Planning a Valentines Day dinner in Athens? Two pieces of good news for you: one is that Valentines Day is not a popular holiday in Greece. Two is that it falls on a Monday this year, meaning restaurants won’t be booked solid. Well, maybe. On second thought, this city’s unpredictability factor far outweighs Mondays and mildly reciprocated Western holidays, so let’s focus on your game plan. I’ve highlighted four choices ideal for four different scenarios, all special: one that goes all out, what we call a “splurge,” an exotic, somewhat out-of -the-way choice that oozes romance and charm, a sweet spot that’s worthy of returning to, and one for those who aren’t going for broke – they’re already there.
There are two classical, and invariably well-documented, choices for a romantic dining splurge in Athens: the city’s finest restaurant, Spondi, and the restaurant capping Lycabettus Hill, Orizontes. They’re both excellent -and pricey- choices; after long hours of staring into each other’s eyes and finishing the second bottle of wine, of the two, which one offers a satiny pillow to lay your heads upon just a few floors down?
Tudor Hall is the gourmet restaurant on top of the five star hotel, King George Palace. The hotel is running a Valentine’s Day Special of dinner plus a night’s stay for 250 euros. Assuming the wine comes into the picture, it’s a little more than what you would spend at either of the aforementioned restaurants but includes a luxurious hotel room and half price at the hotel’s spa where they offer couple’s massage and chocolate treatments. Should you opt for just dinner, chef Sakis Tzanetos is curating a French-Mediterranean menu that won’t fail to make your heart flutter; so will the panoramic views of Syntagma Square and the Acropolis, best from the orchid-adorned tables for two along the veranda. Make your reservation early to snag one.
Expect to pay €70 a person without wine.
In the shady green northern suburb of Maroussi, fountains burble in grassy gardens decorated with elephants. The scarlet and gold interior of Jaipur Palace, Athens’ select Indian restaurant, flickers with life from the surrounding candles mingling with the steam of curries, tandooris and jasmine rice served in copper dishes. Go on and eat with your hands. It’s sensual. Take a post-dinner drive past the modern Olympic Stadium lit like a torch against the Athens skyline.
€30 a person without wine
To Omorfo -a traditional taverna of Kolonaki near the more established Fillipou– is as sweet as they come with its butter walls, wooden tables and lace curtains. The dining area is small but does manage an intimate crowd, mostly from the golden generation the restaurant aspires to evoke; inevitably the social hum is low enough to enjoy nostalgic Greek love songs from the 30’s and 40’s playing softly overhead. The fare changes daily but that’s about all- you’re sure to be given a warm smile of recognition by your server from the time before. Your drink order will be memorized by visit number three.
€10-€15 a person (ordering two dishes and a shared salad) with a small caraffe of house wine
Have a Cheap Date
Sitting in a table along the window of Kymatothravstis is cozy, colorful, and dirt cheap. The the slingshot cafeteria in Exarcheia is routinely crowded with students and artists who go to fill up on pure, wholesome food like spanikopita, soups, baked vegetables, fresh bread, all served in bowls of two sizes: big or small. The big runs you six euros, the small 3.50. If it fits in the bowl, it’s included in the meal. You still have enough left in your pockets to take a walk around the indie-bohemian bar scene of Strefi Hill, another great vantage point of Athens twinkling by night.
Last piece of advice for the most successful night possible: present a trip to Paris, courtesy of NileGuide, for you and your more tender half. Got your attention? See more details on NileGuide’s Paris page.