The first thing you notice when you enter Minu is a cozy corner lined with cushions, facing you on the stairs. The first time I visited I was really envious of the group enjoying their coffee in that particular spot, among several varieties of indoor plants, next to shelves featuring accessories by Scandinavian brands and Greek designers, and selected titles on architecture and gastronomy. Venture further in and there are equally pleasing setups: you can choose between an elegant seating area a few steps past the coffee station, an enclosed garden with tables and stools, the room at the back with the deck chairs on the sand, resembling an indoor beach. Giorgos Syrmas, who named this eclectic space after the Latin word for details – “minutiae” – describes it as a “living store”.
“Everything you see here is for sale. You get to know it, you live it, you use it here before taking it home”. Pop in for an espresso, a tasty katsu sandwich with Iberian ham or a vegetarian bowl with back beluga lentils, vegetables, grapes and toasted almonds, and Minu paints your day with green, design, entertainment, art: in addition to works by Greek and foreign artists which hang on the walls in the ground floor, the gallery on the first floor of the Neoclassical townhouse in Psyrri hosts interesting exhibitions.
To this eclectic canvas are often added new elements. The dishes crated by chef Athinagoras Kostakos will soon be joined by a very special tasting menu. As the team are already designing space for people with the same aesthetic sense, the plan to enrich their collection with some of their own creations. The idea is for all of these activities to develop and under the same roof and grow alongside each other. “It is important to stay in motion, open to different influences. Differences make the whole”, says Giorgos Syrmas. “We don’t want any of the individual qualities to dominate the others, but to add to the whole”, he notes.
Minu Sarri: 50, Psyrri, Tel. (+30) 210.323.2022
A micro-universe of modern minimalism
The idea of a fertile two-way flow had been going around Lida Pantazi’s mind when she created Plegma Coffee & Living, a space which weaves together, as the name suggests, several functions. Specialty coffee and beverages, cinnamon, caramel or chocolate rolls, cakes, cookies, pies, cold sandwiches and handmade desserts are served at tables on the pavement under the trees of Efranoros street, or inside, on the sofa next to the bar, or the tables across the room, from where you can check out most of the pieces in the store’s collection.
Micro-furniture, home accessories and personal care items draw your gaze in a micro-universe of modern minimalism with some vintage thrown in. Scandinavian design is a favorite here (most items you will see around you come from the north of Europe) but there are sideways glances at other countries too.
Candle holders, matcha tea-making accessories, scented candles, jewelry, textured concrete plant potholders that look like woven, travel guides and magazines for lovers of modern design are arranged on shelves, cabinets, and the floor space. Plegma is decorated with its merchandise – if you like the mugs, plates, and glasses you are served on, you will find them in the collection. “Seeing the objects, it is easy to imagine them in your own space. You can sip a coffee and draw up your plans”, Lida says, as I mentally transport the antiqued metal sidepiece behind her into my office. Looking good!
PLEGMA COFFEE & LIVING: Efranoros 10, Pagrati, Tel. (+30) 210.701.8219
The coffee and food draw you in and make you feel at home – the potential for some tasteful shopping adds another dimension. It may be that “dual” spaces like this are a return in modern guise to the markets of old, which used to be the focus of city life. Whatever the case, these hybrid micro-environments offer an opportunity to meet people through their creations.
New arrival The Makers is just one such space. When fashion designer Teta Haritou and Giorgos Barlas had the idea of working together on professional restaurant and hospitality wear, combining function and style, the idea set into motion an interesting coexistence. This July, a year after the first collection of their Greek brand came to market, the two went into collaboration with chef Ilias Stavropoulos to open the eponymous concept store, which came into fruition with their work on coffee and food. Ilias wanted to combine healthy food with great flavors, focusing on good ingredients and avoiding heavy, rich elements. You will not find mayo, mustard, or ketchup in his dishes. The menu features bowls with yoghurt, granola, blueberries, organic bee pollen, chia seeds and peanut butter, generous salads, pizza with pesto and zucchini instead of tomato, baby potato flakes with olive oil, burrata and pine nuts.
Here on Praxitelous street they bake a different cake every day, and have a different take on waffles, using buttermilk and kefir for light texture. Seating is available at the indoor bar, surrounded by a display of quirky aprons – the perfect gift for friends who are into cooking – and T-shirts, sold both retail and wholesale, beach towels, bags, mugs, and bottles. The merchandise features the store’s multi-faceted logo, which is meant to convey that anyone, no matter what their individual features, can become a maker – creativity comes from doing what you enjoy.
