Join Culinary Backstreets

Sign up with email

or

Already a member? Log in.

Log in to Culinary Backstreets

Trouble logging in?

Not a member? Sign up!

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

Kolonaki, or “little column” in Greek, might just be Athens’ most iconic neighborhood, forever synonymous as it is in the minds of Athenians with the wealth and idiosyncrasies of its affluent residents.

Occupying the area from Syntagma square up to Lycabettus hill, it’s full of swanky boutiques, cafes and restaurants. However, one of its most famous hidden gems is actually the unfussy Philippou, a small family-run eatery that sits on a tree-dotted street away from the hustle and bustle of the main square.

Founded in 1923 by Kostas Philippou, it began as a humble taverna with earthen floors and big barrels filled with home-made wine. In 1968 the building where the taverna stood was converted, like thousands of others in the 60s, into a modern block of flats, and the taverna reopened on the ground floor in the same spot it occupies today, a few steps below street level.

Only a few photographs remain of that humble past. Philippou these days resembles much more a proper restaurant, with elegant linen tablecloths and stemmed wine glasses. Still run by the same family, Kostas Philippou, the grandson of the original owner, and his Greek-Australian wife, Patricia, are now in charge. They are chic and soft-spoken, with the big friendly smiles of good hosts, and soon we understand why: most of their clientele are regulars, who either eat here or have their food to go every day.

These customers live or work nearby and belong to older generations of Athenians who are used to a specific type of cooking not easily prepared for solo diners. Ladera, soups, pastitsio and moussaka are among the 20 or so dishes prepared daily for lunch or the 15 for dinner. Approximately 400 portions of food are sold per day, and cooking takes place twice a day: early in the morning for lunchtime service and around 4pm for dinner service.

Despite these impressive numbers, the food at Philippou still tastes home-cooked and satisfyingly bourgeois. “We try to keep things light and easy on the stomach, so we don’t use many spices or a lot of oil in our cooking,” Kostas Philippou said. This was evident in the tender pork lemonato (a simple pork stew with lemon) served with perfectly crisp fries and the grilled grouper with boiled vegetables.

“There is very little room for improvisation, as most of the recipes we use are the original ones. People come here to eat the dishes they have loved for many years, and we can’t disappoint them. Things need to taste the same as they always have.”

This doesn’t mean of course that there aren’t new recipes with a bit of modern flair added to the menu, like the beautifully fresh spinach salad with goat’s milk cheese and crispy bacon.

Portions are generous and prices quite reasonable for the quality of the food (€17 to €20 per person with drinks). There is a house wine, but it might be worth spending a little bit extra to try one of the good, well-priced bottles of Greek wines.

At the end of the meal we were treated to some lovely stewed quince. “We used to make a variety of desserts,” Philippou said, “but after the financial crisis, people stopped buying them. We now only make stewed quince, semolina halva and chocolate salami and they are always on the house.”

As we left we noticed that nobody was smoking, an unusual and welcome occurrence (despite the smoking ban now being in effect for almost ten years, most places do not enforce it). And it’s also worth noting that Philippou is perhaps one of the few restaurants in Greece not open on Saturday night or Sunday lunchtime, so plan your visit accordingly.


Get directionsExport as KML for Google Earth/Google MapsOpen standalone map in fullscreen modeCreate QR code image for standalone map in fullscreen modeExport as GeoJSONExport as GeoRSSExport as ARML for Wikitude Augmented-Reality browser
Philippou, Xenokratous 19

loading map - please wait...

Philippou, Xenokratous 19 37.979030, 23.744590 (Directions)

Address: Xenokratous 19, Kolonaki
Telephone: +30 210 721 6390
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 1-5pm & 8pm-midnight; Sat. 1-5pm; closed Sunday

Related stories

June 13, 2017

Out of Sight: Downtown Athens’ Best “Hidden” Bars

By Carolina Doriti
Athens -- Greeks love going out till late, even on weekdays, so it’s no surprise that Athens is legendary for its nightlife. There are bars to suit every taste: bars with a great view, bars by the sea, mainstream bars, bars with great cocktails or music, etc. But for us, the really special bars are…
May 31, 2017

Athens’ Suburban Gem: Eating and Drinking in Maroussi

By Johanna Dimopoulos
Athens -- As you approach Maroussi by train, it is difficult to imagine that 100 years ago it was full of mansions with lush gardens – some still standing today – olive orchards and vineyards. Situated 13 km north of Athens, Maroussi (AKA Amarousion) was the home of Spyros Louis, the first athlete to win…
June 5, 2017

Central de Cacao: Chocolate City

By J. Alejandro
Mexico City -- Entering Central de Cacao, one might think it any other café in the hip neighborhood of Roma Sur. Sitting upon stools, customers hunch over their laptops, sipping from steaming mugs. A wide, beautiful geometric design hangs on the high wall behind the counter. To the left of the entryway, colorful products for sale…