Archive for markets

Live like a King in Caserta

Posted in Campania, Caserta, Italy with tags , , , on June 15, 2011 by gannet39


Caserta
is famous for La Reggia, the opulent former residence of the King of Naples. It has been used as a film set several times, for example as the Needoo palace in Star Wars Episode 1 The Phantom Menace.

It’s definitely worth seeing but I’ve been before and unfortunately you now have to pay €12 and I’m too tight to part with food money.

La Reggia

However, you can take a peek at the grand staircase, probably the nicest bit inside anyway, without having to show a ticket.

Grand staircaseStone lion

Ceiling

The best thing about the complex is the gardens which stretch off into the distance.  There’s some great statues in the fountains and the English Garden is very nice as well.  Here are some pictures to give you an idea.

Nowadays Caserta is known for being a garrison town, as well as a Camorra stronghold (you will find several references to it in Roberto Saviano’s factual novel ‘Gomorrah’) who apparently have a strong grip on the important textile industry here. I’ve been a visitor here several times over the years so I have a fairly good handle on the restaurant scene.

Locanda Batisti (Intermediate A-), 99 Via C.Battisti (near the station) Closed Sunday/Monday

Perhaps my favourite local restaurant in terms of getting good food for the right money, the seafood is particularly good. The bread is wonderful (especially the olive and sun-dried tomato variety) and there is no cover charge.

My favourite first course is the Linguine ai Frutti di Mare (A+) with mussels and several kinds of clams (vongole).

Linguine ai Frutti di Mare

The picture below shows several small and one large Fasolare on the top row, Vongole Verace below them and at the bottom Mussels and Taratufi to the right), a steal for only €9.

Bivalves

I can also recommend the Paccheri di Gragnano al Ragu di Coccio (A); big floppy tubes of pasta. (The Campanian town of Gragnano was one of the first places to produce pasta industrially) in a sauce of beef mince and tomatoes), although I’m sure everything is good here.

Paccheri di Gragano al Ragu di Coccio

For seconds the Misto di Pesce is also excellent (A) (grilled squid, octopus, prawn, scampi and fish). I also had the Scallopina con Vino (Falanghina) one night which was also good if slightly too salty (B-).

Scallopina con Vino
The house white invariably seems to be a good quality Falanghina (in 2008 a fantastic Nifo ’07 and in 2011 a very good Sannio’09 and a Conca Bianco).

Falanghina
The Millefoglie dessert of flaky pastry on a bed of Zabaglione cream is also nice (B).

Millefoglie

The A minus score is for the poor service I encountered upon returning in 2011. Although the owner has always been rather dour and smiles are rare from anyone here, the two new young guys he has serving now are particularly useless and need to be constantly told what to do. Also a colleague came here a few weeks later and was given some fish that was off! It’s never happened to me but it goes to show the perils of recommending restaurants  (let alone eating in them).

Conclusion: usually the food is good as the number of locals shows, and you can have two courses and a bottle of wine for around €30 here.

Massa (Advanced A), 55 Via Mazzini (the main pedestrian shopping street, it’s on the left with your back to Via Roma, through an arch). Tel. 0823 456527. Closed Sundays.

A high end place I always come to for the end-of-week blowout, all A grade vittles but at a price. Having said that, similar places in bigger cities would be much more expensive and when I was there last they had introduced two four-course tasting menus, one for seafood (€34), and one meat based (€29) which looked good value on paper.

Massa logo
The atmospheric building has been a restaurant since 1848. It’s a big place with a main room decorated with architectural drawings of La Reggia and King Ferdinand II and his family in military dress on prancing horses, and side rooms with displays of old brass instruments. In the summer (June onwards?) you can sit outside under the palms in the pleasant internal garden.

Massa entrada

You can also ask one of the friendly waiters to take you down to the atmospheric wine cellar (la cantina); hewn out of solid volcanic rock and complete with secret underground passages, now blocked up.

Wine cellar

Different waiters have told me different stories, one saying a passage led to the Reggia and another, perhaps more truthful one, saying it led to an air raid shelter from WWII.