The Makers: Praxitelous 37, central Athens, Tel. (+30) 210.331.1372
Giorgos Soubasis had been thinking for some time of opening a café. Stylish The Morning Bar became part of the Koukaki mosaic about two years ago, in the space which used to house the showrooms of Greek brand ME THEN, of which he is co-creator. The clothes and accessories can now be found in the basement, while the wooden benches on the ground floor have become a popular spot to enjoy an espresso, a cappuccino or a cold brew while exploring the short menu packed with smart choices. You can start your day with a plate of fried eggs and prosciutto, preserves, fruit and the store’s own bread, generous sandwiches or their famous iced cinnamon buns, or lemon crumble with Aegina pistaccio. Weekends have, as Giorgos likes to say, “a beautiful freedom”. Each week, he and Marina Farasopoulou pick a different path, combining sweet and savory, which inevitably means cookies, various takes on tarts, soups and more.
Shirts, suits, t-shirts, bermuda shorts, hats and bags from the ME THEN collection can be found in a space next door. The items in the collection follow different routes, find different connections with the city, different aspects of everyday life, and tell stories. Some choose to stay for a coffee and stop by to browse the new collection – the latest came out in October – while others take the reverse route, stopping to check out the window display on Jean Moreas street, and round off their shopping with a piece of burned cheesecake enjoyed on one of the blue benches. Truly tempting!
Morning Bar: Odyssea Androutsou 36, Koukaki
SHOP IN A SHOP
Kick in Kypseli is another venue serving coffee and snacks with a side of creative projects. It opened its doors on Sporadon street last July, in a space which had remained vacant for several years after housing a shirtmakers’ shop. It’s the brainchild of Yannis Konstantinidis, who had been combining music technology studies in London with working in a café. The high-ceilinged space outfitted with metal furniture in pastel tones and blonde wood has power outlets everywhere to plug in your laptop.
The menu includes fresh-ground coffee, bagels, sandwiches, brioche buns, cookies from Cookie Dude, but also banana bread with chocolate and blueberries, poppy seed lemon cake, apple pie and brownies from Eri bakes Vegan. You can also sit outside on the pedestrian street to enjoy a bottled microbrew from the selection on offer – or browse the “shop in a shop” which stocks urban brand Indiego, which Yannis started some years ago with his mother, along with other independent clothing brands, bags, coffee-table books and fanzines. There is much here to explore, plus an exhibition space in the basement which has already featured three art exhibitions.
Kick: Sporadon 26, Kypseli, Tel. (+30) 211.119.0369
Food and drink meet clothing and accessories also in Piraeus. At East Coast, graphic artist Kostas Dimas, who is behind organic cotton clothing brand KVD 2137, and Andreas Travasaros, who is responsible for the coffee, wanted to bring something different to Terpsitheas square. Both being island boys – Kostas from Hydra and Andreas from Kythera – and keen surfers, the mix combines urban and beachwear, t-shirts and jerseys, balance boards and various accessories.
Their plan is to keep adding to their collection with works by other Greek makers. You can sit at one of the tables outside the shop or across the road against the green backdrop of the Terpsithea square, for coffee, food and a bit of shopping before, during or after. The menu includes omelets, bruschettas, salads, burgers, tacos and much more. The bread served is also baked in their kitchen, including sourdough, carob, and protein, as is the pizza dough, while cocktails are served from the afternoon onwards.
East Coast: Palaiologou 9, Piraeus, Tel. 210.429.6544
SWEET INSPIRATION AND GREENERY
In Love Again is the latest addition to the city’s eclectic concept scene. The kid brother of Baba au Rum, located just across the pedestrian street on Klitiou, this very individual café-patisserie also offers indoor and outdoor plants and decorative pots and creates its own ecosphere in the city’s historical center.
Decorated in minimalist tones which reference the 1950s, it serves sweets made with modern techniques, inspired by cocktails: the Mai Tai lemon tart, the Spicy Baba (mirroring the signature cocktail of its sister establishment, made with aged Trinidadian rum, mulberries, ginger and lime), the Zombie profiterole, the Pina Colada cheesecake… The menu also includes some savory offerings tilted towards brunch, created by chef Michalis Nourloglou. In addition to good coffee and hot and cold beverages, the new space also serves coffee cocktails created by the team at Baba au Rum. The concept also expresses respect for the environment and acknowledges the need for more green in our lives. No plastic is used, and the long-term goal of the owners is zero waste.
On my way out, I ask about the name. “It describes the spiritual and emotional state of a person at their full creativity”, explains founder Thanos Pournarous, who always finds creative ways to connect bar culture with other fields. It reminds me of something Albert Camus wrote, that creating is like living two lives. Even a single life deserves a little treat once in a while – a small pleasure, something to excite, inspire or motivate you to make your life a little bit brighter.
This article was previously published in Greek in K magazine at kathimerini.gr.
In Love Again: Klitiou 3, central Athens