Klimataria is a ten minute walk from Monastiraki and is very much a local’s restaurant, a place where Greeks go to relax, eat good value, home-cooked style food and listen to traditional live music. If you visit before 8 in the evening you’re likely to have the place largely to yourself whilst if you go after about 10 you might well be the only tourists; that was certainly the case for us and for others we’ve spoken to who’ve been there.
Look on a map before your visit to work out where you’re going. Like I said, it’s only a ten minute walk out from the more touristy restaurants but it does feel like you’re walking out into the suburbs as there’s mainly just residential properties around the restaurant and it’s likely you’ll doubt you’re in the right place if you haven’t got a fair idea where you’re heading. When you do get to the side street where Klimataria is located, there’ll be a sign above your head pointing up to it and then you can’t miss the place, although the wooden sign is rather covered in vegetation.
Inside we found the atmosphere to be relaxed and friendly, as was Maria, the owner. Maria was to be an attentive host and not just to us, we noticed her being the same to all the Greek guests during our time there.
Maria also spoke perfect English so we had no problems understanding how the evening was to go. I don’t mean the menu as that was in English, but more like things such as when the music was due to start, what we were going to hear and how the food is cooked (we’re interested in that sort of thing). Here is Maria showing Lamia the old style slow cookers that they use at Klimataria, usually to cook the meat ‘dish of the day’…
Before we talk more about the food here are some views of the restaurant interior.
As you can see there are vine leaves trailing down from the ceiling, a clear view through to the kitchen and wine barrels lining some of the exposed brick walls. In many modern places you might see this and think it a well thought out piece of interior design but here it’s authentic, and just how it’s been for years.
You should also note that like most taverna-style Greek restaurants people do smoke inside here and get quite animated with their laughter so if you’re looking for a delicate evening out with quiet conversation, this isn’t your place. If you’re after an authentic Greek experience, however, you’re going to get it.
Having looked at the menu we could see that Klimataria was a little different to other tavernas we’d eaten at in Athens. For instance, they didn’t serve zucchini balls, ‘traditional’ moussaka or souvlaki like almost all of the others do (not that any of those things are bad, I love zucchini balls). And although we recognized some of the other names of dishes the way they were described made it seem that they weren’t going to be the same as we’ve tasted before. It was clear that Maria had observed what’s traditional and classic in Greek cuisine and decided to make it her own (she told us she still makes a lot of the dishes served in Klimataria herself, even though she has a very capable chef on hand).
Whilst we waited for our food to arrive the waitress brought us some homemade bread with a caper salad dip alongside a complimentary raki. The bread was dense and substantial and really tasted of, well, bread (which isn’t as common an occurrence in restaurants as it should be) and later we found it delicious when dipped into our various sauces.
To drink we ordered a half litre of house red. It was served chilled and in a red metallic jug. You couldn’t really taste the quality of the wine when served cold (we’ve never had a bad house red in Greece though so we guess it must have been ok) but it was a very refreshing drink.
We decided to share appetizers, as the Greeks like to do. We started with traditional spinach pie.
We’ve had this pie several times in Athens and this was the thickest version (twice as thick as the previous nights) by far. There was a centimetre of spinach mixed with feta encased in a crispy filo. Most enjoyable and it was a large enough slice to suit the two of us comfortably.
Beside it we had a tzatziki made of yogurt, cucumber, garlic and vinegar.
This was excellent, just as I like and expect it to be with plenty of flavour, kick, freshness and coolness. The olive oil quality was shown by it’s colour and consistency; this dip was fantastic with the pie, and the fresh fried potatoes.
These fries were sprinkled with dried oregano and were very crunchy on the outside, soft of the inside, and they definitely tasted home-made. They reminded Lamia of the fries that her mum used to make fresh for her as a little ‘job well done’ snack.
Next up were the stuffed peppers with feta cheese, spring onion and dill.
These sweet peppers were absolutely packed with feta cheese.
Our final appetizer was butter beans with spinach served with rice and freshly chopped coriander.
Again, like all the dishes, this had a very traditional feel to it. It also tasted healthy and the sort of dish I’d expect to find at a village grandmas house; full of experience, texture, simple ingredients and subtle tastes.
For my main, although I’m not sure I needed it as I was quite full by now (the appetizers come in quite large portions) I had the vegetarian eggplant cooked in tomato sauce, white wine, olives, capers and peppers.
This was a rich spicy, luxurious feeling dish with the sort of oily sauce that I normally associate with British-Indian cooking. There wasn’t a lot of texture to it but when I dipped the bread into it it was better. I generally don’t think of aubergine as a main dish as there’s not enough texture in it for that and nothing I ate here changed my point of view but I did really like the spicy olive and tomato sauce.
Lamia had the beef in tomato sauce, red wine and spices garnished with rice.
“It tastes and smells very similar to a Bengali beef curry,” she said. “The rice has a little texture, the beef comes apart easily, there’s a sweetness to the tomato sauce and it’s a very fragrant dish. The chunks of meat are similar to what I’m used to at home as well, big tender cubes with a little bit of fat to flavour the stew. I think I can taste cardamom and cumin in there among it all. I like it a lot, it’s very home-made, you know, like, it hasn’t been produced with ease of eating or with all the senses in mind as food is in some restaurants, only the taste is important here.”
Locals started coming in around 10pm, when the live music was due to start. The band played traditional Rebetika style (urban folk music) and were better than other, younger bands we’d heard. It was the sort of music that the crowd listened to but talked and laughed over at the same time.
We left at about 11pm, just as the atmosphere was getting lively – we hadn’t planned on such a late night so we were tired by then – but if you’re looking for the full experience maybe stay until past midnight. Klimataria is a place to laugh with your friends, eat simply, cheaply but well (it’s the cheapest sit down, real Greek restaurant we’ve been to in Athens – share a few of their filling appetizers and glasses of red and it won’t be too expensive at all), and listen to traditional Greek music. We recommend you check the place out.
To discover more, please visit http://www.klimataria.gr