It is a truth (personally acknowledged) that a restaurant in possession of a view must have rubbish food, stratospheric prices, or both. If you want to gaze at a marvel over the top of a menu, then prepare yourself to battle with rubbery shellfish, over-seasoned sauces and hyperbolic price tags.
Imagine my surprise when staring at the Acropolis I found none of these things (and we can leave all jokes about Greek food aside).
It was 7.45pm on a Sunday summer’s eve. The Athens air was doing a good impression of a towel straight from the dryer; hot and slightly dank. As we negotiated the crowds milling in the restaurant and stall-strewn Adrianou Street my thoughts were on one thing: a very large glass of pink wine.
From street level, Kuzina appears to be a sweet and modern restaurant. There are walls that mimic the colour of salmon pâté. Sorrel-hued wooden chairs spill out onto the pavement. Except this is not our destination. Fifty eight stairs higher, above the open kitchen and art gallery, we find Kuzina’s terrace.
Up here it’s white wrought iron chairs, whitewashed walls and ice buckets that ooze sweat as they wait expectantly for diners and their wine. It smacks of Miami, or New England beachside balconies. It’s not what I expected to find in Athens. Down one side of the terrace is an impressively stocked bar. And to the other is the view, which confirms that you’re nowhere but Greece. At 8pm the terrace is empty and the sun still glints off the angles of the Acropolis.
For the next hour and a half we have the terrace to ourselves. The Greeks eat late. We on the other hand have an early flight and a taxi strike to negotiate with.
Our only agenda is to eat, drink and be merry. This seems possible. Chef Aris Tsanaklides’ menu meanders from mezedes through to sturdy mains. It’s far too hot to contemplate a bowl of giovetsi (traditional Greek risotto), pasta or roast lamb. In fact, it’s far too hot for me to contemplate much. Above 28°C, my IQ drops five points for every degree. The Hungry One takes charge. A collection of starters to share seems a sensible plan.
Soon, a bottle of chilled Greek rosé, as pink as a sunburnt neck, sits to one side. In front are black olives, warm bread and some Salonika Kouloura: sesame-studded pretzels that crumble like shale.
When the fava (€6) arrives I start to relax and slowly make sense again. This version of Santorini’s purée of yellow split peas is as smooth as a shaved leg. The capers and tomatoes add zip. Eating this version after the homely and frumpy slurries we found in the Islands is like seeing a librarian unbutton her shirt and take off her glasses. It’s very sexy stuff.
Soft shredded lamb comes with eggplant and sun dried tomatoes and is wrapped in filo (€12). It’s like the bastard child of a toasted gourmet sandwich circa 1999 and a spring roll. The dipping sauce has a surprising kick of chilli.
Loukamades-style dumplings (€8.50) appear as four stout balls of feta cheese mousse, crisp on the outside and perked up with spearmint and a sticky pomegranate sauce.
As the sun sets over the Acropolis, the terrace fills up, both with locals out celebrating and a few plucky tourists like us who had the nous to climb the stairs.
While main courses were beyond our reach, to tell The Hungry One that he can’t have dessert is like telling a child you’ve cancelled Christmas. Yet for once, he’s defeated by a chocolate caramel delice the size of a Big Mac.
We sit with the Temple of Hephaestus below and the Acropolis above and ponder two incredible happenings: The Hungry One can’t finish his sweets; and there is such a thing as great food, with a view. In Athens, no less.
Kuzina, Adrianou 9 (Thissio), Athens, Greece. Tel. 210-3240133. Website.