It’s a late summer get-together as I’m meeting some friends from abroad for dinner and we’re looking for something cosy, tasty and new. Perched in the quiet square of Messolongi in Pangrati, Materia Prima is exactly what we need. In actual fact, my friends have been there before so they know the drill.
As I get to the table, Dionysis, the kind and experienced sommelier, is already in full swing with my party. I don’t want to interrupt and as I hastily say hello he makes a gentle pause, nods along and carries on laying out a fragrant Viognier and a more bold Chardonnay – both from Northern France. He purposefully avoids the wine lingo and instead lays it out as one would describe the Internet to his grandmother. Am I wine connoisseur? I wish! Do I know a bit about Greek wine? Yes. Do I want to try something French instead? Maybe. So I play along and sit tight.
Not everyone in the group speaks Greek and as the sommelier hasn’t really taken notice of each guest’s origin, his long ritual is performed in Greek. As he finally whisks away to bring a wine cooler, my American friend turns to me: “Was the lengthy explanation that necessary?“. I crack up, say yes and go on to explain the deets. And I give full credit to the wine expert who unassumingly takes time to educate us on each bottle without too much fuss, also quoting in the end the price.
You see, the wine bar features a list of more than 300 wines at their cellar downstairs so the time he spends with us is totally justified.
The starters are served and we’re immediately taken by the softness of the hummus and the divine taste of the house bread (served with herb butter). The beef carpaccio is covered in a soft layer of horseradish and aged gouda cheese sauce which is very refreshing. Along with, the waitress also brings us a wedge salad (a very rare find in Greece) topped with carob crumble and a tasty vinaigrette sauce from onions and olives.
As the chatter goes on, we take note of the quiet vibe of this central square of Pangrati which sits away from the busy centre of Athens. Moments later we’re served with the main dish: a lovely handmade lasagnette pasta dolloped with Cretan butter and chives; divine!
The night goes on and in a matter of as few minutes we sort of get to know the whole Materia Prima crew who kindly takes turns in tending to our table. We talk about the different producers they source the raw materials from, the multiple vineyards they’ve visited before stocking up their cellar and many more.
What a treat it is to find local places that are more humane and personal. Well done Materia Prima team! We’ll surely be coming back over winter too.
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