CULTURE

Fine dining adds a touch of spice to the holiday season

Overflowing champagne, fine linen and elaborate flavors are a few perks that make this season the year’s most glittering, glamorous and succulent. With Athenian hotels competing for culinary excellence, here are a few highlights from the opulent menus developed by several establishments. And don’t forget that the majority of hotels offer special spend-the-night deals. At the Grande Bretagne’s luxurious premises, guests can choose between the Grand Ballroom and the old-time classic GB Corner. The Grand Ballroom’s Christmas Eve menu begins with a variety of salmon, back fillet, tartar and salmon caviar with saffron sauce and a choice between roasted breast of turkey with chestnut stuffing, Indian corn and Lima beans in cream or beef tenderloin in barolo sauce with potato cake and young vegetables. A week later, diners will be feasting on Canadian lobster with Asetra caviar set on eggplant mousseline with grenadine syrup and essence of pigeon served with truffle quenelles and old sherry. (Syntagma Square, tel 210.333.0880.) Two glorious evenings await diners at the recently refurbished King George II. At the hotel’s imposing Tudor Hall, Christmas Eve is accompanied by pheasant soup with chestnuts, fois gras and truffles as well as coquilles St Jacques with saffron and gold leaves. Traditional stuffed turkey is also one of the stories at the Ballroom. New Year’s Eve offers plenty of champagne at the Tudor Hall, along with Iranian caviar, homemade blinis, potato marmalade with truffles and bison tournedos. (3 Vas. Georgiou A, tel 210.322.2210.) The Athens Hilton’s dining suggestions do not reflect the hotel’s ultra-minimalist design. Thus a very rich buffet awaits guests at the Byzantine restaurant on Christmas Eve, while the New Year’s Gala menu includes delice of grouper on spinach and mussel bisque and beef fillet with foie gras and shiitake mushrooms. Don’t miss spectacular views of Athens at the New Year’s Galaxy bar party. (46 Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.1000.) Fine dining will be combined with splendid views of the city at the St George Lycabettus’s Grand Balcon, where Christmas Eve diners will feast on bream fillets in caramelized artichokes with aromatics and orange juice with saffron, or marinated turkey fillet with yogurt, sage, thyme, fig sauce with rum accompanied by traditional stuffing with chestnuts, currants, pine nuts and bacon. Veal fillet with polenta, grilled bacon, crunchy potato chips and light sauce with honey and mustard is one culinary idea for New Year’s Eve. (2 Cleomenous, 210.729.0711-9.) Besides dining in the Metropolitan Hotel’s elegant interiors, guests will participate in midnight draws offering five-day stays for two at the Chandris Corfu resort. If you’re not the lucky winner, however, you will be rewarded with the foie gras with fig jelly and apple tarte tatin; traditional turkey with chestnut filling, Vinsanto sauce and quince chutney on Christmas Eve. For New Year’s Eve, you can expect mango sorbet with drops of Grappa as well as pheasant fillet with soya, ginger, potatoes a la Parisienne, porcini mushrooms and vegetables noisettes. (385 Syngrou Avenue, tel 210.947.1000.) Already a hot spot thanks to the cutting-edge interiors designed by Karim Rashid and works of art from the Dakis Joannou private collection, the Semiramis is also increasingly proud of its cuisine. The Christmas Eve menu here includes duck consomme with foie gras ravioli, butternut squash agnolotti with fruit mustard and sage, wild sea bass with roasted artichokes and baby rooster with truffle butter and roasted root vegetables. The New Year will be ushered in with quail tartlet with wild mushrooms and foie gras terrine, lobster risotto with asparagus and tarragon, roasted monkfish with braised cabbage prosciutto and lemongrass or venison with a sweet pomegranate sauce. (48 Harilaou Trikoupi, Kifissia, tel 210.628.4400.) Grouper and crawfish with sundried tomato, olives and green asparagus, tournedos of turkey with traditional filling accompanied by crisp potato crust and sage sauce are part of the Park Hotel’s offerings for Christmas Eve. Crisp leaf with eggplant, Shetland salmon and fish-roe cream from Mesolongi, veal fillets in asparagus, baby carrots, wild mushrooms in port sauce are part of the story for New Year’s Eve. (10 Alexandras, tel 210.889.4500.) The spacious Athenaeum Inter-Continental Athens suggests a Christmas Eve buffet at Cafezoe and a six-course menu at the Premiere hotel which includes wild boar noisette with green apple sorbet. Sevruga caviar and Dover sole fillet will welcome the New Year. (89-93 Syngrou, tel 210.920.6000.) New Year’s Eve diners at the central Divani Caravel will feast on fillet medallions with truffles at the Brown’s Bar, while quail fillets in sweet Samos wine and cheese balls will be available at the Olympia Ballroom. (2 Vas. Alexandrou, tel 210.720.7000.) Dining by the sea at the Divani Apollon Palace also means risotto with river crayfish topped with gold leaves at the Ballroom on Christmas Eve and wild boar stuffed with wild mushroom, potato millefeuille and myrtle sauce at the Myth of the Sea restaurant to welcome the New Year. (10 Ag. Nikolaou & Iliou, tel 210.891.1100.)