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Hytra

Leof. Andrea Siggrou 107, Athina, Athens, 117 45, Greece

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This restaurant originally opened in the Athenian district of Psiri, and gained a Michelin star in 2010, which it has kept since. In 2012 it relocated to The Onassis Centre. The dining room is on the sixth floor, but moves to the seventh floor in the summer, giving an outdoor view with The Acropolis in the distance. The name Hytra is derived from the word for a terracotta vase. The head chef changed in 2014, with Tasos Mantis taking over from Nikos Karathanos, who had been in charge of the kitchen since 2007. The rooftop setting is certainly spectacular, with a retractable roof and an open kitchen, and the place was unsurprisingly busy on a warm summer night.

There were two tasting menus at €59 (£51), as well as an a la carte selection. The wine list had a quite extensive selection of references but no vintages listed because, well, that would be useful yet require a modicum of effort on behalf of the restaurant. Lyrarakis Dafni was €33.50 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for €11, Vega Sicilia Oremus Mandolas dry Furmint Tokaji was €56 compared to its retail price of €21, and Zenato Amarone Classico was probably a bargain at €95 given that it typically retails for at least €100 though just how much depends of course on the year, which was not specified. At the prestige end of the list, Joseph Drouhin Puligny Montrachet Folatieres was €168 but who knows how that compares to its retail price without knowing the vintage? For example the 1996 currently is priced at €93 in a shop whereas the 2015 retails at €63. Having a wine list in even a semi serious restaurant without vintages is the height of laziness. We drank a (non-vintage) champagne. 

A solitary nibble began the meal. A spinach rice crisp had a garnish of dill and lemon and was pleasant enough, the crisp quite delicate (14/20). There was multi seed bread that had been made from scratch in the kitchen, and this had good texture. Mushroom consommé was flavoured with acorn and came with salsify, wild mushrooms and an egg, apparently sourced from a farm owned by the restaurant. This was poached and had good flavour, the consommé tasting properly of mushrooms (15/20). Also good was quail on a bed of spelt, with chestnuts, Xinotyri cheese and fresh truffle. The bird was nicely cooked and the spelt worked rather like a risotto, though the chestnuts seemed a rather unseasonal touch (15/20).

Sea bass had excellent flavour and was accurately cooked, served with artichokes, potatoes in lemon and tsitsiravla, which are small shoots from a tree that grows in Pelion in central Greece. This was a simple but enjoyable dish (15/20). I tried rooster, which came with celeriac, parsley root and burdock. The chicken was cooked well enough but did not have particularly impressive flavour, though the earthiness of the celeriac purée was a pleasant foil for it (14/20).

Desserts were in fairly wacky territory, with for example such joys as chocolate feuillentine with parsnip ice cream. Yoghurt came with honey infused with chamomile, bee pollen and walnuts. The yoghurt came as different textures: a sorbet, a parfait disc studded with honey and also a foam. The walnuts tasted good and certainly this was a pleasant take on a traditional dessert (14/20). I tried the chocolate dish but negotiated for a parsnip free ice cream, a process made unnecessarily tedious by our waiter, who insisted that parsnip ice cream was a creation of, if not Zeus himself, then at least a minor deity, and must be tried on pain of death (I exaggerate a touch, but not much). After a manager became involved it was finally agreed that the dish would be served as is, but with some vanilla ice cream on the side for comparison. I admit that parsnip, with its slightly sweet flavour, is not a completely insane idea in a sweet, but if a customer does not fancy a particular element on a very short menu then surely it would be less painful for all concerned to just swap it out rather than proverbially dying in a ditch to preserve the integrity of the chef's doubtless inspired vision? The chocolate was very nice, delicate and suitably rich. It turns out that vanilla ice cream, and who could have ever guessed this, was an excellent foil for chocolate. Remarkable. Parsnip ice cream - less so (14/20 if I ignore the parsnip). Coffee was decent.

Service was generally quite good, though at one point my wine glass was topped up from someone else's bottle. The bill came to €125 (£109) per head including a bottle of champagne. A typical cost per head, with a modest wine to share, might be around £75. Overall, Hytra was a quite enjoyable experience, with its open-air setting, casual atmosphere and generally capable food. Just don't try and swap a dish element from the menu unless you are prepared to go into battle with the staff.

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