This restaurant opened in 2015, the name involving a little wordplay. The initials CTC sound like a Greek word meaning "when we eat". The restaurant is in a quiet street in central Athens, not far from the National Garden. Despite some music in the background, noise levels were moderate, the tables well spaced and the room has an airy feel to it. The main dining area was on the ground floor but there was also a kind of balcony area one flight of stairs up with additional tables.
There was a choice of a six or nine course tasting menu, as well as a basic a la carte selection on two starters and two main courses. We went for the six course menu at €65 (£56). The wine list had a mix of a Greek and global wines, with for example Gaia Assyrtiko Wild Ferment 2016 from Santorini at €42 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for €27, Morandino Bricco Spessa 2010 at €75 compared to its retail price of €34, and Klein Constantia Anwilka 2007 at a chunky €97 for a wine that will set you back €25 in a shop. At the prestige end of the list, Elio Altare Barolo 2012 was €132 compared to its retail price of €53, and Drouhin Vosnee Romanee 2013 was €160 for a label whose current market price is €96.
Chef Alexandros Tsiotinis worked at Spondi, and before that for four years in Paris, including as chef de partie at Epicure at The Bristol hotel, and also having done stints at Astrance and Arpege. The menu was introduced as "a surprise" but it turned out that there was in fact a written description, in a manner of speaking. The menu is accessible, and I kid you not, only via a QR code that is printed on a cocoa butter square as one of the mignardise. Hence to see the menu you have to download a QR code reader to your phone, scan the code and then you can view the sacred text on a website link. Seriously? This feels like the kind of thing that would appear in a spoof video of a hipster restaurant.
The meal began with a trio of nibbles. A herb tuile was very delicate, served with a mayonnaise of burnt butter and chives. Next to that was a panna cotta of corn on the cob, which was just as it sounds, and finally there was a fake walnut shell made of baked walnut flour containing a little rocket salad with a mayonnaise of walnut purée and Parmesan, which was very nice indeed (15/20 average). Next was a squid ink crisp with smoked anchovy mousse and lemon purée, served for no obvious reason on a "plate" shaped like a human hand. It was like being served by "Thing" from the Addams Family. The crisp itself was good and the anchovy flavour came through well, the lemon adding freshness, so the dish was very good if you ignore the pointless distraction of the serving plate (16/20).
A mini-loaf was served warm and contained poppy seeds and sesame seeds; this was superb, with excellent texture and flavour, the best of the breads that appeared. The next course was a pasta shell containing sour milk with seaweed, smoked mussels and sea urchin eggs. This was pleasant though not quite as good as the dishes that preceded it (14/20). This came with bread stained black with cuttlefish ink, which was reasonable but not in the league of the seed bread served earlier.
The next course was soup of sweet corn with espuma of lobster, bergamot and truffle. This had deep flavour, the shellfish coming through well and working nicely with the sweet corn and aromatic truffle, the bergamot flavour being mercifully subdued (16/20). This was followed by a dish that was in two sections. At the bottom was a "tagliatelle" of squid, in the style of Pierre Koffmann, with a consommé of bacon and squid, along with delicate garlic and parsley chips. There was also a squid ink coloured crisp, chorizo mayonnaise and cuttlefish ink. The squid was tender and the soup had plenty of flavour (easily 16/20).
Scallops came with potato gnocchi and a shellfish sauce flavoured with almond and ginger. The shellfish had reasonable natural sweetness and the gnocchi were well made, the sauce having good flavour (15/20). This came with different bread, this one flavoured with walnut, ginger and lime.
The next course featured a fish called croaker, topped with slices of courgette and octopus and on a bed of risotto of parsnip, chorizo, pumpkin and sea asparagus, along with parsnip purée, marmalade of tomato, lime and coriander and a mousse of octopus flavoured with juniper. There were quite a lot of flavours here, but the fish was carefully cooked, the octopus tender and the other flavour elements combining quite well (15/20).
This was followed by lamb neck in a pancake of fermented flour, along with artichoke purée, Parmesan cream and a Milanese sauce i.e. one with butter, shallots, cream and stock. The lamb had plenty of flavour and was nicely cooked, the pancake working well and the earthiness of the artichoke a nice contrast (15/20). This came with nicely made sourdough bread. Finally, veal cheek was from an Australian wagyu specimen, served with salsify confit, salsify purée, onion and port sauce, mushroom purée and some shimeji mushrooms. The beef was a grade 6 on the Australian marbling scale, so mid-range, and had very good flavour, the sauce quite rich and the salsify bringing a vaguely nutty flavour to the dish (16/20).
Our dessert was made using namelaka, a Valrhona creation that is a sort of cross between a ganache and a creme patisserie. In this case it was namelaka of white chocolate, served with a white chocolate sorbet flavoured with violet, violet meringues and red fruit marmalade. This was pleasant enough but felt like a bit of an afterthought compared to the savoury courses (13/20).
The bill came to €136 (£118) a head, though that was with ore-dinner drinks and one of the best bottles on the list, the very enjoyable Hatzidakis Assyrtiko de Louros 2014, only mildly marked at €96 up given its retail price of €68. If you just shared a modest bottle then a more typical cost per head would be around £75.
If I put aside some mild irritation at the "this looks like an x but is really a y, aren't we clever" tendency of the kitchen, complete with its QR code and hide and seek game for the menu, then this was actually a very good meal. The sommelier was excellent, our waitress a bit stern in demeanour but certainly competent. The room is light and airy, though worryingly quiet on this midweek evening. The kitchen has certainly put a lot of thought into its food, and the technical skill on display is good. There are plenty of worse Michelin starred restaurants around Europe than this.