The Tudor Hall is on the seventh floor of the King George Hotel in the central Syntagma square of Athens. Its executive chef is Asterios Koustoudis, who had won a Michelin star when he cooked at Vardis. The dining room is very grand, with additional outdoor tables on the terrace looking down at the square and across to the Acropolis in the distance. The menu was a la carte and had some interesting takes on Greek dishes, mixed in with international fare.
The wine list was delivered on an iPad and featured labels such as Costa Lazaridi Chateau Julia Chardonnay 2017 at €45 for a bottle that can be found in the high street for €12, Hatzidakis Nykteri 2016 at €80 compared to its retail price of €29 and Trapiche Finca Ambrosia Malbec 2013 at €110 for a wine that will set you back €42 in the shops. There were grander options too, such as Perrier-Jouet Belle Époque 2007 champagne at a hefty €400 compared to its retail price of €156, and Morey St Denis Grand Cru Monopole Clos du Tart 2014 at €900 for a wine whose current market price is €452. As can be seen, markups were quite stiff by Athens standards, though those used to London prices will not be disconcerted.
There was no amuse-bouche beyond a dish of olives and a little goat cheese mousse. Bread was pleasant, including sourdough and some good bread sticks. A starter of courgette was stuffed with rice and herbs along with a Hollandaise style sauce with quite refreshing lemon. The sauce was fine but, as often, the courgettes struggled to deliver much flavour. I guess this was an attempt at a sophisticated version of dolmades, but to be honest the traditional dolmades with vine leaves I had eaten the previous day at the taverna To Psaraki in Santorini had the edge (13/20). Better was a modern take on moussaka. Here the bechamel sauce was made with yoghurt instead of butter in order to be lighter, and the elements were somewhat deconstructed. The meat was a mix of minced beef and lamb wrapped in white aubergine, the flavours excellent and the seasoning spot on (15/20).
Grouper came with red saffron sauce, along with carrot, radish and potato. The dish was cooked nicely and the sauce was rich and enjoyable, but the vegetables were a mixed bag, with decent radish but distinctly overcooked potato and carrot (14/20). Red snapper had very good flavour and was accurately cooked, served with cauliflower, bak choi, tomato, carrot and kale. Again the vegetable cookery was a lottery, with the cauliflower and bak choi fine but the kale almost raw (14/20).
I was intrigued to note that the pastry chef Arnold Lahrer was a Meuilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF), though he was not in the kitchen tonight, and I have the impression that this is something of a consulting gig for him given that he has other businesses in France. This is a notoriously challenging qualification to obtain (see the documentary “The Kings of Pastry” to get a sense of just how tough), and it is hard to imagine that he is here too often, but he seems to have trained the pastry section very well. A dessert of cherries with pistachios was very impressive. There was a ring of white chocolate flavoured with cherry encasing cherries and roasted pistachios (17/20). The pistachios in particular, which were from Aegina, had superb flavour, confirming the reputation of this island as a source of world-class pistachios. Even better was a lemon dessert with Breton shortbread with lemon cream, candied lemon zest and lemon meringue, which was stunning. This had superb pastry, and the lemon elements were in perfect balance (18/20). We were so taken aback at the quality of these desserts that we ordered one more, a kataifi, filo pastry with lemon and cinnamon with sugar crisps. This brought things back to earth a little, as it was good but unremarkable. I guess a French pastry chef is best at French desserts (14/20). Coffee had good flavour and came with petit fours including rose macaron, halwa macaron, dark chocolate and a dark chocolate orange.
Service was attentive but early on the food was delivered at a gallop. The starters, both hot, arrived remarkably soon after we ordered them, and the main courses were close on their heels. When the plates were cleared we were immediately asked about desserts and I asked whether they needed the table back in a hurry: we had at this point been in the restaurant less than an hour and had finished our main course. Anyway, at this point they allowed us a break before ordering dessert, and the rest of the meal unfolded at a normal pace. It was also bizarre to be asked, at both savoury stages of the meal, whether we would like extra pepper, rather as you might expect in an Italian trattoria of a certain vintage. I rather hope that the chef in a restaurant has seasoned things appropriately, and if not then I am certainly not going to let a waitress loose with a pepper grinder without tasting the food first to see whether it actually needs any additional pepper. As it happens, the seasoning was fine in all cases. The bill came to €154 (£135) a head with some excellent Domaine Sigalas Kavalieros Assyrtiko from Sigalas at €90 for a wine that retails at €41, and some dessert wine too. If you chose a more modest wine then a typical cost per person might be around £100.
Overall I found this a somewhat hard meal to assess. The savoury dishes were pleasant, with a few minor slips around the vegetable cooking. The desserts that we originally ordered were remarkable, of a much higher standard than the rest of meal, though the supplementary dessert was merely good. The dish scores average to exactly 15/20, but the savoury dishes were 14/20 only. Still, overall the Tudor Hall has quite a lot of offer, with its lovely setting and at times terrific desserts, even if it is hardly cheap. Someone really needs to sort out the service though.