Athens: Making fusion work at Hams and Clams in Piraeus
Combining cured meats and fish is a staple in Spanish cuisine, however it’s not something Greeks are used to. But at Hams and Clams it all comes together beautifully.
What I love about Athens is that its culinary scene is constantly evolving. Home to traditional fish restaurants, over the past couple of years, Piraeus has been elevated to centre of hip cuisine. On a warm spring night, I was very happy to get out of my way to explore an area of Piraeus I didn’t know before - but that I’ll be definitely start coming to more often.
From the moment I stepped through the restaurant’s turquoise door, I felt I teleported to a holiday destination in the south of Spain. With cured meats hanging from the ceiling, in typical Spanish fashion, to the large communal tables my mindset was clear: sharing is caring.
At Hams and Clams, make sure you come with a group or a big appetite. This is the best way to try as many dishes as possible - they’re all worth it.
First, ask for the daily specials. They’re bound to surprise you. The Cretan pasta with a bouillabaisse sauce was absolutely to die for; same for the sea bass ceviche with its citrusy aftertaste.
If you’re an oyster aficionado like me, you know that it’s not very easy to find them in Greece. I therefore jumped on the opportunity to start my meal with an oyster paired with a Bloody Mary shot. My shot lacked a bit of celery salt, but was otherwise fresh and spicy - as a true Bloody Mary ought to be. My friends went for the grand option, the smoked vodka shot coupled with an oyster topped with caviar. No complaints there, just big smiles of satisfaction!
As I said, all the menu items are irresistible - so make sure to take the time to really enjoy the diversity. The burrata with the culatello were a good break from the seafood heavy dinner; the name of the restaurants honours its cured meats, so we had to oblige.
Back to the seafood, we also tried the smoked eel on a bed of green chickpea puree; the perfect combination of smokiness and earthy flavours. I could eat that dish pretty much every day! My friends raved about the shrimp salad as well; I could only have a mouthful after indulging in too much cretan pasta. All the ingredients are cut in very fine pieces, so you get the zesty flavour from the fennel and the radishes with the shrimps’ sweetness.
And leave some room for dessert. The warm apple compote with caramel and crème pâtissière was the best possible end to our meal.
Truth be told I could have stayed at Hams and Clams all night sipping wine. Their wine list offers options from Greece, Spain, and Italy. As our meal focused mainly on fish, we chose the Vivlia Chora Ovilos and thought it paired very well with the options we ordered.
Next time, instead of “rolling myself” back to central Athens I’ll definitely try one of their signature cocktails. The bartender seemed to really enjoy making them, which is a clear sign that it would meet the high standards the owners have set with their food.
Photos: Hams & Clams and Electra Tsakalidou