Want to learn more about Athenian cuisine? Looking for new Greek dishes to try? Read Niko Kontogiannatos's guide below, then check out Niko's recipe for loukoumades and our best Greek recipes. We also have our guide to the best Greek wine to buy.


Nikos Kontongiannatos, head chef of Firebird in London, comes from Patras in Greece. Previously head chef at Caravan Fitzrovia, at Firebird he draws on his heritage to cook seasonal produce over an open-fire grill. Many of the dishes on the menu have nods to Nikos’s Greek identity through the ingredients and cooking methods he uses, such as lamb with tzatziki and pitta, and tomatoes with feta cream and black olives. firebirdlondon.co.uk

1. Gyros

A moreish snack in the city, traditional meat gyros are wrapped in Greek pittas and filled with pork or chicken, and tzatziki sauce. It’s a must-try in the city. I always have one when I visit Athens, especially as they’re cheap and packed with flavour.

Female hands holding one big Gyro sandwich. This sandwich is part of Greek traditional cuisine.

2. Moussaka

This list wouldn’t be complete without my favourite dish, Greek moussaka. With layers of grilled aubergines and potatoes, topped with minced beef and béchamel sauce, this is an unbeatable main dish. The Greek version dates back to the 1920s, credited to chef and cookbook author Nikólaos Tselementés.

3. Traditional Greek salad

You can find this salad almost everywhere in the city. It consists of fresh tomatoes with cucumber, onions, black olives, the most delicious feta and a drizzle of Greek extra-virgin olive oil. It’s simple, but there’s nothing better.

Mediterranean-style salad with feta and olives

4. Soutzoukakia

An iconic Greek dish of braised beef meatballs in a spiced tomato sauce that’s flavoured with cumin. The best way to eat it is with a dollop of Greek yogurt and plenty of bread to mop up the sauce.

5. Gemista

Meaning ‘stuffed’, gemista consists of rice-stuffed vegetables, often served with roasted potatoes. It’s perfect for lunch because it’s so light, and it’s particularly good when finished with some crumbled feta on top.

More like this
Greek traditional gemista, stuffed tomatoes and peppers on a white plate served in taverna with retsina, Greece

6. Spanakopita

You should absolutely try the pies in Athens. My favourite is spanakopita, which is one of the most popular snacks in Greece. Crispy filo pastry encases a filling of spinach, feta and fresh dill – a glorious contrast of crispiness and softness.

7. Galaktoboureko

The name of this dessert comes from the Greek word ‘gala', which means milk. It’s one of my favourite sweet things and it’s commonly found in Athens. It’s a crunchy filo pastry crust brushed with butter between the layers and filled with a semolina custard cream. The dessert is soaked in a cold sweet syrup while it’s still hot and then left to cool.

8. Seafood

If you’re visiting the coast near Athens, don’t miss the seafood restaurants. Fresh fish is landed every single day, and it’s most commonly grilled over fire and finished with olive oil, lemon and oregano. Simple and effective.

9. Dolmades

Dolmades are made from fig leaves or vine leaves stuffed with rice and herbs. Sometimes, you can find them with meat added to the filling as well. The vine leaf version is more common in Athens, as fig leaves were used in an ancient recipe. Dolmades are simple to make and don’t need any sauce, just a drizzle of good olive oil.


10. Loukoumades

You can’t visit Athens and not try loukoumades. I would go as far as saying they’re the best dessert you can find anywhere in the world. Small fried doughnut balls dressed with honey and walnuts, they’re feather light and taste even better on top of kaimaki (made with mastic) ice cream. Check out Niko's recipe for a loukoumades which you can try at home.

A black bowl of Loukoumades next to a glass pot of honey

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