In the words of Usher – OMG! What a find! Well, I didn’t find it, Charly Wildler of the New York Times found it. I found the article.
What I wasn’t expecting is that they only have one table. That’s right! This is a restaurant that primarily does deliveries to the nearby hotels and offices. They have one table with two chairs right by the door, which the staff (read as family) sit at when there is a lull in service. By around 1:30 the chef is in the kitchen and the table is stacked high with bags of food to be delivered.
I asked Despina (the restaurant manager, wife of the chef and daughter of the other chef) if it would be ok to sit there and have lunch? She said, “Sure, if you don’t mind the craziness”. Crazy indeed. The phone rang continously while we were there. 3 delivery boys were constantly bustling in and out. And I couldn’t see the chef for the orders lined up in front of him.
Even though its 35 C outside today I ordered meat and rice stuffed vine leaves with avgolemono sauce (an sour lemon sauce thickened with egg). I received a generous portion of 8 and I ate 6 of them. I would have eaten them all but 2 migrated to my friend’s plate.
Followed by a large piece of refreshingly light cheesecake that Despina’s mother had made that morning.
As I was chatting away to Despina after I had paid my bill. She told me that she fell in love with Konstantinos (the chef) when she asked him to cook a dish that was “her on a plate.” How original – don’t you think? He created a dish of stewed beef with chestnuts. She was hooked from that moment on, apparently she loves anything with chestnuts.
They decided there and then to open a restaurant. Konstantinos is a chef that loves his craft, it obviously did not sit well with him when his then employer suggested that he wash some old chicken in vinegar (to get rid of the smell) and serve it to customers. Instead Despina and Konstantinos decided to open a place that suited their palate and where they did not compromise on ingredients and quality. “At the beginning we used to just eat the food we hadn’t sold ourselves, we would never serve it again the next day! But now we are so busy that we just sell out before the day is done.”
Melilotos doesn’t advertise either. “If we did, we might get too busy.” I would imagine that would be a good thing but Despina set me right “My mother cooks a lot of the food. And she cooks just like she is doing it for a big family. She wouldn’t be able to cook in the huge quantities needed for a big restaurant.”
But more importantly, how wonderful that there are still family run places – that are in it for the love of the trade. Truly outstanding! You must visit. Its only opened during the week, daytime only. And if that one table happens to be taken, well order some food to go and sit in Syntagma square and enjoy some serious home cooking!
Mellilotos, Xenofondos 15 (inside the lobby on left); (30-210) 322-24-58. Open Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m
Melilotos has now moved to a new location 19 Kalamiotou, Athens.