Secret passage
On my last visit, after a complimentary glass of Spumante and a plate of focaccia (there’s a pizza oven out in the garden making “real” Neopolitan pizza); I set about the Menu Degustazione Mare. To begin a plate of very thinly sliced octopus and cured fish with rocket (B), a ball of delicious Mozzarella wrapped in smoked salmon (A) and a grilled scallop au gratin with heaps of garlic (A).

Antipasti
To go with this I chose a bottle of ‘I Borboni’ Coda de Volpe (2008) (from Cantina Lunajanca in Benevento, a neighbouring province) which after a poor start got better after being open a while (B).

Coda de Volpe
To follow Spaghettoni di Gragnano con Lupini di Mare e Cavolofiori, spaghetti from the famous pasta town with lupini clams and florets of cauliflower, which had a strange smoky flavour but was otherwise tasteless and needed salting (C). Very disappointing.

Lupini di Mare e Cavolofiori
Next a fillet of spigola fish with putarelle  in a citrus sauce and peperoncino (indiscernible), the fish and greens being quite plain by themselves but wonderful in combination (A).

Spigola
I swapped the glass of chocolate dessert and cream (Bicchiere Cioccolato al Latte e Albicocche) on the menu for a glass of Acquavite di Miele di Castagno, a distillate flavoured with chestnuts and a hint of honey, interesting but not something you’d demand a second glass of (B). Although the latter came free and I was going for cheap options, I still spent €48 on this visit.

Acquavite

Conclusion: good food but not as good as I’ve had from Locanda Battisti, however the service is much better and the ambience one of the bestyou will find. Somewhere that shouldn’t be missed if you can help it.

In 2008, three of us kicked off with a celebratory end-of-tour bottle of Prosecco (€12) and continued with a very good house Falanghina (€10). Food wise, we started with Trilogia Buongustaio, a seafood antipasti misto including octopus and swordfish for €14, moved on to Ravioli Coccio (fish), Lasagnette Pasta and Risotto Pescatora, all €14, and grilled veg for €6, all excellent.
Massa also owns Vicolocieco a wine bar down a side street, around the corner from the restaurant. Very busy at the weekends, you can sit outside in the small alley (vicolo).

Friendly staff
I had the Sformitina di Melanzane (grilled eggplant with mozzarella and big flakes of grana, which was nice (B) but a bit too cheesy for my liking.

Sformitina di Melanzane

Max and Barbara gave me friendly service when I first came here on a limoncello crawl.

Limoncello

The locally made meloncello is best avoided in my opinion (D).

Meloncello

I also had some lovely Grappa Aglianico here on another night.

Another uber-posh place is La Colonne, specialising in water buffalo meat which I would like to try but seeing as how they didn’t have menus outside, I guessed it was a bit beyond my price range.

I remember eating well at Antica Osteria La Scalinatella at 2 Via Fratelli Giovanni e Giulio Pagano, Tel. 0823 441850, but it was a while ago so can’t tell you what it was.

Antica Osteria La Scalinatella

La Loggetta (Elementary A-), 62 Via Cristofor Colombo and 41/43 Via Roma

According to Barbara at Vicolocieco, this is the best place in town for pizza. It’s certainly popular with the locals and you will have to queue if you arrive after 8 at the weekends. The Via Cristofor Colombo location is more atmospheric although both places are pretty basic with paper tablecloths and sullen service.

La Loggetta

I went for my favourite, the classic Pizza Margherita ai Mozzarella di Bufala (DOP), which tasted really good but for me the edging was too thick, and the centre a bit too soft and runny (although it should be to a certain degree). This is being hypercritical though and the local ingredients were so good I couldn’t honestly fault it (A-). You can also buy pizza al metro here (by the meter, actually two square meters in a large rectangular tray) but you need a small family with you to have a chance of finishing it. With a large Birra Nastro Azurra my bill came to a paltry €8.

