A whole bunch of wraps: Athens, Greece

Wraps make the world go round don’t they? There are very good stuffs that can’t be improved by putting it a wrap; similarly there are few cuisines who haven’t adopted some kind of wrap as a national dish.

Off the top of my head- South India has the dosa, Mexico has burritos, Lebanon has hummus wrap, China has hoisin duck, and Greece? Well Greece has souvlaki and gyros- meat that’s put into a wrap and basically smothered with all things Greek. Fresh tomatoes, red onion, tzatdsiki, olives – and if you order souvlaki – some rather limp chips.

From my vantage point on the 1st floor of Quick Wrap, I could see the bar below where the chefs were throwing ingredients together to make wraps. Greek ingredients are like the brother to a vegan’s sister, but mainstream Greek cuisine barely offers vegetarian food other than the moussaka or the Greek salad. Vegan food, unless you crave wet, pale chips, or huge platefuls of roast vegetables (which can be insanely good), is thin on the ground. Which is why it’s a shame that even with all this plentiful food- zingy red onions and plump tomatoes, they can’t even offer a vegan option.

So I made my own. I ordered a massive salad of tomato and rocket doused in lemon juice and salt, a portion of pitta and a bowl of olives. Then I whacked them all in the pitta pocket and liberally poured green olive oil over the bread pouches.

Washed down with a can of diet coke, this meal was just so simple, and so fabulous – as any meal is in a country where fresh vegetables and fruity olive oil are in vast supply.

This place, this Quick Wrap, was probably just like Chilangos or Chipotle in London, but the place highlighted to me how vegan’s here have to dig a bit deeper to find the treasure.

Oh, and put it in a wrap. That helps.

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How not to be bitter: Venetia, Athens

Few coeliac vegans are lucky enough to be with a partner who is also burdened by similar afflictions. At best your other half or group of friends could be vegetarian which might make a trip to Athens easy for them.

“Oo halloumi!” They might say. Or, if you’re my carnivorous partner: “Yay, souvlaki, I’ll take extra pork please!”

Yum.

But especially on holiday, the last thing you want be is burdensome, so I bet most of you try to be understanding to your friend’s needs. I find this especially when we get to a menu where the only thing I can see to eat is the side salad. Meanwhile everybody else is reacting with delight over the pigeon stuffed with rosemary or whatever.

Cue five concerned faces turning towards me. “Is this ok for you?”

If I answer no the response will be politeness at best, and at worst, a ruined evening. “Oh yeh, man that menu looks great.”

As expected, everyone cheers up and you plan out your second dinner from what’s left in your fridge door as you chew morosely on the lettuce like a cow cuds grass.

So I fully expected that in Venetia, a local neighbourhood italian near our airbnb apartment in Plaka. It had had just started to rain and we were tired after walking around all day.

“Looks fine,” I said, not even looking at the menu.

And it was! More than fine. There were at least four things I could have eaten on the menu and that’s without alterations.

It was incredible and, compared to central London where I live and work, wonderfully, amazingly cheap. Bread came as per – a chewy brown slice with the most wonderful green, fragrant olive oil I’ve had in a long time. We ordered a half carafe of wine, a big plate of grilled mixed vegetables, salted little roast potatoes and some sausage orzo pasta risotto dish.

Venetia is a place to go if your friends are bored of eating vegan for you and you just want to eat in a friendly, none healthy, macrobiotic place. Much as I love vegan restaurants I feel guilty indulging because I’m not “living life” or whatever the kooky slogans can be.

But here the atmosphere (and the light fittings shaped like cutlery) is great, the hubbub of noise and the fug of cigarette smoke, and the wonderfully friendly service would see me back again tomorrow. That and the mixer vegetable grill with parsley, olive oil and a balsamic glaze – heavenly.

Vegan in Athens, Greece @Avocado

In the land of souvlaki, gyros, and BBQ-ed meat, I hadn’t expected to be able to eat anything. At the airport I was contemplating buying the entirety of WH Smith’s stock of hummus.

But 24 hours later I’m demolishing the largest burger I’ve ever eaten, and it’s totally vegan. Sam’s making his way through a cauldron of Goan soup: “This is perfect for this weather- it’s so warming.”

Contrary to popular belief, Greece is cold. I hadn’t expected Athens in March to be colder than London, and certainly not as raining,

So finding this gem of a cafe on Happy Cow (my vegan restaurant bible) was a delightful surprise. There’s enough food to sit and plough our way through for a good hour while the drizzle stops, and the menu is as extensive as any vegan restaurant in London.

I ordered the avocado burger without cheese (it’s a veggie restaurant) and out came a mountain of fresh red onion, an inch thick lentil burger, a cm of avocado, a fair mound of potato chippings, chipotle sauce, lettuce and tomatoes. I’m in heaven.

The fresh orange juice is just as good as expected from a city where oranges grow on trees along the pavements.

Service is great and the staff speak perfect English. The ambience is very much bare wood and chilled, Bob Marley style music. But it’s the menu, the vegan chocolate tart, the quiche, the salads, and the amazing sound smoothies – cocoa and almond milk anyone – that would have me back in a shot.