Time for a review of another restaurant in Athens! Really, I went out a lot for food when I visited…the city is just full of great places to eat! This time, let’s talk about Yiantes. Yiantes is a Greek restaurant, located in the central Exarchia region,near the very touristic Plaka region, but in a slightly more off the standard-path region.
This restaurant came as a recommendation from a Greek friend of mine. Initially we just passed by to check it out, since she had mentioned that, while the place is very nice, they might not have any vegan dishes.
On the daily menu which was posted outside, one dish was specifically labelled vegan. So of course I had to get back and try that dish in the evening!
Yiantes has room to sit inside, but most people will probably prefer to sit outside, on the beautiful garden terrace. Even on a late October evening, the weather was pleasant enough. The terrace, or garden, is split in a ‘true’ outside part, and a part with glass walls and ceiling. Downside is that we ate at proper Greek dining hours, so it was already getting pretty dark making it difficult to make pictures!
Of course we were interested in trying the vegan dish from the daily menu but the standard menu card also has several vegan options for starters. We tried the stuffed vine leaves and fava beans with spring onion and capers. We also got some freshly baked bread to go with it. Cannot go wrong with that!
There are no vegan mains on the standard menu when we visited, but the daily menu had two vegan options (only one was labelled vegan), so that turned out well for us. The first dish was a dish with Greek pasta with tomatoes. I am not sure what made this pasta specifically Greek, it was like shorter but thicker spaghetti. We also tried the rice with cabbage dish. The combination of rice and cabbage is quite common in Eastern European food I believe. It was tasty, and quite filling.
I don’t believe there were any vegan desserts, but anyway, we had no more space for desserts! The service was very nice and friendly. I also enjoyed that the restaurant was not overly tourist-y, even though there were probably some tourists since the menu is also available in English and French. The atmosphere in the garden was very nice, and the food seemed pretty authentic to me, which is also a plus. However, as mentioned there are no vegan mains on the standard menu, so if you would want to eat here, check the daily specials.
Kolo is a completely vegan café in Kyiv which serves vegan food, like wraps, soups, salads and burgers. You can also come in for coffee, milkshakes, teas and sweets. The menu changes daily. You can order pies and I believe they do food delivery too.
The place itself is cute, a bit hipster, with brick walls and different types of art on the wall. We visited for coffee and a slice of cake. Unfortunately they were just out of cakes! But there were cupcakes, so we tried a carrot-cake cupcake. It was very tasty, and nicely moist. I had a blueberry milkshake (I love how many vegan places offer milkshakes in Kyiv!) which was good.
I have to say the service was a bit overzealous, they took my cup literally minutes after I finished my drink. Apart from that, it was a nice place to sit and relax a bit. I want to go back for a full meal! So there might be a part 2 to this review 🙂
Somehow I never really was exposed to Ethiopian and Eritrean food before coming to Switzerland. I am not sure how common Ethiopian restaurants are around the world, but it was somehow not on my radar. Which is very unfortunate since I have been missing out. Turns out Ethiopian food is delicious and great for vegans! I have discussed several Ethiopian restaurants on my blog and I actually go back to those quite often. So, if you still haven’t tried: you are missing out.
Once again, I want to iterate that with this article I will just provide a basic overview. The culture and cuisine of Ethiopia and Eritrea is, like all cultures, very extensive. Please check the sources below for more information. Especially the second link is full of information (it is a blog companion to a book)
Ethiopia and Eritrea
Notice in the title I mention Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine. Eritrea used to be part of Ethiopia, it separated after a long fight for independence. The cuisines are quite similar, except in Eritrea, which has a coast, more seafood is consumed. Also, since this part was colonised by Italy longer, there are some specific pasta dishes found in Eritrea. I noticed several Ethiopian restaurants call themselves “Ethiopian and Eritrean” so I am sure they don’t mind I bunch them together here.
Ethiopia is a pretty special country with a history longer than most. Literally. Since some of the oldest modern human skeletons have been found in Ethiopia. It is also the region from where the first modern humans travelled to the Middle-East and beyond. And, little known fact maybe, but it was one of the first countries that adopted Christianity as a state religion. Christians still make up the greater part of the population, followed by Islam. While initially the Ethiopian Orthodox church was part of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, it separated in 1959.
