Bock Beer Restaurant, Athens

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The Bock Beer Restaurant is less than ten minutes walk from the southern Plaka area of central Athens but it seems much further than that in atmosphere. There’s nothing typical about this place – within the drinks or food menu or the decor or the service – and no sideshow on offer either (like smashing of plates or overly flamboyant waiters pulling in people from the streets as potential customers). It’s very much it’s own entity, a 100% contemporary Greek offering in an area that rarely deviates from the norm that most tourists have come to demand, and expect.

We were staying at the Hera Hotel which is just over the main road and around the corner five minutes away so when we read on Trip Advisor what a great place Bock Beer was it was an obvious choice for us on a night when we fancied something different than what some would describe as traditional Greek food.

I say ‘what some would describe’ because any countries cuisine is a continually evolving idea. We can’t just say that Greek food is a certain thing that existed sometime in the past and now cannot be changed or else it isn’t Greek any more, that would be ridiculous. I mean, how long does a certain dish have to be in existence before it becomes ‘traditional’ anyway?!

The Greeks have been great travelers for many years and when they return to their country they naturally bring outside influences with them, and these in turn change the way things are done in the country, including eating and drinking habits. This is what has happened at Bock Beer.

Athanasia, co-owner and waitress at Bock Beer, had studied overseas in the recent past in England whilst Alex, co-owner and barman, has taken influence for the choice of beers and food that the restaurant serves from his mother, who was born in Stuttgart in Germany.

“There are four partners in the business,” said Athanasia, “and we were all architecture graduates so we were able to design the restaurant ourselves. We only bought two ready made light fittings, everything else you see here was designed by us and hand made by local crafts people.”

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A big screen TV on the far wall was showing a silent film titled ‘Visions of Germany along the Rhine’ as we arrived and this, coupled with the large array of quality German beers on offer, the walls lined with precisely placed beer mats and the alcoves displaying ceramic beer tankards might lead you to think that this is a place totally given over to German food and drink. But then you tune into the seating areas that are more like the private booths you might find in a 1950′s American-style diner, the earthy colours of the decor that are very southern Mediterranean, the sophisticated, futuristic Euro feel of the jazzy/pop/subtle rock and rock soundtrack and the overhead lighting that’s almost like stage lighting at a concert venue and you have to come to the conclusion that Bock Beer is a unique little place all of it’s owner’s making.

You couldn’t say that it seems like any preconceived idea you had about Athens but then again, you couldn’t say that it reminds you of anywhere else either. It’s a culmination of the owners life experience, put into a physical format. Here are a few images we made as we got settled.

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Athanasia and Alex both speak great English so there was no problem asking for advice about the menu. And we did need to do that, partly because there are so many items unique to Bock Beer and partly because Lamia was rather frightened of German influenced food before our visit…

I’m a bit apprehensive of German food because I don’t have many German friends, I’ve never been to Germany and I heard they just eat a lot of sausages and I don’t eat pork!” Lamia explained.

“No problem,” Athanasia replied. “Here, I’ll show you all the dishes with no pork in them, there are lots to choose from…”

On the drinks menu I saw a range of draft and bottled lagers, ales, stouts and other beers from Greece and around the world, for instance Budweiser, Stella, Hobgoblin, Peroni and Bulmers. There was also several Greek red and white wines, a full cocktail menu and another menu called Beer-Tales which was a collection of beer cocktails (all their own inventions except for Snakebite and Black, with options such as the ‘Mexican Trap’, a mix of tequila, lime, agave nectar and La Trappe Quadrupel 10% beer).

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For drinks Lamia started with a White Orange taken from the Beer-Tales cocktail menu.

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“It’s a little fruity and light tasting,” said Lamia. “It doesn’t taste of alcohol at all which is what I prefer in my drinks.” It certainly had a kick though; Lamia was giggling rather more than usual after a few sips.

I had the Greek ‘Septem Wet Hop Pale Ale’.

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It’s a slightly bitter beer from Evia with a hoppy, fruity taste. I found it very smooth drinking, it went down in no time at all!

