Monday, July 8, 2024
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Review: Soil Restaurant, Athens, Greece


Foodies, take note: Soil not only holds a Michelin Star but has also made the top twenty restaurants in the world in the second annual “Global Tastemakers Awards” by the American magazine Food & Wine – the only Greek restaurant to make the esteemed list. Situated in the Pangrati neighbourhood of Athens, just a block away from the Olympic rings of the Panathanaic Stadium, the restaurant is itself an arena of flavours, satisfying its audience by competing for gold in taste and presentation. A culinary amphitheatre, if you will.

The door opens as we make our approach to the entrance of this beautifully restored neoclassical house, as though our arrival has already been anticipated. We are warmly welcomed by Co-Owner Alex Mouridis and led past the open-plan kitchen to a renovated courtyard at the rear of the building – an inviting space that reflects Soil’s ethos and commitment to sustainability. For Soil also holds a Michelin Green Star, an accolade given to restaurants that demonstrate an exceptional commitment to sustainability.

After being seated, we learn more about the ethos of the restaurant, and how sustainable gastronomy is at its core. We’re told about the restaurant’s Alepochori garden, located an hour’s drive from Athens, and we’re proudly shown a garden box showcasing just some of the ingredients used for the gastronomic adventure that we’re about to experience.

The food

Our meal commences with oysters prepared two ways—steamed and in emulsion – accompanied by fermented cucumber, subtle notes of unripe fig, and topped with Ossetra caviar. It’s beautifully presented in a delicate dish, and the contrasting textures provide a complex but graceful balance of flavours.

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The next course featured a trio of Greek berries and melon, complemented by a white asparagus ice cream, fermented green asparagus and an anise hyssop oil – a harmony of sweet, tart, creamy and savoury elements.

Next up, a fresh and vibrant medley of amberjack, lovage, kiwi, green apple and pine nuts, presented with a lovely little book of herbs for us to keep as a gift. The fish is semi-cured, almost raw, so has a firm texture but this allows the flavour of the amberjack can is able to shine through.

This is followed by a semi-cured shrimp marinated in fresh herbs from Soil’s garden, served with orange, pecan, marigold, a citrus vinaigrette and a mussels emulsion. It’s a colourful creation and one that delights the tastebuds.

Our fifth course is the is a 72 days dry aged beef in carpaccio and tartar that sits on a savoury pancake with a horseradish cream, ramsom (wild garlic) caper, umeboshi powder and a gel made from cherries fermented at a previous restaurant pre-COVID. It’s indulgently rich, whilst also being mildly sharp and tangy.

We were then treated to a dish that had only just been added to the menu a day earlier – tomato, lemon basil, smyrnium, sardines. It includes three different types of cherry tomato, watermelon, strawberries, three different types of basil, with a frozen layer of tomato juice on top. It’s refreshingly juicy, even if it wasn’t my favourite course of the evening.

That honour went to the next dish – an eel mini burger comprised of an eel liver sauté and parfait with a thin layer of guanciale, and a myaonnaise of vadouvan and sorrel leaves. It had a deep, earthy richness and an intense umami flavour.

We passed the halfway point of the tasting menu with a rose scallop with a leek sauté, and a beurre noisette foam perfumed with coffee, topped with crispy chicken skin with yeast. I must confess, I couldn’t really detect the coffee but the flavours seemed to work well together.

We were then treated to some homemade bread adorned with pumpkin and poppy seeds.

This was followed by a signature course – sous vide cod fillet served with a beurre blanc perfumed with mussles, kombu oil and fresh chives, paired with a Sauvignon blanc with a distinctly nutty flavour. Tender and moist, it had a delicously delicate flavour and for me was a very close second to the eel mini burger.

Grilled goat (or eel fillet for our pescatarian son) followed – another satisfying dish – that was accompanied by fermented ramson leaves, a cream of white aspromitiko beans from Lemnos island, an XO sauce of dehydrated sea food and sautéed fresh wild greens from the restaurant’s garden.

Then we enjoyed a burst of citrus in the form of a pre-dessert of bitter orange and mandarin sorbet, topped with a mango crisp, and beneath it a marmalade of tangerine and a crumble of white chocolate, sitting alongside caramelized thin carrot slices with the juice of citrus fruits aromatised with marigold.

The main dessert consisted of a salted caramel ice cream, chocolate soil and sourdough chips on top, sitting on a honeycomb base. My wife, who’s not usually a fan of salted caramel, actually really enjoyed this, since the saltiness was relatively subtle and blended harmoniously with the rich sweetness of the ice cream.

Our spectacular evening concluded with white chocolate macaroons, a choice of chocolates, and mulberry, blackberry and mint from the garden.

The chef

Chef and Co-Owner Tasos Mantis is hugely respected for his innovative approach to Greek cuisine which blends deep-rooted traditions with innovative techniques to capture the imagination. He has held prestigious roles in numerous Michelin-awarded restaurants worldwide, including Hof Van Cleve in Belgium (3 Michelin Stars), Geranium in Copenhagen (3 Michelin Stars) , Frantzén in Stockholm (3 Michelin Stars), and Fat Duck in the UK (3 Michelin Stars). He returned to Greece to lead the team at Hytra in Athens. At Soil, he continues to push culinary boundaries, promising diners new gastronomic surprises that reflect his unwavering dedication to quality and creativity.

The ambience

There’s a very refined calmness to Soil. We dined al fresco in the courtyard at the back of the restaurant where the majority of covers are to be found, under a canopy of trees and fairy lights. It’s a contained, relaxed space with an inviting, contemporary atmosphere that feels both intimate and relaxed. As night falls, soft, ambient lighting enhances the warm hues of the wooden furnishings and the exposed stone walls. There’s a gentle hum of conversation in this garden setting that complements the restaurant’s organic and earthy vibe.

For those seeking an even more intimate experience, the revamped Chef’s Table offers an exclusive setting in a newly renovated room at the front of the property. Here Chef Tasos Mantis and his team prepare dishes in front of diners, before these creations are added to the restaurant’s menu.

The cost

The 14-course tasting menu costs €105.

There are a number pairings to choose from: the sommelier’s pairing at €85; the Greek premium pairing at €125; a Champagne pairing at €140; or a juice pairing at €75.

The final verdict

Soil offers an extraordinary journey into the heart of Greek gastronomy. In just three years since its opening, it has established itself as a sanctuary of refined taste and elegance, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Athens city centre. It is not just a restaurant, but an experience., and one that promises to linger in your memory long after your meal has ended.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Soil.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Telegraph.

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