Which is a nice segue to get onto the food, because that is what we are here to talk about! Orthodox Christianity prescribes several fasting days and periods, called tsom in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, during which animal products are excluded from the menu (similar as Pist of Post in Ukraine). This means that Ethiopian cuisine has several specifically vegan dishes, which are commonly eaten during these fasting periods.
Most Ethiopian dishes are in the form of thick, spicy stews, called wat or wot. These stews are served on top of injera, a large, thin, circular pancake made of fermented teff flour. Teff is a type of grass, and one of the earliest cultivated plants. The injera has a very specific taste due to the fermentation, and an almost spongy texture. It serves as a plate, and also as utensils; pieces are torn of to scoop up the stews (with the right hand!). In most Ethiopian restaurants you don’t get utensils (unless you ask nicely:)) and I have to say learning to efficiently eat one-handedly was a bit of a struggle, but you’ll get the hang of it quickly.
During non-fasting days, different types of meat are used (apart from pork and shell-fish for religious reasons). Some dairy products are used, specifically clarified butter, niter kibbeh, for cooking (this is substituted by different types of oils during the fasting periods). Legumes such as lentils, chick peas, and split peas are used in stews as well. Common vegetables are potatoes, onions, garlic, chard, carrots, tomatoes. For spices, the ‘berbere’ spice mix, which contains chilli peppers is very common. Some less spicy stews rely more heavy on turmeric.
Desserts are not really part of the Ethiopian food culture. The desserts that are exist are mostly imported from other cultures, like from the Italian and Arabic cuisines. The Ethiopian restaurants I have been too mostly serve Western-style desserts, or baklava. Of course Ethiopian-style sweets and pastries do exist, they are just not commonly eaten as desserts.
Of course you can find a lot of global brands of drinks, like soft drinks, beer and wine in Ethiopia. But there are also some specific traditional drinks. However, in restaurants outside of Ethiopia, those drinks might be less common.
Let’s start with one of the most important beverages in Ethiopia: Coffee. Traditionally it is made in a clay pot (jebena), and the beans are roasted on the spot. There is a whole coffee ceremony surrounding the drinking of coffee, which can take hours. Coffee is consumed with salt or sugar, and in some regions niter kibbeh is added to it.
For alcoholic beverages, there is tej (honey wine), tella (beer made from barley) and areki, a strong liquor made of grain. In general beer is the most popular alcoholic drink, and in many Ethiopian restaurants several kinds of Ethiopian beer are served in addition to the local drinks. Kenetto is a drink similar to tella, but without alcohol.
Vegan dishes in Ethiopian restaurants
My exposure to Ethiopian food has purely been in restaurants outside of Ethiopia, so similar as for article on Indian food, there might be a Western cultural influence at play I am not aware of. What I have seen and eaten does line up with most of what I have read about the food, and most of the places I went to were also frequented by people from Ethiopia, so my guess is that it is relatively accurate. I do think the spiciness might be tuned down a bit 🙂
In all Ethiopian restaurants I have visited there is a clear distinction between the meat and vegetarian/vegan dishes on the menu card. In general the vegetarian dishes are okay for vegans to, just make sure there is no butter used. I found in most restaurants it is common to get several stews at once, which is similar to how the food is served in Ethiopia.
The stews are served on a (couple of) injera, and often accompanied by a salad made of greens, onions and tomatoes. Also, commonly the food is served in a sort of ‘sharing style’, where there is one main platter for several people. This platter is often presented in a mesob, a woven wicker basket. Traditionally these come on a foot, and all diners will sit around it to eat. Smaller versions that can fit on a dinner table exist as well.
Sambusa/samosa: dough triangles filled with lentils (vegan version). Served as a starter
Injera: the sour-dough pancake made of teff
Shiro wat : mild chick pea stew, made from powdered chick peas. When I first had it I thought it was made from peanuts! It is very soft and creamy. (Careful, it occasionally contains niter kebbeh!)
Misir wat: red lentil stew with berbere spices
Kik alecha: yellow split peas, the alecha is a milder type of stew made with turmeric
Gomen wat: Collard greens stew. I have mostly seen this dish made with spinach.
