The signature of Papaioannou (the well known, outstanding fish taverna in the small harbour of Mikrolimano, Piraeus) serves as a guarantee, but I was still pleasantly surprised by the combination of high quality, huge portions and incredible prices! Well done indeed!
The significance of the undertaking is far greater that its – at first glance – magnitude. Why? Quite simply because it demonstrates that you can find good food at €15 per head! And this is something that, in Athens at least, we had considered nigh on impossible. Now, at Sardelaki, George Kirmizoglou, Stathis Zagoritis and George Papaioannou prove that it is possible.
I went with some reservations, even though – I reiterate – the Papioannou name is a guarantee. I expected to eat well, but to be honest I didn’t anticipate such good food, nor such large portions, and I was certain that prices in the region of €15 were but an urban legend. However...
The dining area is plain and small, along the lines of a modern taverna. You know... white wicker chairs, old café trays, a blackboard-type menu and all the usual clichés. Also, the taverna doesn’t take reservations, but that’s no surprise. At such low prices you should be prepared to make some concessions. The taverna must capitalise on its flow of customers and serve large numbers in order to remain profitable. This is quite understandable, I dare say even necessary. But because we are talking about roughly 500 customers daily (!!) it would be advisable to go at 8.30-9.00 pm or late in the evening, unless you want to be shuffling your feet on the pavement outside.
The ingredients radiate freshness and have been carefully selected. And I’m not just talking about the fish but also the vegetables, the greens, the potatoes for the French fries, everything! I must stress that whatever came out of the frying pan was a real treat. From the fries that were dry and crispy to the anchovy fillets (€5.5 for a real pile!) that were moist and delicious, this is the ultimate fish n’ chips experience à la grecque! But it doesn’t stop there. The eggplant salad with smoked aubergine squashed with a fork as per the Mt. Athos recipe was marvellous... velvety, spritely and almost fruity! The Santorini fava bean purée was incredibly tasty, the taramasalata acceptable. The emblematic grilled sardines, also filleted and about ten per portion, cost €6.5 and are cooked to perfection without any loss of their flavoursome juices. Sardelaki is first and foremost an eatery that proves there is no such thing as ‘lowly’ ingredients, only a lowly approach, careless execution and ignorance when it comes to selection. Here, the anchovies and sardines are simply amazing. But now, the blunt-snouted mullet is in season; they too are filleted before frying and are to die for. Lightly fried, easily up to the standards of Matsuhisa at his best!
However, it was not all perfect at Sardelaki. The fried cod was too salty and dry. The house white wine was unremarkable and somewhat stale. But these are mere misdemeanours considering the overall quality and incredible value for money! Finally, I should say that in such an establishment the absence of bottled wine is perfectly excusable. But I do think they could offer a small selection, since they could easily source several good varieties, and it would be nice to find even one pleasant sparkler. All this fried fare with a good, dry, sparkling white wine would be heaven.
By way of conclusion: I take my hat off to them!
- Phone: (+30)2114021195
- Address: 15, Foivis str. , Glyfada, Athens,
- Website: -
- Open: daily, noon-evening
- Price per person (€)*: €15-25
- * we do our best to reflect the actual price range per-person of a full meal including first and main courses, desert, water and half a bottle of wine or one beer depending on the type of restaurant.
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