Brussels is blessed with an incredible choice of restaurants. Amongst these are the ones I call ‘loyal friends’. These are the restaurants we have been going to while in university, where friends and family had good times, where we kept going even after we discovered the more sophisticated side of dining out.

The kind of restaurants that show signs of age, slight wrinkles, where the people are still the same as when you were young(er), where you can feel that time and real life have left a positive mark. One such place, which I keep very close to my heart, is Athenes.

The story so far
Easy. Whilst in university I met a whole range of international people, amongst them a Greek, to become one of my best friends. Her dad? Owner of a restaurant. The restaurant? Athenes. That’s where I spent my university years, late night feastings, hangovered Sunday afternoons (don’t tell!), and a lot of affordable relaxed dinners with loads of friends.

Do we go back? Not as often as we used to, but it is still one of my favorites, a place which almost feels like home.

First impressions
When you walk into Athenes, you walk into a Greek style taverna. Three long rows of wooden tables, wooden chairs, and checkered red/white tablecloths. The place is always buzzing so don’t even think of going there on a Sunday after the Marche du Midi, as it is close to impossible to find a table! You can also be assured to always find a Greek sitting at the very end of the restaurant, slowly sipping his Greek coffee, watching life go by. Perhaps smoking as well.

The food
What you see is what you get. The restaurant has a winning formula: you are invited into the kitchen to check out what is on the stove cooking (or still available) and decide what you want to eat. If you are anything like me, you’ll always order more than you can eat. Usually plates are composed of one meat dish and vegetables on the side. There is a choice of 12 dishes, which have not changed ever since I first went to Athenes. All home cooked, foolproof Greek dishes which you will long to go back to eat again. Moussaka (my all time favorite!), lamb and lemon, Greek pasta, stuffed pepper or aubergines … and I will let you discover the rest.

There is also a choice of mezze as a starter and Greek desserts and coffee at the end. With some exceptions, all main dishes cost 8,00euro. There is Retsina and Ouzo, but all other usual drinks are served as well. And after having tried all these delicacies, you’ll vouch not to eat so much ever again – till the next time you’ll go to Athenes.

Service with a smile
Always. You might think I am biased, yet the service is always friendly, always efficient and will make you feel at home. Guess going to their kitchen to chose your meal adds to that feeling. If you’re lucky, there might even be some digestive on the house.

The verdict
Do I need to say more? Try it out for yourselves, go there and have a bite of the Moussaka or/and some Greek feta, try the Retsina and … you too will become an Athenes regular.

Athenes: Rue de l’Argonne 22, 1060 Bruxelles , Tel: 02/538 21 13

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