There are many more variations on these stews but these are the ones I have seen the most! Wow, writing this post made me crave some Ethiopian food! I am going to have to plan my next stop at an Ethiopian restaurant…I recently discovered some new ones 😀
Mama Tierra, or “Mother Earth” in Spanish, is a fully vegan restaurant in Athens. It was the first meal we had in Athens, so it set the standard!
The atmosphere inside is relaxed, with jazzy music. It is not a very big place, and it was rather empty when we were there.
Mama Tierra is open for lunch and dinner, providing “healthy and delicious food for all” (their words). Where possible they use local and organic products. In fact on the menu it is mentioned they buy all veggies fresh each day and they mention which ingredients may be frozen. Apart from dining-in, there is the option for take-out, delivery, and Mama Tierra also does catering.
There is enough choice on the menu without being overwhelming. Several dishes are also gluten-free. Mama Tierra serves soups, starters, salads, burgers and “ethnic” options (Greek/ Middle-Eastern, Indian and Mexican options). Of course there are desserts and drinks as well!
We started with the sweet potato hummus which is served with caramelised onions and pita bread. The hummus is very tasty, with a nice acidity.
After we had the mushroom burger: made with different types of mushrooms and served with vegan cheese, caramelised onions and home-made mayonnaise. The burger is served with patatas bravas and BBQ sauce. The patty itself very tasty, with nice wholegrain bread, and the vegan cheese has a proper melt going on. The BBQ sauce was good too, very smokey and a bit spicey. The patatas themselves were a bit disappointing, maybe they had been reheated, but they weren’t very crunchy.
We also tried the mousakas, a traditional Greek oven dish which is normally made with layers of meat, aubergine and tomato, topped with bechamel sauce. This vegan version was made with beans and veggies in the ‘meat’ layer, and potato at the bottom. The bechamel sauce, based on coconut milk, was perfection; nice, thick, soft and creamy. Almost a bit sweet. It was also piping hot, so don’t dig in too fast 🙂
Mama Tierra of course also serves desserts, but too be honest we were full-up after the food and pretty tired after the travel. I guess I’ll have to get back one day to check out the desserts!
Another Lebanese restaurant today! Well, what can I say, hummus is just one of the main food groups in veganism 🙂 Street Beirut is on the more modern scale of Lebanese restaurants, closer to Homous & Co than to Le Cèdres du Liban. When we visited on a Saturday for lunch it was busy and quite noisy. Part of the room was reserved, so I think with all customers being put in one half of the room this added to the noise.
On the menu you can sandwiches, salads, warm dishes, and platters. It is marked which options are vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free! Street Beirut also serves mezze, but it was not clear which of these were vegan. During the week there is a daily menu as well, with different warm dishes every day (from what I spotted, mostly non-vegan stuff..). There are no vegan desserts, unfortunately. There’s also a take-away and delivery option.
We tried the falafel platter; which consists of falafel with tahin sauce, tomatoes and salad. All platters are served with taboulleh, hummus, moutabal, pickled turnips (?) and flatbread. We didn’t get the bread until we asked for it though. The moutabal and falafel were good, nothing interested to report..you cannot really go wrong with these I think! The tabbouleh was a bit disappointing, it was chopped very coarsely. The hummus was good, very soft. The thing that really stood out for me were the picked beets or turnips. The internet tells me they are called ‘Kabees El Lift’, but please correct me if I am wrong 🙂 On the menu it was just ‘cornichon’, which means ‘pickles’. They were a bit salty and sour, I never had them before, and I really enjoyed them!
I got a mint tea with it; it is sweetened with sugar and not with honey. In fact, our server was a bit confused when I asked about it.
Overall the service was okay. The place is more of the hip fast-casual type, not too fancy (except for those magical pickles). I did find it expensive for what we got, especially since the atmosphere was rather casual.
I went to Coffee Break in Groningen almost two years ago. I went to get breakfast and coffee, and it happened to be close to my hotel. They had several sandwiches for breakfast, including one that was easily veganisable, a peanut-butter banana toasty. At the time it was served with honey, which was easily left out. Also they had plant-milk for in the coffee. At that time I didn’t make any pictures, but I made a mental note to come back and write about this place for my blog.
