To Triantafilo tis Nostimias restaurant would be impossible to find if someone didn’t tell you it was there. Although just a five-minute walk from busy Syntagma Square, it is hidden in an arcade on the rather unappealing Lekka Street. Despite the central location, the downtown Athens standout remains largely unknown and is not even included in most Athenian food guides. You truly have to be a local to come here.
The restaurant, whose name means “Rose of Deliciousness,” in reference to the unflowerlike owner (in Greek, men can be called Rose, too), is primarily a lunch spot, open only until 7 p.m. The place seems to be popular with students and locals who are in on this downtown secret, which first opened in 1995. Sometimes there are also groups of men – usually deep in conversation and gesticulating wildly in front of the old Greek film posters that adorn the walls – who have just come out of some trade union gathering. There are a handful of tables outside, while the two-room interior is that of a typical Greek taverna, with wooden furniture and rustic wall decorations.
The menu is rather humble but the ingredients used here are top-knotch. The starters are superb: fava (broad-bean dip) was served the traditional way, with olive oil and fresh onion on top; the mavromatika beans (black-eyed peas) came with plenty of parsley and lemon; the oven-baked feta was garnished with pepper and tomato; and the boiled wild herbs were also delicious. The owner is from the island of Mytilene (aka Lesbos) and, not surprisingly, his restaurant specializes in seafood, which is always fresh and nicely prepared, be it baked, fried or boiled. We recommend the thrapsalo (cuttlefish), which was fresh and succulent on the day we ordered it. We also tried the fried marida (small fry) and gavros (whitebait), as well as the barbounia (red mullet) and the fried calamari. Along with wine, the dishes here go especially well with tsipouro (the Greek version of grappa) or ouzo.
There is something exceptionally relaxing about this place, perhaps because of its location inside a rather empty arcade. Even if only for a few hours, it makes one feel sheltered from the mad chaos of downtown Athens. Triantafilos also offers good value for money: unless you order a big fish, a meal here will set you back about €15 per person.