Where to eat in Athens, Greece: Chef Peter Conistis on the best foods and restaurants

Throughout the '90s and early 2000s, Peter Conistis created the much-loved and decorated Sydney restaurants Cosmos, Eleni's and Omega as well as acting as executive chef at the Civic Hotel, and was dubbed Australia's "father of modern Greek cuisine". He took the helm at chefs-hatted Alpha Restaurant in 2013 to great acclaim. See www.alpharestaurant.com.au .

WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE TABLE IN ATHENS?

Cookoovaya restaurant – 2 Chatzigianni Mexi, Athens. It has a young creative team of chefs cooking up some very exciting new Greek food. I'm in love with their gemista of confit tomatoes, bell peppers and hot feta sauce and the oven roasted flat bread with foie gras and smoked eel. Plus, their kitchen is open till 1am – perfect for a late night feast with friends. See www.cookoovaya.gr .

THE LOCAL FOOD DISCOVERY OF THE PAST YEAR?

Bottarga. Smoked cod roe from Messolonghi in Greece. There are a couple of suppliers finally bringing it into Australia. I've been grating it over a simple dish of orzo pasta with chilli and garlic oil and it makes the most indulgent taramasalata. Taramasalata is a real Greek signature dish, but many places locally do not do it justice.

WHAT IS ATHENS' BEST-KEPT FOOD SECRET?

Kalamaki bar in Drakou Street, Athens. They do the best wood-fired lamb, pork and haloumi souvlaki in Athens. I always order the parsley salad, house-made pita bread and Fix lager on tap to go with them. Yum. (No website; 15 Drakou Street, Koukaki.)

PLACE TO GO ON A DAY OFF?

Numismatic Museum of Athens. It's an oasis right in the heart of Athens, with a great little cafe where you can lose track of time playing backgammon and sipping on frappes. See www.enma.gr.

FAVOURITE INDULGENCE IN ATHENS?

Spondi restaurant – Pirronos 5, Varnava Square, Athens. It is an institution in Athens. It is a multi-award-winning restaurant, with a truly amazing menu and a very impressive wine list. On my last visit I tried the five-course "discovery" menu which included pan-fried foie gras with rice popcorn, date and vanilla. And the roast duck with turnip, wild greens, and cocoa … wow. A must visit. See www.spondi.gr.

PLACE TO GO FOR A BIG NIGHT OUT?

Funky Gourmet – a hugely innovative and forward thinking restaurant, recognised on a world scale. They've just been awarded their second Michelin star and are in the top 50 restaurants of the world list. Without a question, my all time favourite restaurant in Greece. I get excited every time I visit and it never fails to deliver. The frozen Greek salad is to die for. See www.funkygourmet.com.

BEST TIME TO VISIT FOODWISE IN ATHENS?

Mid-August through mid-September. It's not as hot as midsummer and the popular spots are less busy, too. Even better, it's the best time of the year to enjoy fresh figs, tomatoes and wild greens in Greece. There is an abundance of wonderful produce which you can enjoy in the many restaurants and source yourself. I love heading out to the local markets wherever I am in Greece, trying and buying more produce than I need to cook up a feast.

WHAT SHOULD A VISITOR AVOID, FOOD-WISE, IN ATHENS

A lot of the restaurants in Plaka, catering mainly to the tourist market and not indicative of the cuisine known throughout Greece. Do your research, book ahead for special nights out and you will be rewarded.

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