Nastro

Angolo Verde Ristorante Pizzeria, 21 Via Redentore (a side street off Via Mazzini, opposite the entrance to Massa)

When I went in 2008,  some things were value for money (€5 euro self-service salad bar, €3 half litre draught white), some things a bit pricey, such as Scialatielli con Pesce in Esposizione, which was excellent but cost €14, and the cover charge of €2.50. Walked by in 2011 and they seem to have gone downmarket with Menu Touristico’s on the board outside. Probably worth a whirl though.

A Paranza (Intermediate B), 24 Via Santorio

This large place was thankfully open on a Sunday, unlike any of the places above, though this might have been due to the wedding reception that was in full flow when I arrived. A seafood specialist with a simple, meat-free menu; most prices are in double figures though you could in theory eat three courses for as little as €20, or as much as €45.

A Paranza

I had six delicious small balls of Mozzarella (A) to start.

Mozzarella

For the pasta course; Spaghetti alle Vongole which was competently made if a bit oily (B).

Spaghetti alle Vongole

This was followed by one of my pet hates, a pre-dressed mixed salad which I had to send back (D) as it was over salted.

The house white was a mediocre (C) bottle of Falanghina from Colle D’Oro in Benevento which Enzo the smiley waiter thought I should drink warm until I got him to bring an ice bucket(secchiello), although through fatigue I settled for a beaker instead of a wine glass. Total cost €25. Conclusion: relatively cheap and open on a Sunday, but not somewhere to go when other places are open.

La Leccese, (Elementary C), 64 Via G.Verdi, next to Locanda Battisti above.

I tend to end up eating here when its neighbour Locanda Battisti  is shut and I can’t be bothered to walk elsewhere. It’s also a pizzeria though I didn’t see anyone eating one, despite it being very busy on the Monday night I went.

The food is rough and ready and cheap as chips, but all just about edible (C), and you can eat outside. Although the menu says ‘dal 1968’ this place was called Da Camilla in 2008 and seems to have changed hands. Unfortunately the food hasn’t improved much. I had the classic Pasta e Fagioli which had a lot of the former but little of the latter and was even more mundane than usual (C).

Pasta e Fagioli

For the next course I opted for the local Salsiccia Nero Casertana, which wasn’t the blood sausage I’d hoped for but just the ordinary variety that you can get in most places.

Salsiccia CasertanaThe house red is pretty poor (C-) so I strongly recommend you get a bottle of something else if you come here (I won’t again if I can help it). The best thing (B) was the Frutta Tagliata, but then you can’t really go wrong with sliced fruit (strawberries, cherries, apricots, pineapple, water melon). Despite assuring me it would be frozen, the limoncello they gave me was only slightly chilled. Grappa is €1.50 in the roughhouse bar opposite.

From 2008:

A’ Lampara Ristorante Pizzeria (Elementary B), 64 Via G.B. Vico (off Via Roma, you will see the yellow sign if you look down the side street)

This is a cheap value-for-money place with B or C grade food.

A' LamparaProsciutto and mozzarella for €6 and Trofie del Golfo (pasta twists with clams, mussels, scampi) for €8.50 were the best things I had.

The pizzas are ok but a bit thick for my taste. The house red and white (C) are both pretty ropey but just about drinkable, €4 for a half litre. The draught Falanghina is better for a little bit more. A grappa costs €2.50. Big telly (so the place of choice for watching football) and friendly service from the young guys. You might want to avoid the karaoke on Sunday night. Turn left out of Hotel Europa, first right and you will see its sign on the right straight away.

Conclusion: the big telly at the end of the room makes this a good place for watching football and the cheap food and wine make it a good place to come if you’re on a budget.

Pepe Nero, (Intermediate B) 17 Via G.M Bosco

This is like All Bar One meets Pizza Express. I had the arrosticini (kebab of mediocre beef, ok pork and excellent sausage) with fries for €8.50 with a servicable Aglianico del Taburno (Fontanavecchia ’04) for €12. Other local
wines start at €9, Belgian and German beers for €4, 400ml draught for the same, and that famous British beer, Tenants Super for €3.50. They have a large range of big salads, pasta, steaks and, unusually, goulash, madras and Mexican
dishes. To finish, the Torroncino Crema di Baba e Nutella was nice. Overall I would score it a B, modern and very popular but a bit of a walk from Via Roma.

