I can think of better names for a fish restaurant than "O Naftis" (The Sailor) and I can certainly name a dozen places with more pleasant design than O Naftis, in Halandri, but despite some of the drawbacks the food here, while simple and straightforward, was surprisingly good.
O Naftis is housed on the ground floor of an existing restaurant, Manteio, right on Palaiologou, the main street. It is a little confusing. When you walk in you aren’t quite sure what restaurant you are walking into but you do notice right away the colors of the sea and the motifs of a ship in the back. That’s O Naftis. Wooden floors, maritime paraphernalia right down to the bousoula, and paintings of sea life, boats, etc. attempt to create a certain atmosphere. Rolled up sails divide the seating areas. The tables are colored in Aegean-blue tablecloths and the chairs are upholstered in white. The place is cramped with lots of furniture. By the looks of it, O Naftis doesn’t quite seem like a great port of call.
On the other hand, we had a very good meal here. A gilt-head bream (tsipoura) ran 60 euros a kilo and was wild and grilled perfectly, tender, juicy, delicious. A homemade taramosalata with white tarama (carp roe) was delicious, looser than the usual stodgy stucco that is more potato or bread than fish eggs that one finds in so many seafood places. We tried a dish of tiny fried squid, which were perfectly fried, too, not at all greasy, crisp, well-seasoned and tasty. The grilled mussels had a lovely texture and the pan juices that they rested on were very good. There are some other, rare, offerings that we didn’t sample, including the king crabs (vasiliko kavouri) and a host of shellfish, among them razor clams (petrosolines). The rest of the menu includes a classic array of Greek fish and seafood cookery, especially as it’s represented in tavernas: shrimps fried, grilled, and cooked as saganaki; mussels saganaki; anchovies (gavros) both marinated and fried; and various seafood-themed salads. Main courses besides whole fresh fish include lobster and shrimp pasta. We ordered a wintry boiled vegetable salad and relished the flavor of this humble place’s excellent olive oil, “from somewhere in the
Peloponnese,” as the owner cryptically said.
This is a place for groups of friends who want an old-fashioned taverna, before the age when designers set the tone for restaurants, where the food is simple, straightforward and good.
Cuisine: classic fish and seafood taverna with an excellent hand at the grill
Athens Area: northern suburbs
Decor-Atmosphere: pre-design age room like the tavernas of a generation ago
Service: friendly and accomodating
Wine List: limited but competent
Prices: 35-55 euro a person
Address: 15A, Konstantinou Palaiologou str., Halandri