It’s sort of those occasions where you’ve heard so much about a place that really puts you off from visiting too – especially when it turns out it was all a fad. No. The newly-launched spot of Linou Soumpasis k sia in Psyrri, Athens, is definitely here to stay. An ode to the neo-taverna bunch with extra care on design and aesthetics all around.
It’s a bit after 9pm on a Wednesday when we arrive at the otherwise deserted Psyrri. Not sure if it’s the pandemic or not, but most of the places around are empty. The dining room though here is packed. And the empty tables we see are all due to be filled momentarily by other guests who’ve also booked ahead of time.
An otherwise sterile interior is filled with warmth and cosiness by the church-candles that are lit all around, a nice hommage to the former candle shop that was housed in this establishment. We take note of the modern metallic chairs and the white walls carefully stocked with some candles and candlesticks (what else?) in a corner that also dubs as a small retail spot.
Browsing the menu we notice the plain sans fonts and the neatly stacked options, all seasonal and all in perfect harmony with what’s in stock this week: lamb and langoustines. So because we find it a bit odd to go for lamb, we opt for the seafood route on both our appetizers and main dishes – all to share.
The open-plan kitchen is busy with young cooks at work and polite staff in masks come to take our order. Before that? A very warm welcome of some pickled tomatoes, olives and carrots accompanied by warm artisan bread and two saucers with virgin olive oil and rock salt!
We’re already high with all the vibe when the rest of the party arrives. A table for 6 is just about the right size to have mostly one central conversation with small chit chat with your neighbours throughout the course of the meal. We clank our glasses with some fine tsikoudia Syrah (and a bitterly priced one I may add!) and off we go!
The appetizers arrive and as we start to sample we comment on the fine quality of raw material and the very nice combinations of flavours and textures on each dish – something that goes unnoticed in the very plain way they describe them on their menu (full marks for that!). We love the steaming hot wild greens with ksinotiri cheese from Ios in a herby zest, as well as the hristopsaro carpraccio served with raw cauliflower and tarama spread! The boiled winter vegetables are also very tasty and fresh, but above all, the artisan sausage of black pig, served with charred cabbage, mustard and must spread is simply amazing!
As we devour our food, the heated conversations are at full blast when our mains arrive. Langoustines pasta (in a very wholesome olive-oil-based sauce), meatballs in tomato sauce served with handmade pitta bread from Mani and a soothing veal cheeks stew in a chickpeas soup… oh my god!
Full marks on most of them (and certainly on the langoustines with some pasta that is dead on al dente!) we unanimously note as we carry with the rest of wine and tsikoudia for the night.
It goes without saying that projects like this rarely do just happen out of luck. Giorgos Soubasis, the creator of ME THEN and Morning Bar, had long wanted to open a place with Loucas Myler who he met in Limnos a few summers back. The opportunity presented itself when they met in Athens and started brainstorming about this project together with Myrsini Linou, owner of the former candles shop (who has also co-created Ypsilon in Thessaloniki). The place is right on the cusp of hip and edgy in Psyrri with lots to long for along the street of Melanthiou, that we suspect will fill up with candle-lit tables come summer.
Well done guys!