Saturday, 2 April 2011

Nixon: A story of expectations and how something so right can go so wrong

Two, maybe three weeks ago, I had arranged to go to a short play with colleagues from work staged in the apartment just above our office. The play was called "ΦΑΚ ΛΑΪΦΣΤΑΪΛ" (Fuck Lifestyle) and it was actually very good and I really enjoyed it. Given that it started at 8:30pm and finished at 11:30pm we had time to kill before the show, and time for a drink after it.

Before the show, I was more than happy to visit Gazi College (which I've already praised), to have the mini burgers. After the show on the other hand we weren't sure of where to go. No sooner had we started considering options than we decided to visit a bar restaurant called Nixon. The amazing thing was that, even though Nixon is practically down stairs from our office, none of us had been there before. On my part, I had been meaning to go for the past four year! The reason: rumours of the best burger in town! (Yes, I know, we've heard that before; and I haven't even written about the burger at The James Joyce Pub yet!). Now, I need to emphasise this again: I had really been meaning to try the burger at Nixon for the past four years because it had come to my attention from more than one sources that it may well have the best burger in Athens.

View Nixon in a larger map

Unfortunately we were visiting for the Bar part as opposed to the Restaurant part, and either way the place was already packed and they said we needed a reservation to sit. We settled in the corner behind the door and were thankful at that: to be lucky enough to have found a stool and a bar top to ourselves. I went for the Margarita because I like trying common things in new places because it gives me good grounds for comparing (sort of like the Big-Mac Index). I was very happy that the waiter asked if I wanted my Margarita frozen or shaken and served without the ice: showed they knew how it's supposed to be. It was ok. After Baba au rum, no other mixed drink has been the same for me.

Rewind. While waiting for the drinks to arrive I started looking around at the place. It's actually very nice. It has a tall ceiling with a huge Art Deco chandelier that totally dominates the place, the bar has shelves full of drinks built into the wall, and the restaurant in the back has large leather seating that really suit it. I found a really great description with pictures of the décor here. I also took a few pictures:

The Chandelier

Booths with leather seating

Pictures on the wall

So, as I'm looking around I spotted, out of the corner of my eye, on the bar, waiting to be served, the sexiest looking mini burgers I had ever seen. I had to have them! I told the people I was with if they wanted to share. They refused, reminding me that we had already eaten. They desperately tried to make me reconsider out of what they said was a needless act of unnecessary calorie consumption, ultimately fuelled by an underlying dissatisfaction with my job. A attempt, they said, to fill a gap in my life using the wrong means; something about Freud. I called the waiter and ordered the mini burgers. They had to be mine.

As I waited for my babies, I peered over the DJ in front of us to see a small frame with a picture of Nixon and Elvis Presley. So I made the connection: American President, Elvis Presley and Burgers. I really felt that these burgers were going to be the real deal. And they were. Nothing like the mini Burgers at Gazi College, which aren't really a mini version of a larger burger (tasty none the less), these were truly bite size versions of real burgers. They had an intensely smoky charred taste, juicy and textured patty, crispy bacon, wonderfully right caramelized onions on top. Spot on!

As I'm eating, I look over to the tables, and I see a guy who seems to be having the full size burger. And he just seems to be eating and eating and eating, and I think to myself, 'Daddy burger must be one huge daddy of a burger'. And this is important. A burger isn't some posh gourmet dish. It is a decadent, wholesome, savage meal. Something that you have to eat with your hands, and sauce drips all over the place, and you get into a mess because its almost impossible to sink your teeth into it. You have to feel the weight of the meat when you pick it up to eat. Sure, you can make a patty with kobe beef fillet mince and have black truffles, buffalo mozzarella and rocket, but that is not a burger as far as I'm concerned. That is a sandwich at best! The art of making a burger is making a satisfying hearty meal out of simple cheap ingredients!

Fast forward two weeks into the future, and a lot of nut busting on my part to get my burger eating friends to visit Nixons for a meal with me. It was a Wednesday and we usually meet up around seven, just the boys, to have a quiet weekday drink, a bite to eat and discuss the week so far. We had to wonder around until eight which is what time Nixon opens, at which point we went in and asked for a table for eight. We got two small tables put together. Now, I'm not one to complain, but for eight big men (and I don't mean old), and an empty Nixon, it was pretty obviously cramped. We made a point of this, but were told that this is what they usually give for eight people. Where should I start? Customer service? Customer always being right? Clearly a place named after an American president with a totally Greek view on customers.

We all ordered burgers and had a couple of starters, so here goes:


Tortilla  Cones

Both starters were sort of a joke. To start, we ate them by hand because they had forgotten to bring cutlery. The quesadillas were nice because they were warm and the cheese melted and stuff. Similar to an expensive toasty. The cones were made from a crispy tortilla (imagine the texture of a tortilla left out to dry for a week), They were filled with a red pepper and cream cheese dip and they had a piece of chorizo sticking out. Now unless chorizo is supposed to be bland, this was a poor chorizo. The basil leaf; emmm; food styling is important, and if you're going to charge eight Euro for five bites they have to be well styled.

And finally the burger. Everything that I said about the mini applied. Because of the bigger size, we could also tell that it was perfectly cooked medium as requested. Unfortunately though, it wasn't the big daddy burger I had been expecting. The diameter was about that of a Mac-Cheese burger (ten centimetres, give or take). Obviously it was a bit fatter. This burger at twelve Euro was what I expect to pay in the more expensive areas like Kefalari, Psixiko, Kolonaki and Bouliagmeni, because I know that (whether I like it or not), my money isn't going to the quality or quantity of the ingredients but to paying the expensive rents that these place will have. But in an area where I look out the window to see heroin addicts taking their next dose, that's not what I expect to pay! More so when everything I've said about the burger applies just as well to "American Burgers", a wonderful burger delivery company in Glifada.

The starters, the burger, with that service at those prices in this area isn't because the food is that good, its because people are taking the Mickey!

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