|Oinopoleion: A cook-house / tavern in Psyrri neighborhood, Athens, Greece|
Located right near Plateia Iroon, the central square of the Psirri neighborhood (an Athens entertainment hub), Oinopoleio is a small restaurant / cook-house that offers great value for money. We've dined here twice in the past year and loved the food and the service both times. So, I sat down with owner Maria Markou the other day, and she explained to me the long history of this small establishment and how it manages to stay fresh and satisfy people for 85 years in a row!
It all started in the end of the 19th century, with great-granfather Spyridon Markou cultivating vineyards (and producing wine) in the Mesogaia area, east of Athens, near the current airport. Wanting to bring his wine directly to his customers, he made use of a building in the Athens area of Psirri, in 1928, to establish a cook-house / wine-selling place (which is what Oinopoleio stands for).
The rustic origins of the place are reflected in its traditional Greek cuisine, the semi-open kitchen, the wooden tables and plaid tablecloths and the overall decoration, even though, as Maria confided to me, "I just brought in some artist friends who did their best to suppress their modernist tendencies and we painted over the whole place, by ourselves". The photographs on the wall are of some old winery equipment, while the walls in the cellar downstairs are partly lined with bottles. Talking about the cellar, there are 4 distinct areas to sit: the small pavement outdoors (ideal for the summer and for soaking in the neighborhood's pleasant atmosphere), the main hall (also open to the street), a more peaceful back-yard and the non-smoking cellar downstairs (used in the winter) with a total of about 25-30 tables.
|Oinopoleio restaurant, Psirri, Athens: "Secret Garden" in the backyard.|
There's live music every Friday and Saturday, after 9:00pm during the summer, while Thursday and Friday are added in the music schedule in the winter. Thursday features traditional Greek songs ("dimotika"), Friday is the day for "rembetika" (of the more "hard-core", up to 1940, variety), Saturday features a more mainstream programme of popular-folk Greek music while Sunday is open for surprises. "I'm very proud of our music schedule and the musicians we bring in", Maria told me, and I recall the real party atmosphere on the Saturday evening we had sat here. If you are thinking of going to one of the music tavern's in Plaka for the music, I seriously suggest changing course and coming here instead.
|Oinopoleio cookhouse: Interior of a really old Athens tavern, in operation since 1928 but recently renovated.|
Food / Drinks: You will find various traditional Greek dishes served here, but not in the "lazy" , "touristy" way served in some other places. The menu changes often, depending on Maria's ideas and what she discovers in the local market. "I'm quite intrusive in the kitchen and my cooks can barely stand me", she jokes. Of the dishes we've had, I particularly recall "eggs purgatorio" (scrambled eggs with tomato sauce), "horta epohis" (season greens), "bouyourdi" (oven baked feta cheese w/ vegetables), feta baked w/ sesame, and grilled pleurotous mushrooms, among the appetizers. From the main dishes I mostly liked the "kleftiko" (oven-cooked lamb w/ vegetables, wrapped and served in baking paper) and I'm still drooling over the "arnaki tsigariasto" (lamb bites, slowly cooked in the pot with olive oil and some sauce).
|Oinopoleio cookhouse: Interior or a really old Athens tavern. The semi-open kitchen provides transparency into the whole operation and lets you take a look at the food offered behind the glass, before you order|
Wine comes from the family's own vineyards and winery (run by another sibling) and will nicely complement your dinner at an affordable price. Markou Wines offers a white made of the local Savatiano varietal w/ Chardonnay, a Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend and a Cabernet Sauvignon blanc de noir among others.
Beer is allowed in the premises and comes in the form of Fix lager, draft Kaiser pils, Paulaner weiss and Murphy's stout.
As far as service is concerned, we were impressed both times, in every respect. I only need to mention how they stuck to their non-smoking policy for the cellar, even when some smoking customers appeared and asked to be seated, essentially losing 6 clients for that evening which is a most unusual behavior for Greece. If you come in the winter and want to dine in the non-smoking cellar make sure to call in advance.
A baby chair, we noticed, was also available which is also a rarity.
|Oinopoleio cookhouse: An Athens tavern, operating since 1928, in the hands of the 4th generation of the Markou family.|
Getting there shouldn't be hard: Get off the Metro at either Monastiraki or Thission Metro Stations (Line 1). From Monastiraki Station head into the narrow alleys of Psirri following Miaouli St. which leads to a small square (Plateia Iroon). Walk on past the square for another 30 meters and you'll see Oinopoleio to your right, tucked in a small restaurant row, at 12 Aischyllou St., among other food establishments.
Address – Area: 12 Aischylou (a.k.a. Eschilou) St., [Psirri neighborhood], Athens
Last Visit(s): 2013-05-11, 2012-02-03
Cuisine: Traditional Greek, with intelligence
Working Hours: Tue-Fri: 6:00pm till late night, Sat-Sun: noon till late night, Mon:closed
Prices: A full-course dinner for two w/ wine cost us 60€, while, on a separate occasion, a filling dinner with various courses for 6 persons (3 men-3 women), w/ wine, cost us 113€.
Payment: Mastercard, Visa, Diners, Maestro
See map of Athens restaurants at the bottom of this page.