It’s a festive Christmas 2022 evening when doors open at Pharaoh and already from its first night hordes are flocking in. A friend has visited early on and has tipped us that even though it’s still early days it’s worth swinging by for a test run. And along we visit for an early evening seating at the bar to try out the wine and the wood fired cooking… but above all the cosy vibes of this hip new establishment in the food map of Athens.
A lot had already been circling around between foodies for the particular endeavour, as each of its four owners have a story to tell. Manolis Papoutsakis known from Haroupi and Deka Trapezia in Thessaloniki made it to Athens, meeting wine expert Perry Panagiotakopoulos, famous baritone Dimitris Platanias and renown journalist Fotis Vallatos. The result? A funky wine bar restaurant with excellent music (at times played straight from the vinyl decks), traditional Greek dishes with a gentle twist and a hip crowd enough to make it a fun night out.
Although we found the neighbourhood a bit quaint we made our way behind the long velvet curtain hanging in the entrance and were immediately greeted by friends and acquaintances in this immaculate space created by Chrysokona Mavrou. We immediately thought this is bound to become a destination.
We got our seats at the bar a little after 6pm for a 2hr slot as kindly offered by Perry himself when calling ahead on the same morning. As these were the first few days of operation they notified us that they only accept cash, something that at the time didn’t seem to matter much. The list of wine was pretty long but we decided to go by the glass and had a nice bold Xinomavro. The food menu, that changes almost daily, was long and full of interesting options of the Greek land with great emphasis on accompanying greens and veggies.
We opted for a simple but tasty pomodorini tomato salad, topped with a generous portion of manouri cheese and some slivers of spearmint. Together with that we also ordered an insanely tasting chestnut stew that came in a hearty sauce from the overcooked onions. Perfect for dipping in the wholemeal bread on offer!
For mains we went for the crackling wild boar served with chunky oven-baked potatoes. The skin was cooked to perfection making it both crisp and chewy at the same time even though the portion was a fatty one (as it usually happens). Along with that we got a rabit stew in a lemon and oregano sauce that was unfortunately overcooked and kind of firm.
The night went on as patrons kept on coming in and out and the music kept on getting better, enough to order a couple of glasses more. Fotis, despite reserved behind the bar and keeping mostly to himself, was putting some nice touches with a mix of funky jazz and soul tracks.
Along with the wine we also got the only dessert on offer, a semi-baked halva topped with a mellowed quince – rather dull and unfortunate to be honest. But what was worse is that I remembered they only accept cash when overhearing the waitress tending to a party next to us. This warranted a swift run to the bank nearby which was definitely off-putting to say the least.
The mezzanine level that houses a long wine cellar also features a long table, perfect for wine tasting or other events which are bound to start taking place once the team finds its mojo. And speaking of which, our outro just before 8pm was rather forced by the rather cold waitress that came to notify us that the next party had arrived for their 8pm reservation.
But hey, it’s still early days and as a friend and food expert puts it “never visit a new hospitality establishment in its first 1 month of operation“. Hell, blame it on the fomo! We certainly hope the team will soon find its mojo, also perfecting the food offering (even though we heard the fried eggs with horta was the best dish that night!) cause we’re surely coming back!