Finally, I made my way back to Groningen and visited Coffee break again. The place expanded! It is now at least three times as big, with a second floor. While the room is spacious, the atmosphere is still relaxed and cosy. There is for example a reading table with several magazines and newspapers available. The toast that I had last time is now served in a vegan form. And very special: in the fancy coffee you get oat milk as a standard. They have other milk alternatives, such as soy and almond, as well. They do serve cow milk, but for that you have to pay extra. This is the first time that I have seen that! I really like the initiative. I was a bit surprised that on the tables they do have standard creamer, but later I found out they normally have soy creamer. There was just an issue with the supplier that time.
When I visited Coffee Break there were several cakes on display, and one was vegan. There is a whole bunch of vegan items on the menu now! We wanted to try a slice of the vegan cake of course, so we had that with a coffee. They also have several smoothies, so I wanted to try one of those as well. An interesting combination, and we also got our order in several parts. We got the cake before the coffee, probably because there was only one server for the entire room. It was however, not that busy. The blueberry cake with dates was nice, not too sweet. The coffee was fine too. It got served with chocolates, which were not vegan. [Edited to add] I have been contacted by Coffee Break and they have informed me their chocolates were in fact vegan.
We got our smoothies after the coffee, we tried the “mean green”, a combination of spinach, parsley, ginger, mango, and lemon juice (water-based) and the “goody fruity”, a banana-strawberry version with almond milk. The smoothies look very pretty, and are decorated with cacao nibs. They are served with a recyclable straw. Taste-wise they were fine, not very special.
One thing that is strange, is that the toilet is located upstairs. I have to admit here, that I only thought about it because one of the other patrons was in a wheelchair. I will try to make the effort to note these things. [Edited to add:] I initially thought there was only a staircase but there is also an elevator.
Biofred is a small shop which sells biological products, including many gluten- and lactose-free products. In addition to the shop section there is also a small café with a changing daily menu. They offer warm dishes, sandwiches, salads and desserts. For drinks: smoothies, juices, coffees, etc. Not all food on offer is vegan or vegetarian, but there are several veggie choices. They serve breakfast as well as lunch items. They also do take-out.
The space inside is very small, there are two tiny tables inside and one outside. There is relaxing music, and a chill atmosphere. I don’t think there is a bathroom, though.
They use a lot of ” superfoods” in their dishes, like algae-paste, spirulina and maca. They also use a water which has been treated with a specific osmosis process, of which I am …. not sure what to think. They also sell water which has been filtered by this specific process by the litre.
There are several vegan options available, and we were hungry, so we tried several different things. The daily soup was made with courgette and sweet potato. The soup tasted mostly like the sweet potato, I didn’t really taste the courgette. There was a hint of anise, which was interesting. It did need a bit more seasoning, I think. Strangely enough, it got served kind of lukewarm. The daily warm plate was a lentils with brown rice dish, which is a great and classic combination, of course. The lentils were nicely spiced, but again the plate was a bit lukewarm. (For both the daily soup and warm plate there is a normal and a large version, we took the normal version)
We tried both vegan sandwiches; one with avocado & hummus, and one with pesto-tofu and lemon-almond paste. Both also have algae paste and a variety of vegetables. The bread itself is very tasty, but the sandwiches were not very big. The filling of both sandwiches are nice, specially the tofu is interesting with the spices. They did taste a bit the same though, probably since a lot of ingredients were the same.
For drinks we had a smoothie and a fresh-pressed juice. The strawberry smoothie included, besides strawberries, apple, banana, ginger and fig, on a base of rice- almond milk and the Jus-Jitsu contains apple, kiwi, fig and ginger. Both are fine, but not very special. Also they were served in plastic cups, which was a bit strange. Especially since the cutlery and plates were not plastic.
I have to say the service was not spectacular. While the staff member was very nice, she was on her own and she was very occupied by a (regular?) customer. After a while it got very busy with people getting take-out, I noticed quite a line developed. We had to wait quite some time for our food, even though we were the only people, apart from one other person. I mean, this is not a fast-food place where you expect your food within 5 min, but especially for the soup and plate, which were already made, it was a bit strange.
Overall I liked the food. Biofred is one of the few bio-eateries that is open on Saturday. Most vegan/bio-places are only open during the week. However, it was pretty expensive for what you get. The food was made with attention to detail, and of course they use biological products (and that special water) so that is the reason why I guess. Bio-oriented/vegan places, often tend to give small portions, at least in Switzerland. Still, I think it is good to mention.