Chef and food blogger Marilou Pantaki, widely known as Madame Ginger, gives Culture Trip the inside track on the best breakfasts in Athens.
As in many cities around the world, breakfast has become a highlight of the dining scene in Athens in recent years. While Athenians have traditionally started the day with a simple, modest breakfast, today the Greek capital is flush with varied breakfast options, including towering pancake stacks, sumptuous egg dishes and traditional cheese pies. More than familiar with the city’s culinary offerings, Madame Ginger knows where to head for a healthy start to the day or a hearty, curative breakfast after a night out.
Pancakes at Kirios Who
Cafe, European, Coffee, Tea , Greek
Kirios Who is set within a Neoclassical building | Courtesy of Kirios Who
“Kirios Who serves the best hangover breakfast in Athens,” says Pantaki. Perhaps it isn’t by chance that the stylish café serves breakfast only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Housed in a Neoclassical building in the heart of Petralona, Kirios Who exudes both elegance and cosiness. “I come here for the pancakes, which are filled with Philadelphia [cream cheese] and topped with eggs, bacon and hollandaise sauce,” says Pantaki. “It isn’t what you’d call a healthy breakfast, but if you’re having a high-fat morning meal, you might as well make it worth it,” she points out.
Ariston is a traditional pastry shop dating back to the 1910s. Its founder, Anastasios Lompotesis, brought the recipe for kourou dough (a type of shortcrust pastry) to Athens from Istanbul. Ariston sells a wide range of savoury and sweet pies in its ’50s-style bakery, but the kourou cheese pie is the first product to sell out every morning. “Ariston stands out because the pies are still made with fresh ingredients based on Lompotesis’s original recipe. Athenians that are now 70 years old say that the quality, the taste and even the portion size have remained the same for over 50 years,” says Pantaki. “Plus, you can satiate your appetite for less than €2 (£1.70). It’s the perfect quick bite if you’re roaming around the city centre.”
Opened in 2019 in the heart of Athens’s city centre, Dope Roasting Co. manages to bring out its building’s 180-year history as an art gallery, drapery shop and firearm store in its minimal, industrial decor. The smell of freshly brewed coffee and baking bread coming from the café’s in-house roastery and bakery lingers in the air all day long. Every pastry at Dope is handmade, while the coffee is roasted by Antonis Tsaroukian, who is a fifth-generation coffee specialist. “I especially like the brioche with the pear compote because the compote tastes like the one your grandma might give you,” says Pantaki. “Combined with a layer of patisserie cream and chocolate on the bottom, every bite of this brioche will get your taste buds tingling.”
Oi Pites tis Sofias is the brainchild of Matina and Dimitris, two siblings who decided to share their mother’s secret pie recipes with the world. Using fresh, local ingredients and virgin olive oil, Matina has managed to create the “crispiest pie crust in town”, according to Pantaki. While it’s located in the seafront neighbourhood of Palaio Faliro, Athenians from all over the city head here for a savoury pie accompanied by a glass of the traditional spirit raki or a sweet pie and a warm cup of Greek coffee. Pantaki recommends the pepper pie to satisfy any savoury cravings and the chocolate pie for something sweet. What makes this place a favourite among foodies of all ages is that “Matina preserves the authentic Greek traditional pie recipes but at the same time adds a modern twist,” says Pantaki. These twists include the option to top the pies with a fried egg – perfect for breakfast.
Bel Ray boasts a chic bar and a charming al fresco dining area | Courtesy of Bel Ray
Bel Ray is a stylish café situated in the elegant neighbourhood of Koukaki. What Pantaki loves the most about this place is that it attracts a mixed crowd. “On a Sunday morning, you’ll see locals and tourists as well as Athenian fashionistas and hipster millennials mingling at the café’s outdoor tables.” Housed in a former car wash, the minimally decorated café has taken its name from Bel-Ray motor oils. Even though its breakfast menu offers plenty of choices, Pantaki says she always goes for the cheesecake. “There aren’t many places serving dessert for breakfast, and I always appreciate it when I find a mouth-watering sweet treat. Besides, if I crave something savoury, I just head to Giant across the street, a pizzeria owned by the same people as Bel Ray, and bring a pizza slice back to my table.”
LOT51 opened its doors in December 2018, breathing new life into Brazil Square in the area of Illisia. Serving high-quality coffee in a modern and stylish environment, it didn’t take long before this café gained a loyal following. “The experienced baristas at LOT51 use a wide range of coffee varieties with acidic, bitter and sweet tastes, serving almost tailor-made coffees. Just tell them what flavour you prefer and leave the rest to them,” says Pantaki, adding that “you can never go wrong with a flat white at LOT51.” When it comes to food, Pantaki recommends the ‘Cheat Day’ meal. “Simple, yet filling, this dish of fried eggs, french fries, grilled bread and bacon will keep you going all day,” she says.
The Clumsies is both a bar and a standout breakfast spot | Courtesy of The Clumsies
Located on Praxitelous Street, just a stone’s throw away from Monastiraki Square, The Clumsies is well known for serving the best cocktails in the city. In the morning, though, Athenians – including Madame Ginger – head here for a meal. Divided into healthy, sweet and ‘egglicious,’ The Clumsies’ food menu covers all tastes. “Every dish at The Clumsies is made with high-quality ingredients, and each one of them is carefully curated,” says Pantaki, adding that her favourite section is ‘egglicious’. “I strongly recommend the poached eggs with crumpets, tartar sauce, avocado and smoked salmon. Not only it is a nutritious and mouth-watering dish, but it gives you a natural energy boost for the whole day.”