotel next door just in time to literally bump into Lady Gaga checking out and heading for the airport, on just another wonderful day in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife. 




What life is all about, according to Nike



This is a re-post from a Nike advertisement, just because we at Travelife Magazine believe strongly in these same things.

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WHAT LIFE IS ALL ABOUT
ACCORDING TO NIKE


"Life isn't about keeping score. It's not about how many people call you and it's not about who you've dated, are dating, or haven't dated at all."

It isn't about who you've kissed, what sport you play, or which guy or girl likes you. It's not about your shoes or your hair or the colour of your skin or where you live or go to school.


In fact, it's not about grades, money, clothes, or colleges that accept you or not.

Life isn't about if you have lots of friends, or if you are alone, and it's not about how accepted or unaccepted you are. Life just isn't about that.

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But life is about who you love and who you hurt. It's about how you feel about yourself. It's about trust, happiness, and compassion. It's about sticking up for your friends and replacing inner hate with love.

Life is about avoiding jealousy, overcoming ignorance, and building confidence. It's about what you say and what you mean. It's about seeing people for who they are and not what they have.

Most of all, it is about choosing to use your life to touch someone else's in a way that could never have been achieved otherwise.

These choices are what life's about."