Via G.M. Bosco seems to have a fair bit of night life with a couple of bars opposite and further along from Pepe Nero. There’s a modern gelateria/pasticceria at #34 called Mungiguerra (since 1926 apparently although not in this building) which also sells digestivos (an average grappa costs €3) although the staff could learn some customer skills.

There are salumerias all over town but Leuci at 168 Via G.M. Bosco is a particularly large one and has a big range of handmade pasta from Gragnano, wines, hams, cheeses and lots of other desirable things.

Pasta Gragnanostuffed peppers

The indoor Mercato di Caserta at 52 Via Cesare Battisti  is small but there’s lots of great produce, all super-fresh and some of it still alive!

LemonsFresh cheeseTomatoesLive oclopusBandieraCalamaio clams

I’ve stayed at a few hotels along Via Roma over the years. The Hotel Europa at 19 Via Roma has a basic gym and an ok breakfast. Room quality varies but the back is quieter and the ones at the very top have good views of the hills. The Hotel Jolly, nearest the station, has similar rooms and a slightly better breakfast to my memory, but no gym. The Hotel Bruman has the nicest rooms and free computers and wi-fi in each room, although there is no gym and breakfast is pre-ordered and served in your room. If you like sleeping with the window open, in all these places you should go for a room at the back, to avoid the noise from Via Roma. There is the odd mosquito so bring some protection.

Farewell Caserta, until the next time!

Madrid – El Retiro park

Posted in Madrid Comunidad, Spain with tags , , , on April 23, 2011 by gannet39

The best thing about Barrio Salamanca is its proximity to El Retiro, a big and beautiful park which borders it to the south east. It’s one of my favourite places to go for a walk or a jog, have a cold beer in the shade or lie on the grass in the sun after a big lunch!

Jogging, it’s about a 30 minute circuit, if you take in all the corners, but it’s much more fun to explore the small shady internal paths which are full of unexpected sights. There’s an outdoor gym near the Fountain of the Fallen Angel, the only statue I know dedicated to Lucifer. I love the imps on the base! Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Butty Boys at Borough Market

Posted in Borough Market, London, Southwark, United Kingdom with tags , , on March 9, 2011 by gannet39

 

Legend has it that Borough Market began life at the end of the original London Bridge when it was built by the Romans. Or was it King Canute? Anyway, the first written record of its existence dates from 1276 and it moved to its present site nearby in 1754, which at over 250+ years, still makes it London’s oldest market.

Under the arches

The surrounding Victorian streets and buildings have been used as set locations for several films, including Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Richard III and the Elephant Man.

Things have changed a lot since the good old days of course. Now Borough is justifiably famous for its farmer’s market which attracts an upmarket crowd, ready to pay top dollar for quality produce. On Saturday when we went it was heaving with Londoners and tourists, all hungrily perusing a massive range of artisan food stalls.  As well as handmade Melton Mowbray pork pies, Lincolnshire sausages and Wakefield rhubarb, this is the place to come for your German bread, Spanish charcuterie, Greek olives and fresh Mozzarella di Bufala (flown in every morning), and it’s all top tackle.

Cheesus!Pig piecesCrumblesOlioLebanese treatsSour doughsMuch shroomsShoalQuality mouldPorcine pleasureBread breedsMushroom freakDon't fancy yours muchThat's hanginRhubarb from Wakey

Stick and I were here to graze rather than to gather and, after a starter of samples of exotic cheeses and bread dipped in various grades of cold-pressed olive oil from several stalls, we settled down in the yard of Southwark cathedral next door to devour delicious grilled koftas, sandwiched in French bread, topped with charred halloumi and dripping with harissa. These went down with hearty tumblers of hot, spiced red wine and cider and a duo of Portuguese egg custard tarts finished things off nicely. Multi-cultural munching is the way forward.

Chilli and tuna tin installationWholesale is from 2am every day and retail from midday on Thursday and Friday and all day on Saturday. Many of the traders here can also be found at the much smaller but equally excellent Broadway Market on Saturdays in London Fields. Get to both if you can.

