Theio Tragi: The 'anarchist' restaurant reinventing Athens' food scene

Athens' punk restaurant is exactly what Greece needs right now, says Anastasia Miari

Anastasia Miari
Tuesday 24 April 2018 12:11 BST
Exarcheia, Athens: From anarchist central to cultural hotbed

In an up and coming pocket of central Athens, 10 Greeks run a restaurant with a unique point of difference. Theio Tragi (Holy Goat), a short walk from the ruins of the Acropolis and the foundations of western democracy, is Athens’ first “anarchists’ restaurant”.

“Everyone, from the pot washer to the chefs and waiters is all on the same salary here,” explains Marko Marmatakis – one of three chefs cooking up haute cuisine for us tonight. “In my opinion, when someone works, it has the same value for everyone. It doesn’t matter what I do. Ok, maybe I can cut meat into hyper thin slices, but maybe someone else in the group can mix a cocktail better than I can. Everyone is just as valuable as the next person, so we are all paid exactly the same.”

Having met as punks in Exarcheia – the area in which riots, demonstrations and molotov cocktails are seen regularly and well documented by the Greek media – the founders bonded over a communal distaste for authority. Not surprising, considering the state of Greece’s economy, with harsh government cuts hitting the people hard.

Most of the cooperative members are new to their jobs
Most of the cooperative members are new to their jobs (Chronis Potidis)

“It has been in our culture to become a little anti-establishment because we’ve grown into adulthood in this unstable period for Greece,” says Marmatakis. “We’re all into punk music and we’ve all had a history of going to demonstrations in Exarcheia. It seems natural that we would move into doing something of our own and against the norm.”

In the midst of the financial crisis and between jobs (Greece’s current unemployment rate is the highest in Europe) all 10 members of the Theio Tragi cooperative banded together to pool money together to raise the capital for a cheap spot in central Athens. Amidst violent protests, petrol bombs and complete political upheaval, this restaurant has seen its clientele increase and its popularity surge. The crowd ranges from middle class Athenians in their seventies to hipsters and tourists. And there isn’t a shaved head in sight.

In fact, the restaurant is so successful that it's transferring to the island of Tinos for a residency this summer in July and August.

The restaurant is run by a 10-strong cooperative
The restaurant is run by a 10-strong cooperative (Chronis Potidis)

Roles here are completely interchangeable, allowing each member of the team to define their own position and add value in their own way. Vasilis Hontos hadn’t even worked as a barman before stepping up to the job. Now, they all insist, he’s one of the best.

“Many of us have changed our careers and roles since we started here and because we work in this cooperative way, we’ve had the freedom to do that,” says Marmatakis, who had worked as a cook, secondary to sous chefs and head chefs at a string of restaurants for eight years before finally being able to invent his own dishes at Theio Tragi.

“We’re all about equality and we don’t believe in benefiting from others’ misfortunes,” says Alexandros Karakechagias – our mixologist for the night. Clean-shaven and neatly turned out for tonight’s service, he isn’t quite the picture of anarchy, but neither is the restaurant. Framed “No Hippies Allowed” prints and photography at iconic punk concerts may well line the walls but the restaurant’s interiors are as tightly composed as its progressive menu.

The restaurant is near the Acropolis
The restaurant is near the Acropolis (Chronis Potidis)

Far from the ubiquitous Greek salad and grilled meat selection, the Holy Goat is serving up Mediterranean flavours with a flare and elegance not so synonymous with the traditional taverna. “We’re innovative in the sense that we offer gourmet food at affordable prices,” says Marmatakis about the experimental set menu. “The same goes for the cocktails and the wine list here.”

Modern European cuisine, from Nicoise salads of tuna tartare and sweet pepper puree to tarama gnocci and deconstructed tiramisu (the best I’ve ever tasted) is not what you might expect from a punk restaurant in defiance of the establishment, but that’s not the point.

The food is unlike traditional taverna fare
The food is unlike traditional taverna fare (Chronis Potidis)

“The food goes with the whole experience,” explains Marmatakis. “Because we work as a cooperative, we’re able to do what we like and what we want to do. No one is going to tell me not to do something in the kitchen because I don’t have a boss, so we’ve been able to be completely creative with what we serve here.” The cocktail list features playful concoctions like “Cucumber Hellfire” – a cucumber and chilli mix that’s spicy and refreshing in surprisingly equal measure.

Stripping the system of hierarchies, this group of punks is less disruptive than it is an example of how modern Greece is coming up with new ideas in a post-crisis environment. Far from the picture painted by the local media of angry, molotov-making youths setting fire to police cars, the anarchists at Theio Tragi are an example of the creative and counterintuitive young people getting Athens moving again.

Travel essentials

Getting there

Aegean flies from Heathrow from £164 return.

Staying there

Andronis Athens has doubles from €120, B&B.

More information

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