Before our food arrived Athanasia bought us Onion Soup.

“We give this to everybody who comes to eat here,” she said.

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It smelt beautifully rich and buttery and was topped with croutons and coriander. Lamia doesn’t like onions normally but she finished hers in double quick time.

“It’s delicious and even though it does have a strong onion taste it’s not overpowering at all,” she said. I agreed, it was a great soup.

For starters Lamia had Fried Chicken Wraps.

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“It’s topped with pungent smelling, shaved lime peel and is similar in texture to a Chinese spring roll. I mean, it’s got crunchy filo pastry and soft minced chicken in a cream sauce inside and it’s spiced lightly to bring out the flavours. The lime peel compliments the flavours really well.”

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I had the Gorgonzola and Honey Bruschetta.

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This was like a crunchy starter and dessert all wrapped into one. There was plenty of topping and the honey soaked into the bread making a beautiful combination of taste and texture. It’s a very unusual take on brushetta and one that I totally recommend trying.

For main Lamia had the Burger and Fresh French Fries.

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“Wow, this dish is like a dream for me,” Lamia said. “They really have their burger on point, it’s perfect, and coming from North America as I do, where burgers are a really big deal, I’d like to say I’m a pretty good judge on this. The meat in the burger is firm enough but also so soft and tender it’s falling apart in my mouth as I take a bite. The fries are cooked French-fried style and sprinkled with herbs. The burger toppings have fallen into my fries and it’s kind of become like a plate of nachos or chilli fries. The salad is nice too, there are croutons in it and a mixture of lettuce, tomato and rocket in a vinaigrette. Believe me, this is a perfect burger.”

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I had the Souvlaki of Grilled Veggies and Talagani Cheese.

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It consisted of courgette, red pepper, baby tomatoes, crunchy onion, mushroom and the chewy cheese, all of it chargrilled and served on a bed of pita with yoghurt on the side. I thought it very tasty and fresh; if you were looking for a dish that was more traditionally Greek than the burger and fries then this would be it.

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Our drinks had been long drunk by the time our mains arrived so we ordered a second round. Lamia had the Bloody Mary off the Cocktail menu whilst I had the Mexican Trap off of the Beer-Tales menu.

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Athanasia asked Lamia if she wanted her Bloody Mary spicy. A few weeks ago we were in an Indian restaurant in London and Lamia had drunk a cocktail called a Bloody Spicy and loved it, so she went for the spicy version this time around.

“It tastes of tomato but not overpoweringly so,” Lamia said. “It’s got ice cubes in it, a slice of chilli on the rim to show the spicy ingredient and a cucumber slice at the bottom. There’s a light spice aftertaste and it doesn’t taste alcoholic at all; it’s my sort of drink.”

My Mexican Trap was served in a glass whose rim was speckled with salt.

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It was a sweet drink (thanks to the agave syrup) but it’s kick warns you from very first sip to take things easy. With a 10% beer base and a tequila shot it’s not a drink you want to take lightly! Alex had said that he thought it important when drinking beer cocktails that you taste the individual beer used, as the beer wasn’t just a soda-style mixer but a vital ingredient of its own. I certainly could taste the beer in this drink and thought it a really interesting take on a tequila cocktail.

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It was time for us to go but Athanasia and Alex stalled us for a little longer with honey flavoured shots at the bar.

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We both agreed that if we lived in Athens then Bock Beer would be somewhere that we visited every week. The food is excellent, the atmosphere very comfortable and relaxing and both Athanasia and Alex are fun, friendly, individual characters with genuine, honest smiles and hearts and are the sort of people you’d want to spend time with again and again.

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They serve a lot of decent German beers and German inspired food but that doesn’t make it a German restaurant in our opinion. Lamia drank cocktails and ate a brilliant burger whilst I had a Greek beer, a local beer cocktail and very decent vegetarian food so really what’s on offer at Bock Beer is a unique fusion experience fashioned by the owners’ own experiences and lives. The quality is there, the atmosphere is there and the variety is there, and we believe that you should be too!

To discover more, please check out their website at www.bock.gr

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