Tripe soup in Athens

Posted in Athens, Greece with tags , , , , , on September 11, 2010 by gannet39

Greece, June 2010

The Hotel Esperia Royal (Best Western) is in Syntagma, an area centrally located between touristy Plaka to the south (where the Acropolis is located), posh Kolonaki to the east (near the British Council where I was working) and Exarchia, the ‘anarchist’ and student area to the north. All are within walking distance.

It’s a comfortable hotel with fairly large rooms and a decent breakfast buffet. Mary at the BC tells me the restaurant has a good rep but I didn’t try it. Although free wi-fi is advertised as being available in the ground floor bar and restaurant, I was still able to get it on the 7th floor.

Lots of homeless people on the streets here. Bag up your useless hotel toiletries and teabags and give them to someone who could use them.

Directly over the road from the hotel is the bank where two bank workers died in a fire during the riots of April 2010. The pavement outside has become a shrine to their memory with piles of flowers, toys, cards and candles at night. A tragic reminder of the strife currently afflicting Greek society.

Most of the places below were gleaned from Lonely Planet, in particular their favourite picks. Generally I found the best food to be in the cheapest places but others are good for their ambience and/or location. White wine is usually pretty good wherever you go but red can be variable.

EATING PLACES NEAR THE HOTEL

If you feel the need to eat outside normal restaurant hours you can eat at one of the tavernas in the central market on Athenas St. They are open 24 hours a day from Monday to Saturday. The food is great, as you would expect, and very cheap. Please see below for more info.

Paradosiako, (Elementary B), 44a Voulis (parallel to Stadiou)

On a budget? This rough and ready place has a good basic menu with daily specials. I had greek salad, grilled squid, a plate of rice, half a litre of white and a bowl of watermelon chunks for €19. On another night the meatballs with rice were very good. The service may seem brusque at first but that’s because they are always very busy, they’re nice guys really. If you ask for a shot of tsipouro (similar to grappa) to finish it will be on the house. Open for Sunday lunch but get there early before the locals, and the French, take all the seats.

Filema (Elementary B), 16 Romvis

Located on a narrow, car-free street relatively near the hotel, this is a popular mezedhopoleio (restaurant specialising in mezedes or small plates of appetisers) with two shop fronts on opposite sides of the street.  I should have tried to order half portions as all the dishes were enough for two, much to the satisfaction of Leila, the house dog, who ate more of it than I did. I got Politiki (cabbage salad) (B-), Keftedhes (meatballs) (C), Tigania (chunks of pork fried with onion and wine and sprinkled with oregano) (B) and a half litre of house white for under €30 , which also included a complementary cheesecake (C) with strawberries (B) and a Mastiha (a sweet liqueur from Chios which seems to be the default digestif). It was ok but there are other places I would rather try in the future. There’s a nice bar right next door.

Doris (Intermediate ?), 30 Praxitelous, opens 9pm, closed Sunday.

Just round the corner from the hotel, I really wanted to eat here but never got the chance as it was shut on my day off (Sunday) and closed at 6.30pm on the days I was working. LP says it has a basic menu with lots of daily specials, including seafood. An Athenian institution since 1947.

If you turn left out of the hotel and take first right (or walk up the hill from Doris) you will come to a lively area with lots of bars. I had trouble getting a decent Cuba Libre but eventually found a posh looking place which did a big one with lots of fresh lime, so I had two. The shock came when the €24 bill arrived! Quite a surprise given that one had only cost €4.50 in a neighbouring bar. On another night I was lured into the Seven Jokers (7 Voulis) by the great sound system which was playing heavy vibes in a Dub Syndicate style but was charged €7 for a mastiha, albeit a double. Drinking isn’t cheap in this town.

