Mystic Pizza (Exarcheia), Athens

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There are a few great value places to eat in Athens, for instance, Kostas in Agias Eirinis Square and the ladies selling the falafel just around the corner on Kolokotroni, both of which charge just two Euro for lovely kebab-style take-aways. But if you want a sit down, full meal with excellent eco-credentials then for us nothing beats Mystic Pizza. You’ll get brilliant pasta here, and of course pizzas, and there’s a strong lean towards the dishes being organic, health conscious and tasty and for around six or seven Euro a plate the prices, considering the high quality, can’t be beat.

Currently Mystic Pizza have three branches in Athens and we visited this one just after the Athens Marathon when we felt in need of some serious re-fuelling. It’s a twenty minute walk from the Plaka area hotel we were staying in and located in a neighborhood known as the original home of anarchy in Athens. It’s a friendly, interesting and vibrant area that you probably wouldn’t wander into by chance; we never saw a single tourist within ten minutes walk of the place and that was at 7pm, a time when lots of young locals were sitting down to eat there. If you’re interested in gaining an insight into modern Greek society and the student/alternative young people crowd, an insight that’s not currently pointed out in any major guidebook, then this is definitely a place to hang out once or twice (don’t let the graffiti in the photos put you off, Athens is covered in it).

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Lou Reed was playing over the sound system as we walked in. The other customers looked the friendly sort that you might find in art cafés or counter-culture centres the world over, for instance Kensington Market in Toronto or Camden in London. I immediately felt relaxed. I always tend to feel safer in alternative quarters than in more corporate areas. People who hang out in places like Mystic Pizza aren’t particularly interested in beating their chest, world domination and power, or in tearing down what remains of the rainforest to make junk that no one needs and stuffing their face with poisonous rubbish during their lunch-breaks. I like these sorts of people.

“It’s probably not the environment for someone’s whose favourite program is Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” said Lamia.

“No,” I replied, “you got to have a bit more brain to appreciate a place like this.”

And that’s not being unfair, I think. You really do need to think to get the most from Mystic Pizza. You need to be able to read that they use Cannabis seed in their dishes and understand how good that is for you, rather than just giggle or make a silly joke about getting high. You need to understand a little about health and super foods to realise just how well thought out their ingredients are. And you need to have been inspired to have eaten in more than a few excellent restaurants – and I mean excellent, rather than expensive or trendy – to truly appreciate the subtle, real food that you’re going to eat here, as opposed to the dishes full of fake highs that lesser places offer.

There was some quality art and sculptures on the walls and coloured glass, low lighting, hand crafted models, and fresh flowers on the tables.

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Our waitress, Despina, introduced herself. The menu had an English translation with clear info on what was in each dish but Despina spoke pretty good English and could explain when we had issues understanding. The menu’s were illustrated by hand, with this sort of artwork…

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As we waited for our food to arrive Lou Reed led into Bowie, Dylan into The Mamas and The Papas and Depeche Mode into Talking Heads. The DJ knew their music, for sure.

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This was how our table looked just prior to eating, to give you an idea of the size of the dishes I’m about to describe.

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Lamia started with the Epsa Lemonade, I the Epsa Orange, and we shared the Mystic Garlic Breads ‘A’ and ‘B’.

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The drinks were refreshing, not overly sugary or sweet as I find most fizzy drinks to be (Epsa use natural Stevia instead of refined sugar as a sweetener). The Mystic Garlic Bread ‘B’ looked like this…

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The wholemeal crust was stuffed full of sundried tomatoes, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and oregano. It was more like a pita with the topping enclosed than a traditional garlic bread. It didn’t feel oily when I picked it up and the tastes were subtle yet still, it wasn’t a hit with me.

Mystic Garlic ‘A’ had just garlic, olive oil and oregano in the same wholemeal pita. I thought this was better, the garlic was strong and I like it that way but still, when it comes to garlic breads I like mine more gooey. Both of our garlic breads were clearly fresh, and fine tasting, but when we visited Mystic Pizza before we had the Mystic Garlic ‘C’ which was for me the best option if you like gooey and want a treat for a starter. Here’s a photo of the Mystic Garlic ‘C’ here; as you can see, it’s very full of cheese and garlic.

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On the other hand, if you’re trying to be vegan, or want to lay of the fat that comes with cheese, then Mystic Garlic ‘A’ is a good choice.

Next we shared the Mystic Veggie Lachmatzou.

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It was a wholemeal base topped with onions, peppers, fresh tomatoes and squash; this was basically a pizza without cheese or tomato paste. There was also no extra spices, just the veggies. It’s perfect for vegans and people on a strict health watch. I’m thinking of becoming vegan myself so it was good to try this. I thought it would be awful to eat a pizza without cheese but actually, it was pretty tasty. I finished the lot, no problem.

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Another type of new pizza we shared was the Mystic Classic Peinirli.

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This was a simple pizza shaped like a boat with a filling of goats butter, Kayseri cheese and a sprinkling of fresh oregano. The herbs are all grown organically for the restaurant. The crust was medium thick but soft inside and the cheese not overly melted. Like all of the other dishes we ate at Mystic Pizza it tasted like health food but it also retained the ability to be tasty. I must also add that the crusts were unlike any other pizza crust I’ve ever had. They had a unique taste (that’s down to the cannabis seed used in the flour I guess) and texture; if all pizza crust was like this there’d be no talk at all about pizza being bad for us.

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For my main I had the Mystic Spirulina.

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The creamy sauce was made from zucchini, carrots, fresh mushrooms, olives, spirulina and cream that covered the homemade fresh tagliatelle. The pasta itself, served al dente, was made from a unique dough mix that included organic cannabis flour. It was brilliant, really, that something so totally good for you could be so fulfilling. Obviously that’s the point of view of somebody who has come recently to health foods (me) and who previously thought that ‘good for you’ meant ‘lack of taste’. I have the feeling that even if you didn’t understand the ethics of the restaurant you’d get a feeling of just how healthy this dish was, and you’d be surprised that something so good for you could be so tasty. I would recommend anybody who is in Athens to check this particular dish out, it’s incredible.

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Lamia had the Bolognese for her main dish.

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It was a traditional tomato sauce and minced meat mix with added parmesan, spread over the same home made al dente tagliatelle that I had.

“The sauce isn’t too watery or sugary,” said Lamia, “so that’s good, and the meat isn’t fatty either. It’s soft but there’s still enough texture in it, and the whole thing isn’t oily, so all in all, it’s a great pasta dish.”

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For dessert I had the Mystic Cheesecake.

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It was an unusual creation; instead of the usual biscuit base, the biscuit was sandwiched between two layers of tasty cream.

Lamia had the Mystic Choco soufflé.

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Lamia had already tried this at the other Mystic Pizza we’d eaten at (see the review here) so she knew that this was going to be a gooey, soft melted chocolate inner sort of good. So good that she had to get it again!

We’d love if there was a Mystic Pizza in the place where we live. It’s an intelligent concept with brave, well thought out ingredients and super healthy and tasty dishes. If you’re in Athens, please do pay this place a visit, you definitely won’t regret it.

To discover more, please visit http://www.mystic.com.gr/en

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