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Heart of the City: The Polis Bar in Athens


POLIS is the kind of place where you can go to write a short story or diary entry, read your newspaper or have that big talk with your lover. And if you go there with adrenaline-high friends for a quick beer it's also suitable, but will not feel like any regular bar. You'll probably end up discussing something very interesting or coming up with really imaginative ideas. This place mysteriously evokes a sense of emotional and intellectual clarity. And it draws people who are clearly junkies of this sensation. Although it is large and deep, and although it plays mainly mainstream music, the charm of this cafe-restaurant-bar is that it imitates the cosy atmosphere of Prague-style cafes, where hedonistic thinkers can inhale nicotine and exhale ideas.


"The word Polis originates from polites, people in the city centre. So we made this place for those who live in the heart of Athens ," says owner Sotiris Granitsiotis, whose wife is thespian Evdokia Plati. The bar has been decorated in a somewhat self-indulgent but simultaneously crowd-pleasing style - the walls are plastered with original and chromatically soothing (earth colours reign here) collages.

The collages are an amalgamation of texts, newspaper tear-outs, ancient Greek columns and statues and the faces of a great variety of chiefly Greek theatrical, cinema and literary personalities - "people who are my friends or are considered friends by people."

The "scenery" as Granitsiotis describes it, has been done by set-designer Dinos Petrakos. The long, stool-lined bar dives into the room and is crowned by a huge, rectangular mirror that reflects the large, marble square outside Polis through its floor-to-ceiling glass windows. But it sounds as if the quiet tones of the place are destined to change this summer when there will be a "refreshment of our memories" and a "more colourful" image rehaul, with new faces dressing the sporadically wall-papered walls.


A grand mixture of ages but mostly intellectual or arty types visit here. But these are mainly muted versions of fascinating people, rather than the variety who boldly wear their art on their sleeve. When I ask the owner whether this is what he wanted when he first opened Polis three years ago, he says he never had a "target group" as some bars do, and that his customers are "mostly people who feel peacefully at home." He reveals that he doesn't particularly wish to host people who are kakogousti - who have bad taste, "especially in how they live their life," or people who are mizeri - which basically translates to "pathetic losers."

music and events

The musical playlist varies throughout the day - there is no particular genre of music but style changes from morning "cool and relaxing" to afternoon "sentimental" to night "lively mainstream." Here too the music is on some nights a little too loud for a normal-level conversation in the late evening/night, an unfortunately common attribute which can grow very tiring and be detrimental in combination with drinking, when you have to shout out a few basic words to get your point across rather than elaborate more carefully. Polis also hosts parties and an annual "big concert" such as last year's with the Chromata Orchestra playing music by renowned composer Manos Hadjidakis and this year's event starring composer Mikis Theodorakis.

powder your nose

Nothing special here. The fun bit is walking to the bathroom along a large white corridor currently dressed in an exhibit by photographer George Rossidis of the National Theatre's latest play, A Theatrical Performance. The male and female bathrooms, each sporting the cheesy pink symbols of young children of the respective sex taking a leak on their green doors, have two simple cubicles and one sink. When I last visit it there's toilet-paper strewn all over the ladies' loo floor.

top drink

Polis' top drink is the margarita. This cocktail is perfectly refreshing for these steamy hot summer days. You'll need:

Lots of ice

Lemons (or ideally, limes)

Tequila gold


A blender or shaker

Sea salt

Daisies (optional)

In a blender, throw one shot of tequila and half a shot of Cointreau, six to nine ice-cubes, juice of half a lemon (or one-and-a-half limes). Blend until mixture is white. Rub lemon-rind along the rim of the glass and, overturning glass, twist onto a plate of sea-salt until rim is covered in salt. Pour mixture into glass, plop in a slice of lemon and strategically place a daisy (margarita in Greek). Makes one. WARNING: this is a "moorish" drink but also a strong one!

Polis is located at 7 Pezmatzoglou St, Athens . Tel: 210 324-9587-8.

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