Athens: urban gastronomical escape at Karavaiki's tropical courtyard
Most of the time, you'll get to hear about a restaurant or a new place from friends or the random blog you'll bump into (pun intended). When that though happens on Instagram, then chances are you'll get to experience something photo-worthy. But at Karavaiki, the food is awesome too. And the people behind it? Even better!
First things first, the place is called Karavaiki, not Karaiviki (namely the Caribbean). And you probably need to get that right if you're looking to locate this on Maps. Otherwise, just click on the pin of our map and you'll get directions for this Caribbean-like outpost in the northern area of Nea Penteli.
After an adventurous ascend to Nea Penteli on a weekday evening, we finally made it to the handcrafted terrace of Karavaiki in a quiet part off the main square. Andreas was there to greet us and we immediately caught wind of his face and boho welcoming aura from his days at neighbouring Kozi's. After spending 3-4 years there waiting tables, he finally joined forces with Aris and Ypatia and created this beautiful space full of granny-like dishes of the Greek cuisine!
It took us a while to put away our phones and stop photographing before we sat down in one of the side tables, also featuring the signature handknit Greek carpets that reminded us the small tavernas you'll find in the Cyclades. The tables set in a complete color-disarray with the chic ferforje chairs of the 60s immediately traveled our minds to a different era, away from the modern Athenian landscape.
We were greeted by Afroditi, actress by profession but a real foodie at heart, handing us out the beautifully-made menus. A range of options, both for seafood as well as for meat - all very creative and oh so delicious! She first offered us some carob rusks, topped with olive spread and vegetable chutney before we started ordering whatever we could get our hands on - there's always some daily specials so ask for them!
We started out with a karavisia salad, kind of the classic Greek salad with carob rusks, and some hummus with curry, petimezi and pine nuts, washing them down with some nice raki! As we progressed, the tale started to unfold as Andreas was sharing more details about this vision of his (they even feature old embossed plates from Athens Hilton that add a lot to this beautiful mosaic of memories and style). We didn't go for mains, apart from the hearty Peruvian chicken with a tangy salsa verde, and instead opted for delicious options to share: a crispy peinirli with soutzouki, aged kaseri cheese and chilli flakes, feta cheese puffs served with diced watermelon - ugh, divine!- and country sausage with feta cheese and tomato marmalade. Above all, the lightly fried chorizo meatballs served with some pepper marmalade on the side were top!
The night was still young as the place started filling up quickly, even the tables indoors despite the 30-plus degrees of this summer evening - a telling sign that Karavaiki is here to stay. We asked Afroditi for her favourite dessert and got a bit torn between their touloumpes filled with dondurma ice cream (from Constantinopole) and pistacchio (from Aegina), and the chilli-infused kariokes on rose petal ice cream. Top top top!
We'll certainly be going back to Andreas and the crew in this exotic oasis of Athens, again and again.