Festive dining in the capital

The merry season puts culinary talents to the test and chefs in Athenian hotels are rising to yet another festive occasion. Here’s a look at what’s on offer – besides the customary holiday menus, hotels are also coming up with ideas for breakfast and brunch, while some provide special rates for spending the night. At the landmark – and splendidly renovated – Grande Bretagne, Christmas Eve celebrations will take place at the hotel’s GB Corner and Royal Room with a menu set at 115 euros per person: Terrine of foie gras with tea and ginger, Balic salmon, fillet of sea bass on truffled artichoke mousseline, John Dory glazed with herbs with Pommery mustard, frozen pina coladas, venison medallions with forest mushrooms, accompanied by winter fruits and crispy potato cake (or veal tenderloin with sage and young vegetables), as well as a selection of cheeses and Caraibes chocolate pie. To usher in the new year, the Grand Ballroom Gala menu (280 euros per person, including champagne throughout the evening) begins with cocktails in the Winter Garden, moving on to lobster terrine, salmon tartar and caviar, quail served with pistachio dumpling and sherry, fillet of Atlantic turbot cooked with winter truffles and baby vegetables, Veuve Clicquot sorbet, veal medallions with gratinated potatoes, followed by a sweet New Year’s surprise – while the GB corner presents is own New Year’s menu, set at 250 per head. (Syntagma Square, tel 210.333.0000.) While known for its bare approach in terms of style, the new Athens Hilton (46 Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.1351) is not going minimal when it comes to holiday season dining. At the hotel’s Byzantine restaurant, Christmas will be celebrated at the buffet, with dishes including seafood, salmon and herring, duck pate, smoked venison with Waldorf salad, poached carp, roast duck with red cabbage, honey glazed ham and traditional turkey, Christmas pudding, Yule log, rice pudding with cherry sauce, mulled wine and eggnog (menu at 85 euros per person). Also at the Byzantine, the New Year’s dinner and party menu (set at 195 euros per person, including wine and champagne) will commence with lobster pave with green onions, followed by grilled dorado on spinach and vongole bisque, fillet of Charolais beef with root vegetables and Madagascar peppers and raspberry and chocolate mille-feuilles with port. For those making their way to the Metropolitan Hotel (385 Syngrou, tel 210.947.1000), fine dining will be accompanied by a raffle draw (with the chance of winning a five-day trip for two to Thailand on Christmas Eve and a five-day trip to Rome on New Year’s Eve). Everyone’s a winner at the hotel’s Aegean Sea ballroom, however, where the Christmas Eve menu (set at 85 euros, excluding wine) will kick off with lobster mille-feuilles, apple carpaccio and marinated avocado and mango, followed by crayfish soup and ravioli, quail and duck liver in Samos sweet wine and caramelized pear in puff pastry, forest fruit sorbet with champagne drops, a choice of traditional roast turkey with filling accompanied by potatoes noisette and cranberry sauce (or veal fillet stuffed with duxelle mushrooms and fois gras), crisp salad, warm goat cheese in balsamic syrup, culminating in chocolate souffle with a praline sauce. A week later, dinner starts with a terrine of pheasant, goose liver and mushrooms with apple chutney; followed by Bresse consomme garnished with black truffles, John Dory in oyster sauce, saffron and Sevruga caviar, lemon sorbet sprinkled with mint, deer fillet served with walnuts, caramelized shallots, fresh vegetables, potato gnocchi and Calvados sauce (or alternatively Charolais veal fillets), salad, anthotiro cheese mousse and yogurt with quince mash and ending with coconut and chocolate parfait with ginger and lychee syrup (menus set at 85 and 105 euros per person, respectively, excluding wine). At the St George Lycabettus, a group of chefs are busily preparing for two special evenings at the hotel’s Grand Balcon restaurant. The Christmas Eve menu (set at 130 euros per person) begins with an artichoke