Andy Mossack reviews Estiatorio Milos Athens, the legendary home of Greek fine dining.
I first encountered Milos hospitality back in 2013, when the restaurant was the marquee emporium of the Athens Hilton and sitting at the chef’s table I literally wolfed down a stack of Milos’ signature paper-thin fried zucchini and eggplant with tzatziki hidden inside.
How times have changed in Athens. The Hilton is now closed for much-needed renovation and Estiatorio Milos now has another berth with its own boutique hotel.
Estiatorio Milos is the brainchild of serial restaurateur/chef Costas Spiliadis who opened his first Estiatorio Milos in Montreal in 1979 and has now spread his personal brand of Greek fine dining hospitality to seven more locations: in London, Dubai, New York, Miami, Las Vegas, Los Cabos, Athens and soon to open Toronto. There’s even a Milos at Sea version aboard a couple of private yachts cruising the Greek Islands.
So with ten years of remembering that fried zucchini and eggplant stack, I was going back for a second helping. That stack aside though, Estiatorio Milos’ speciality is the freshness of its raw materials; sea-to-served fish and seafood and clearly, Athens is blessed with an abundance of both. It promised to be an epic culinary voyage of discovery.
A stone’s throw from the National Historical Museum, in the well-heeled centre of Athens, Estiatorio Milos Athens is tucked away in a small courtyard around the side of the boutique hotel. It’s an expansive pillared space, a study in white – almost heavenly I would say; crisp tablecloths matching the clinically white walls only contrasted by a brown hardwood floor. A large fishing net across the high ceiling provides a clue to the fare on offer.
Another clue is the long table in front of the open-plan kitchen proudly stacked with the day’s catches.
Long lost family member
I’m enthusiastically greeted like a family member by Constantino, a legendary member of the Estiatorio Milos Athens team for over two decades. We chat briefly about both our times at Milos Hilton before he walks me over to the long table to show me something special. “Look at this” he points enthusiastically,” grey mullet, very hard to find, we’ll cook it for you. Just grilled with some lemon juice. Perfect.”
He leads us to our table perched right under one of the huge windows, a perfect spot for people watching if I say so myself. Seconds later, bread materialises. Just baked Greek grandma’s bread. Hot, crusty and delicious, with a hint of turmeric. Then, two glasses of chilled white wine. “Malagassia” he tells us. “A famous grape of Thessaloniki from the Gerovassiliou Vineyard. We get it exclusively from them.”
And just like that, our starters are triumphantly delivered to admiring glances from a few of our fellow diners. A perfect match for the wine it must be said. A tray of delicious smoked eel crostini (€16) and an impressive, iced platter of traditional gialisteres,(€29) red and white clams with a red vinegar vinaigrette and a few chunks of fresh lemon.
A belter of a start to our voyage, and not a rough wave in sight.
Constantino is back to check on proceedings, and after being more than satisfied with our positive feedback summons the salad.
The Greek Salad
The Greek salad is so obviously a staple in Greece, but for such a humble dish, there are subtle variations to it wherever you go, either on the mainland or the islands. I always find myself using it as a barometer of quality in any Greek restaurant I visit.
The Estiatorio Milos Athens version (€18) is pleasantly unfancy, sticking to the traditional roots of feta, tomato, cucumber, green pepper, red onion, kalamata olives, herbs and olive oil. The key for me is the quality of the feta and the freshness of the tomatoes. No concerns here. The big flavourful chunk of feta, farm-fresh tomatoes and a zingy red vinegar splash do it for me.
A pause, while we get our breath back and watch the main act as it gets wheeled to the table. Our 1.1kg of grey mullet (€105) arrives with due reverence, cooked exactly as described, while Constantino is on hand to deliver a side of farm-fresh almirikia (the Greek word for samphire which is only available during springtime in Greece) and some more lemon chunks.
Honestly, it’s all the grey mullet needs.
But Constantino has a surprise in store. After ten years, I get to taste another Milos stack as I watch it proudly placed on the table. And it doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. Delicately fried slices of courgette and aubergine just as I remembered, with that hidden burst of tzatziki inside.
I have a moment right there and then.
My Estiatorio Milos Athens culinary voyage is a memorable celebration of the Aegean Sea. It is Greek fine dining at its best. Not haughty and highbrow, but warm and hospitable as, of course, it should be.
I just hope I won’t have to wait another ten years to have another taste.
Images (C) Andy Mossack and Estiatorio Milos Athens.
Tell me more about Estiatorio Milos Athens
Estiatorio Milos Athens, Kolokotroni 3-5, 14562, Athens Greece
T: +30 216 600 3320 E¨ firstname.lastname@example.org