EXARCHIA

My local contacts tell me they often come to this area to eat out cheaply. It makes for an interesting walk with riot police on standby on many of the peripheral neighbourhood corners and gangs of fly posting politicos wallpapering the streets. I counted twelve revolutionary newspapers in one newsagent. For drinks you could rub shoulders with the students and nihilists on graffiti daubed Mesolongiou St or go to the more salubrious Plateia Exarhion, a pleasant square with more nice-looking bars. Valtetsiou St leading to the square has lots of picturesque restaurants including…

Yiantes (Intermediate B), 44 Valtetsiou, Tel. 210 3301369

A modern tavern with most of its tables in an open air courtyard, I was lucky to get in without a reservation at 9pm as it was packed out with large family groups (kids running everywhere) but these had all left by 10. It’s known for good quality organic food. The welcome dish of chopped tomato with oil, garlic, parsley and bread baked in the shape of muffins were delicious (A) and the roast onions stuffed with mince, raisins and pine nuts were pretty good although the portion was huge and I got a bit bored of it by the end (B-). Sadly my rather boring choice of Souvlaki (grilled chunks of lamb grilled on a skewer) with chips (C)  required a heavy sprinkling of a salt, alghough the accompanying yougurt sauce was nice (B). The organic house white Moskofilero (B), and a complimentary Mastiha on ice made up for things though. The bill was a reasonable €27.50. Would definitely go again but need to make better choices next time.

MONASTIRAKI

Cafe Avyssinia, (Intermediate B), 7 Kynetou, Plateia Avyssinia, Tel. 210 32 17 047,  closed Mondays

This beautiful place, located in the grungy flea market, is pretty hard to find but if you walk down Ermou (main shopping st, including M&S) and when you get to 102 turn left and you will be in Plateia Avyssinia, it’s on the left. Perhaps because of its inaccessibility it was easy to get a table on Saturday night when I went, when other places nearby where heaving. Decorated in an Art Nouveau style with stained glass, ceramic tiles, warm floral wallpaper, marble topped tables and lots of wooden fittings, it’s hard to believe that this place is only 30 years old. It specialises in regional dishes which if I’m honest were pretty challenging for my uninitiated palate (my first time in Greece). Fava puree isn’t really my thing though it tasted much better in combination with raw red onion and some great capers. Likewise the chunks of veal in tomato sauce were good but I wasn’t too keen on the spearmint in the accompanying aubergine puree. The dessert was strained yogurt, Thracian style ie topped with honey, nuts and raisins (easy to make at home). I also needed to try the Retsina white (no house wine here), an ancient wine made from the Savatiano grape with the addition of Aticca pine resin. My dessert wine Muscat de Lemnos (muscat of Alexandria) was sublime however and the complimentary raki (Cretan grappa) sent me home with a wobble and a smile. Really liked their soundtrack too, Mi Gustas by Manu Chao and Carlos Jobim’s Girl from Ipanema being just a couple of the great tracks they played. Would deffo go back but make different choices next time.

THISIO

Filistron (Intermediate B), 23 Apostolou Pavlou, Tel. 210 346 7554

This is the place to take your partner if they come to stay. A popular terrace with great views of the Acropolis, very romantic at night. Probably best to reserve as it’s a popular spot on a very busy strip. Get a seat at the edge to avoid being bumped by the waiters. Regional specialities dominate the menu. I had the spicy cheese salad which was really just cheese sauce but it went nicely with their bread. The baked onions stuffed with mince and rice were nice too but I would probably choose different things next time. With wine and dessert the bill came to €37. You’re paying for the view rather than the food. Lots of cool bars nearby too eg Stavlos at 10 Iraklidon has a nice courtyard with live music.

KOLONAKI

Oikeo (Intermediate B-), 15 Ploutarhou (corner with Alopekis), Tel. 210 725 9216

A bit of a trek from the hotel however it was the only place I wanted to go to that was open on a Monday, which is generally a bad day for eating out.  A modern taverna, Oikeo earns its name (homey) by its warm decoration, rustic fittings, candlelit tables and soft background jazz. I could have sat on the street but the pollution was stinging my mouth and eyes that day so I opted for the cool interior. My starter of grilled feta rolled in sesame seeds was interesting at first but I was tired of it by the last mouthful (C+). For the main I went for grilled liver but had to send it back as it was overdone. The next attempt was better but still not rare as I had requested (B-) although the chips were good (B). The house red was fairly drinkable (C+). To finish, lemon mousse (B) and a shot glass of Mastiha which I again sent back to be put in a brandy glass with lots of ice (it should always be served chilled). The bill came to a reasonable €31, given the area, and I would probably go again if I was hungry and nearby. Think the staff was glad to see the back of me, although the manager was very considerate.

