We have always loved our Athenian rooftops. But as summer arrives after a year which has tested our mental and psychological reflexes to the full, the idea heading for a meal, a drink and a breath of fresh air at one of city’s many viewpoints seems even more appealing. Your gaze wanders across landmarks, tiled roofs, office windows, balconies and TV aerials, bringing you relaxation and happiness.
Among the buildings, under the sky, cool contemporary spaces, new or slightly older, fire up projectors, slide pizzas into wood ovens, make gourmet street food, mix cocktails, plant flowers and herbs, set up food counters, gaze on the Acropolis or the illuminated city, give space to street art and express a common desire: to forget all that “grinds” us down; to grow a little taller.
The name Locali brings to Athenians’ minds the yard with the mulberry trees, plane trees and climbers. In the neighborhood of Psyrri, the rooftop hangout is small and carefree. At the bar with a bamboo and reed roof I order an Aloha Punch, with mixes a blend of rums from Jamaica and Trinidad and Barbados with guava, lime, ginger, basil and pine honey, from an interesting list created by Dimitris Kakios and his team. While it is being prepared, I pause to check out the Polynesian figure spray-painted by street artist Antonis Habas in the entrance. Further along, outside the storehouse, he has painted an exotic granny.
The space is very pleasant. Banana trees sprout between the tables, colorful light bulbs hang over your head and balanced, aromatic tiki cocktails transport you to the tropics, while the gin and tonics are timeless standards. If you are hungry, you can order a side of fried okra, delicious open pita sandwiches, tacos and burgers with smoked cheese and BBQ sauce with mavrodafni wine – just some of the finger food options from the longer menu served downstairs by chef Alexandros Charalambopoulos.
This year’s theme is “Aloha at Locali.” But come to think about it, the hangout, whose rest rooms feature a separate soundtrack playing Costas Bezos’s prewar rebetiko song “Let’s take a trip to Honolulu” on a loop, always had a touch of exotica about it.
Sarri 44, Psyrri, tel. (+30) 210.325.0673
Last year, chefs Giannis Markadakis and Panos Ioannidis had a great idea for a pop-up gourmet open-air cinema. This year it returns with the same energy to the rooftop of multi-use space TZAFERI 16.
As dusk falls and the city starts to turn on its lights, atop the former industrial building in Gazi gastronomy and cinema play kickabout. Pick one of the super relaxed deck chairs in the front row, a chair or a bean bag in front of the inflatable screen, grab a welcome cocktail and get ready for a picture show with a difference.
The script (also) has a flavor plot. The food preparation starts in a giant kitchen in Kolonos and is finished off in the rooftop kitchen, built to resemble a giant box of popcorn. The menu changes every one or two weeks, based on the film that is showing, meaning sometimes dishes are Asian or new American, other times Mexican, Anglo-Indian or Italian.
When we visited they were showing Il Postino and Cinema Paradiso, and the menu included an original vitello tonnato pizza, a caprese salad with watermelon, and risotto a la carbonara. Vegetarian options are always available. Everything is served on biodegradable plates made from bamboo and corn.
Tickets, which start from 25 euros and depend on the food options available, sell out quickly, so it is a good idea to book well in advance. In addition to conventional numbering, each seat bears the name of a famous actor or director, such as Woody Allen, Jessica Lang, Gerard Depardieu, Michelle Pfeiffer.
Tzaferi 16, Tzaferi 16 business center, Gazi, tel. (+30) 6948.086.999
Retiré @ ERGON House
At the Douzis brothers’ foodie hotel on Mitropoleos street, you ride the elevator to a rooftop strewn with gravel, surrounded by planters, lit by strands of lightbulbs, looking every bit like a yard which has climbed up above the city. With an imposing view of the Acropolis filling your sight and mellow music caressing your ears, you have your choice of one of the marble, metal or wooden tables – or you can perch on one of the wooden benches strewn with cushions to relax drinking a glass of wine or a cocktail and rehearse your holidays.
You can choose a Greek variation on a Bloody Mary, the Greek Mary, with tsipouro, Greek herbs and salted Samian wine, a tropical Manhattan with mango, or a refreshing Watermelon Mule with gin, lemon, ginger beer and watermelon, with a slice of watermelon tempting your lips with the taste of summer.
The cocktails are mixed at the cute (and much-photographed) counter which resembles a food truck without wheels, and bear the signature of the team behind The Clumsies.
From July 15, you will also be able to enjoy one of the generously-sized burgers from the Terry and Co Burger collection, a new project by Lefteris Athanasopoulos, on of the two chefs behind ERGON. A double Black Angus burger topped with parmesan and bacon or goat’s cheese cheddar and truffle mayo, or fried chicken, or a vegan burger by Beyond Meat with smoked aubergine…
Mitropoleos 23, tel. (+30) 210.010.9090
Luv n Roll House
Give way to youth culture. It’s not been long since Giorgos Karabourniotis, the brains behind tattoo studio Luv n Roll in Melissia, and his business partner Sortis Haidemenos, created a new multi-use space in Psyrri with a definite youth vibe.
The multi-level building on Karaiskaki street hosts a café-bar, music hall, piercing and tattoo studio, and clothes collection by the creative team. Its upper floors hide a rooftop garden split over two levels. One side faces the Acropolis and a tangle of renovated old buildings and ruins – part of the living tissue of the city – while on the other side, ETERNAL LOVE by GERA1, an 18-meter high mural brings to life the myth of Apollo and Daphne on the wall of a neighboring apartment block.
Food and drink, bearing the signatures of Alexandros Apostolou and Giannis Koutsouradis respectively, come together against a backdrop of bamboo, woven umbrellas, wooden benches and white cushions, stools made from tree trunks. Service starts in the morning when you can enjoy a mellow cold brew with notes of chocolate and nuts, sweet and savory pancakes and omelets, and continues with flatbreads and burgers.
Later you can order a tagliata with Peruvian potato mash, truffle cream and pecorino or salmon with guacamole and red cabbage slaw, accompanied by a signature cocktail from the bar – a cooling Basil Crush with homemade green apple puree, hints of citrus and basil, an LRN Zombie or their own take on Mai Tai.
Karaiskaki 14, Psyrri, tel. (+30) 211.418.2422
The Foundry Rooftop Garden
Almost every corner of the boutique hotel created by architects Miltiadis Portokalis and Efi Malandraki reinterprets, with their own particular gaze, various aspects of the city’s recent history – from the entrance lobby with its loaded bookshelves and old typewriters, a reference to the time the building served as a type foundry, to the densely planted roof inspired by the yards of old Athenian houses.
Covered in olive and pomegranate trees, wild roses, star jasmine and lavender, with vines climbing up iron pergolas, wooden tables and tasteful garden furniture creating cozy nooks, it activates the memory using all the senses. The reddish tiles in the marble path which guide you towards the views are a nice touch: stand on one and you are looking at the Acropolis, another orients you towards the Observatory, and one further along gives you a view of Gazi.
A cocktail list created by Anastasia Trantafyllidou includes a variety of drinks including Smoked Tomatina, which combines gin and tsipouro with fresh tomato, sweet Florina red pepper, lemon, fresh herbs and spices, and Cobbler, which mixes vodka, blackberries, strawberries, passionfruit, vanilla syrup and lime. There are also Greek wines and beers from small producers.
Next to the bar there is a wood-fired oven turning out pizzas. The third member of the Foundry team, Marios Koullouros, tells me they are preparing to host themed evenings, so soon you will be able to sample Thai or Italian food, burgers or Nikkei…
The Foundry Suites Athens, Sarri 40, Psyrri, tel. (+30) 211.182.4604