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In the last few years, a handful of new restaurants, cafes and bars have popped up in the cozy, breezy neighborhood around the Byzantine church of Agioi Theodoroi in central Athens, built during the 11th century. Diagonally across from the old church stands a beautiful and newly refurbished Art Deco building from 1936. The building’s main entrance leads to an internal arcade, as is common in most non-residential buildings of central Athens. At the entrance of the arcade, as is the custom, we read the name of the arcade engraved on the white-gray marble: “Megaron Papathanasiou” (Papathanasiou Hall).

If the name Papathanasiou doesn’t ring a bell, let us help. Vangelis Papathanasiou (1943-2022), or simply Vangelis, as he was mostly known abroad, was one of the most internationally acknowledged Greek musician/composers, best known for his Academy Award-winning score to Chariots of Fire (1981). Other legendary works of his include the soundtracks of films such as Blade Runner, Antartica, 1492: Conquest of Paradise, Alexander and more. His career began in Athens in the 1960s, when he formed a psychedelic rock band called Aphrodite’s Child, which was very progressive for its time.

The whole building belonged to the Papathanasiou family and was passed on to Vangelis after his father’s death. Until recently the building was mostly made up of housing offices and law firms, while the arcade on the ground floor was used for shops. The most emblematic shop in there was a watchmaking shop called The Architects of Time. Such a beautiful name could not go to waste!

A couple of years ago the building was vacated after it was acquired by a new owner. The ground floor, including the arcade and basement, became available for rent. That’s when a group of old friends, mostly local musicians and DJs, spotted it. Fans of Vangelis and fascinated by the story of the building, they decided to rent and renovate it in order to open a venue which would combine their love for good food and drinks, music and art. Their primary concern was to preserve the building’s style and showcase its history. The renovation quickly turned into more of a reconstruction, taking nine months to complete.

During the process, the new tenants uncovered more of the building’s story, only deepening their love for the space. They found out that the basement – which they turned into their wine cellar – used to be a World War II bunker. They particularly loved the name of the old clock store, and decided to renovate the shop’s old sign and name their new venue after it. When you enter the arcade, look to the left and you’ll find the shop’s old entrance with its original sign still hanging, now lit.

The Architects of Time is now an all-day spot for food, drinks and music, and hosts art exhibitions and special events with guest DJs. A beautiful, leafy outdoor area by the old church is scattered with tables and paved with the same pale-grey marble as the entrance façade, creating a cooler environment even during the warmest summer days. The interior is paved with the old-school mosaic that most classic Athenian buildings used to have. The arcade now works as a hallway, dividing the space into two areas: the bar on the right and a cozy lounge area on the left with the kitchen at the far end. Downstairs sits the wine cellar, and every door we encounter here has a four-digit number on it. Each number is significant to an important point in Vangelis’s career; 1982 is the date he received the Oscar award for Best Original Score for Chariots of Fire; 6354 is the elliptical orbit around the sun which was named “Vangelis” after the composer’s death in 2022; and so on.

The signature cocktails, too, are named after Vangelis’s compositions or key moments in his life. We loved “Starman” – a pink cocktail prepared with mezcal, walnuts, lemon, spicy chili and beetroot salt.

The open kitchen serves between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. and is run by Vivi Lambropoulou, a creative young chef who adapts her menu according to the season and loves to fuse traditional Greek ingredients with other cuisines and modern cooking techniques, creating light and flavorful results. On the breakfast and brunch menu we loved the simple kayiana – a typical summer dish in which eggs are scrambled in a fresh tomato sauce with oregano and cheese (usually feta) – with sour cheese from Ios island.

Also on the brunch menu is our go-to hangover-remedy: a pretzel served with panko-crusted sunny-side-up eggs and thinly sliced dry-cured pork neck from northern Greece. The lunch and dinner menu includes a list of dishes that are easy to share and ideal to pair with the selection of wines or cocktails. Apart from the delicious handmade pinsas (light and airy pizza-like dough, baked and cut into squares. Try the one with tomato confit and graviera cheese from Tinos island!), we particularly loved the artichoke tempura prepared with whole artichoke hearts, served with a handmade sea-urchin mayo and drizzled with an aromatic oil made with stamnagathi, a popular wild edible green that grows on Crete. Another hit was the light chicken salad: perfectly grilled, juicy chicken, sliced and served with raw, spaghetti-cut marinated vegetables and a flavorful house-made garlic mayo.

As for dessert, we suggest the mille feuille made with a wonderful cream prepared with pistachios from Aegina island, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. After 11:00 p.m. when the kitchen stops serving, the indoor space transforms into a dance club with mostly electronic sounds. There’s a rather romantic symbolism in each facet of the place and particularly in the name itself. The Architects of Time feels as if it were inspired by the life and art of Vangelis himself, and is a great way to celebrate and commemorate the history he wrote with his timeless music.

Manteau Stam

Published on July 20, 2023

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