Just down the hill on the same street as Oikeo on the left is a bar called Mai Tai where you can sit outside. I ordered a seven star Metaxa but made them pour their miserly shot back into the glass when I got a bill for €10. The high prices are probably due to the owner’s botox injections and her pout as I walked out looked like two fat slugs daubed in lipstick. I walked ten blocks to Exarchia and had a double five star brandy with the anarchists for half the price.

PLAKA

Didn’t bother.

ATHENS CENTRAL MARKETS

Did my touristic duty and climbed the hill to see the Acropolis and the stunning views of the city and sea. Once you’re down the bottom again it’s a straight walk to the place I wanted to go to the most, Athens central market on Athinas St. The meat market is not for the faint hearted with pigs heads, knots of hanging entrails, skinned rabbits with their bob tails still on and bellowing traders who shout in your face. Besides lots of gruesome photo ops, the main reason to be here is to go to one of the market tavernas for top quality fresh food at a knock down price. After a couple of walk bys I opted for H HNEIPOE (Elementary A) GEM ALERT!, due to its red table clothes, homely canteen feel, and Tesos the friendly English speaking waiter who was fishing for early lunch customers outside. You will recognise him from his greying moustache and cheeky grin. He’s a good man, do as he says.

I wanted to try patsas (tripe soup) which is good for hangovers and indeed it did my head no end of good after too much Metaxa brandy the night before. It’s quite a thick soup with the cow’s stomach cut into tiny slivers, simmered in stock and served with pungent garlic-steeped vinegar and a sprinkling of peperoncino if you want some heat. I have little experience of tripe but this was delicious, the taste for me being reminiscent of Knorr Chicken Noodle soup (a childhood favourite) for some reason. For a second dish I had rice (a bit overcooked) and liver which looked well done on the outside but still retained some tenderness. Seeing me take pictures of the food the chef invited me behind the counter so I could snap the contents of the twenty or so cauldrons and bain mairies, some of which I recognised (dolmades, orzo in tomato sauce, meatballs, cow  foot soup) and many I didn’t. It’s not all offal here by any means but if you like that kind of thing this is the place for you.

Washed it down with half a litre (miso kilo) of house white and a glass of ouzo to go with my complimentary fingers of halva and baklava. Best of all for me you could have a contented fag afterwards, although the manageress told me that this will no longer be possible when a new law comes in on 1st September 2010. The whole thing cost me €20 including a basket of good bread. Doubt if you will find good food cheaper than this outside the area. The clientele is a wild mix of market traders, octogenarians and the occasional tramp (so it must be cheap, although this one paid with a €50 note). As its open 24 hours from Monday to Saturday you also get clubbers coming in the small hours. A great experience, don’t miss.


The other side of the market is dedicated to fish and seafood and

on the side streets are lots of delis and shops selling freshly roasted and ground coffee.


Back to the hotel, short kip, a few press-ups and its back to the markets for another meal, this time at a place near the fruit and veg market over the road from the meat and fish.

On the corner of Theatrou and Sokratous, behind the market, is DIPORTO AGORAS (Elementary A), an ancient tavern with no sign. GEM ALERT!

The entrance is like a pub cellar drop, two open steel doors in the pavement leading to a flight of stairs into the cavern below. Old oak wine barrels down one side, a tiny kitchen, bare bulbs and paper tablecloths is all the ambience you need. About twenty middle-aged guys will be shooting the breeze and worrying their beads. There is no menu but that’s because you can count the available dishes (unchanged for years) on one hand. Chick pea, vegetable or bean stew, some grilled sardines and a plate of tomato, red onion chunks and olives is all there is. I had the butter bean stew (with carrots, hot peppers, dill, parsley and other stuff) which was amazing. With half a litre of retsina in a tin jug cooling in a plastic tub of water, and some great bread, my bill came to €9. Can’t knock that.

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