Two veggie-friendly restaurants in Athens

June 4, 2015 at 12:26 pm (Restaurant review, Trip report)

We went to Greece last week (Derek had a workshop there), but most of the time we just ate in our hotel in Kefalonia. The food there wasn’t so inspiring (I guess it’s about what you would expect from an all-inclusive resort hotel), but I did appreciate that there were always beans available. We were there for five nights and they served chickpeas several times, fava beans several times, black eyed peas once, and various white beans.

We spent one day in Athens, and ate at two places that I can recommend for vegetarians—Chemin and Mani-Mani.

Chemin we found by accident when wandering around looking for a place to eat brunch. It’s a small cafe, which offered two different vegetarian “pies”. Our favorite was the onion pie, but I also enjoyed the zucchini pie with dill. The pies were relatively rich, but both tasty, and without a crust. According to the owner they are based on a traditional Greek recipe, from some region of Greece that I now forget. In addition to the veggies and herbs, they are thickened with eggs and a bit of flour.

Chemin also offers a number of British and American desserts, including a very tasty looking carrot cake. We decided to try something new to us however— the “banoffee,” apparently a traditional British dessert. It was interesting, but was very sweet. According to the owner, her version is less sweet than the traditional version! The coffee at Chemin was also good, and it’s on a side street that’s less busy than many other cafes we passed, although loud scooters went by frequently.

The other restaurant, where we went for dinner, was Mani-Mani (although the receipt spelled it Manh-Manh). It was recommended by a friend (thanks Karen!) and was also one of the restaurants listed on our free Athens map.  It’s clearly catering to international tastes, as most of the clientele there were tourists. Despite that, the food, service, and ambience were all very good. And although it’s not a vegetarian restaurant, they had several vegetarian options. I started with a cheese ravioli in a vegetable sauce. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised. The sauce was sort of like a very refined ratatouille, with finely diced zucchini, eggplant, and other veggies. The dish didn’t light up my toes, but it tasted nicely of vegetables, and wasn’t overly heavy, compared to most vegetarian ravioli dishes at restaurants. I saw other people eating big piles of green salad, which looked delicious! If I had had the room, I would have ordered one as well.

For my main course I ordered a chickpea, cabbage, cumin, and mint salad with a sauce made from green apples. I really enjoyed it. The portion was huge, and it was quite tasty, in an unusual way. Also, again, it was relatively light for restaurant food. I’d love to be able to make a similar salad, or get one at a restaurant in Saarbruecken!

Derek ordered lamb for his main course, which came with celeriac puree and a side of traditional greek greens, which again were very tasty, and relatively light. We asked what kinds of greens they were, and the waiter said it was a mix of spinach and two other greens which had no English translation. He told us the Greek names (seskoula and vlita) and I looked them up online and they appear to be a kind of chard and amaranth greens, respectively.

The only thing we wouldn’t recommend at Mani-Mani were the desserts. We tried the “baklava” and the orange cake. The baklava was a pile of off-tasting mushy apples and nuts with some crunchy filo layered on top. It was not good at all, and came with some overly gummy ice cream. The orange cake was eggy with a texture and flavor similar to the one they had at our resort hotel. I thought it was fine, but Derek didn’t care for it at all.

If you go to Mani-Mani before 6pm, you can get half portions of all the dishes for half price. Given that the regular evening portions are quite large, I think it’s a great deal. You can have a smaller meal, or try more dishes for the same amount of money.

We had a reservation, which was good, because they were turning people away, at least on a Saturday night.

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