veloute, followed by sauteed shrimps with orange and marinated zucchini, green apple sorbet, finely chopped salad with baked manouri cheese and olive confit, turkey breast in a soy and plum sauce accompanied by walnut risotto and asparagus, ending with walnut mousse in a sesame phyllo. On New Year’s Eve, guests will feast on pumpkin broth with fois gras, caviar and chili; grouper medallion with tomato tartar; lime-champagne sorbet; fillet mignon with girolles mushrooms; salad with fried mozzarella and ending with a charlotte of honey mousse, walnuts and blackberry coulis. At a set price of 165, this also includes traditional Vassilopitta (2 Cleomenous, tel 210.729.0711-9). Before arriving for the hotel’s Recovery Breakfast on January 1, visitors at the NJV Athens Plaza (Syntagma Square, tel 210.335.2400) will enjoy two evenings at the hotel’s Parliament restaurant. On December 24, the evening begins with a glass of champagne, warm blini, caviar and cream cheese; followed by quail breast and crayfish in a vegetable nest; moving on to lobster medallions with Beluga caviar, cream of asparagus and crab; roasted goose with polenta, warm goat cheese and ending with a walnut and chocolate log (menu set at 135 per person). As for New Year’s Eve, diners will be welcomed with a glass of whisky, prosciutto and parmesan sticks; followed by smoked duck fillets with fois gras in pumpkin puff pastry; followed by grouper paupiettes with green tagliolini and shrimp in a trout broth, quail and truffle cappuccino and gold leaves, deer medallions and bison fillet with morilles mushrooms, brie and chamois cheese on crunchy bread with Vinsanto dressing and a nut feuilletine with whisky and chocolate custard and passion fruit sorbet (menu set at 180 euros per person). For every two guests reserving a table for Christmas or New Year’s Eve, the freshly refurbished Athens Ledra Marriott (115 Syngrou, tel 210.930.0000) offers a room free of charge – offer subject to availability. At the hotel’s Zephyros restaurant, it’s all about the buffet: For Christmas Eve, platters range from venison medallions and roast beef to savory mango and paw-paw salad; ostrich medallions with wild mushroom sauce, cream potatoes and basmati rice; to salmon in puff pastry, stuffed papaya boats with fresh fruit salad and mango bavarois. On New Year’s Eve, the choices include shrimp and oysters on ice, «Bellevue» langouste, smoked duck, octopus salad, rabbit with lemon sauce and black tiger prawns (set menus at 115 and 130 euros per person, respectively). On a more Oriental note, at the Kona Kai, the Christmas Eve menu (140 euros per person) opens with spring rolls, Seafood Rangoon, fried prawn triangles and stuffed chicken wings, followed by smoked duck with green tea sauce and fruit salad, turkey and goose soup with corn and coriander, crab and lobster in a coconut ginger sauce accompanied by steamed rice and asparagus, Mandarin sorbet, pork and lamb fillet with black bean sauce with Cantonese noodles, asparagus and steamed rice and Christmas chocolate tart with coconut parfait chocolate and mint sauce. For New Year’s (160 euros per person), a variety of sushi and hot appetizers will be followed by fresh oysters in salad, red snapper fillet and scallops in a lemongrass and coconut curry accompanied by straw mushrooms and bok choy, crab and prawn soup with lemon grass, roast duck breast with melon and mango salad served with plum and chili sauce, green tea sorbet, beef fillet and lamb loin with chili and teriyaki sauce, accompanied by coconut steamed rice and stir-fried vegetables and a bavarois of Mandarin and Peking chestnuts with sugar cane, served with a coconut and cappuccino sauce. Executive chef Jonathan Morris and his team are preparing for their own version of festive dining at the Athenaeum Inter-Continental Hotel (89-93 Syngrou, tel 210.920.6000). Whether at the designer Cafe Zoe (buffet) or the renovated Premiere restaurant (six courses), diners will enjoy a rich variety of platters ranging from roast turkey to beef Wellington and Christmas logs, while those wishing to entertain at home may place their orders for delivery.