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Starry Nights:
The Astron Bar in Athens


"YOU really mustn't!" I hiccupped to the owner when the third overflowing Kamikaze cocktail shaker was slammed on our table. My Spanish friend Carolina was spending her last night on planet Athens and going to her favourite bar was a must. Co-owner Stathis Papaioannou was clearly moved by her year-long devotion to his popular Psyrri locale and wished to make this a night to remember. But the way it was going, with shot after shot named after the Japanese word for suicide (of the brain cells) this could very likely become a night to involuntarily forget, in frightening black-out style. So when the famous words "just say no!" finally flashed hypnotically in front of my eyes I put down my umpteenth half-finished treat, gulped down some iced water, and took out my notebook in an effort to occupy my mind with a practical recovery-mission: work.


Freestyle. Now here's a word that was purposely pounded into my brain by Papaioannou (maybe he thought it necessary to repeat things over and over again following the generous provision of the bar's liquid assets) during our conversation. Now as a bar-reviewer I should probably be street-smart enough to just respond to this with "Oh! I see!" but, I have to confess, my trend-ological knowledge is pretty limited, so my reaction was "er... please kindly define". But that's just the point, "freestyle" is a term describing a concept without any particular definition, and that's just how Astron wants it.

The decor, I am told, changes every two months or so, and change occurs in DJ-style as well. This freedom of thought suits a place where you can sit down with a cold beer on the pavement outside, in true island-style, and chat with other friendly and kefatoi customers, or dance to trance inside, music vibrating through your veins. The current decor, by London-based Elena Kanagi, is a mixture of (intentionally?) kitsch Greek (technicolour-painted photographs of scenes such as a beach sunset or the Acropolis glowering with back-lighting) and zingy-fresh seaside bar. But Papaioannou, who runs the bar with Panayiotis Takou, reveals that it will soon be undergoing metamorphosis, with the addition of more bar-stools and tables outside, and some secret alterations within.


Like all the best places, Astron hosts a crowd varying in age and style. You'll get your uber-trendy young lads in their three-quarter-length jeans and fitted black T-shirts (I'm not complaining), bronzed and glossed young ladies in strapless dresses, dreamy actors staring out into the distance, beer-bellied gentlemen playing with their worry-beads, polished yuppies and other fresh-faced professionals. It's quite a common sight to see strangers chatting to each other and introducing one another to new worlds or ideas. While I interview Papaioannou, Carolina & co sneakily go inside "to get some water", and when I'm about to print their pictures on milk-cartons I venture inside to find them dancing away with a group of "writers", one of whom has a black strip of beard down his chin which he confesses to me he spends "an excruciating amount of time and concentration shaving into perfection" every two days. You learn something new every day. Especially here, it appears.

When I pass outside Astron on a Saturday night in a frantic search for a sedate ouzeri I am astounded by the massive increase in people; so much so that you have to gently push your way through. Perhaps weekdays are preferable visiting-times for the trend-ological weaklings among us.

music & events

Astron's DJs change like the weather, but there are a few regulars such as Jimmy Lazarides from ENERGY radio (105,5 FM), Maddy Jo, DJ Yianni and Jimmy. Music is (you guessed it) freestyle, meaning trance, ambient, progressive house, disco house and funk. The bar promises to host the hottest mid-summer event when it closes for its seasonal break at the end of July. "There will be lots of white balloons everywhere, mime artists and drag show performers satirising international celebrities!" enthuses Papaioannou. There will also be live saxophone (Papaioannou is an avid jazz fanatic) and improvisational bongo-banging along to funky DJ-ed rhythms. Due to party-pooper neighbours with their fingers ready to dial 100, the party will be mainly confined inside, but not spilling out onto the streets in genuine celebratory style is a near impossibility. Let's see if it lives up to the party of the month I couldn't bring myself to depart from earlier this month, where much dancing and fun was had by all, in a defiantly gleeful fight against the stifling heat.

top drink

I took the freestyle-type liberty to decide which is this night-spot's top drink. It has to be the kamikaze shot, which, despite its sometimes nasty reputation, was particularly refreshing, light and zingy here:

(for a shaker)

2 ounces vodka

1 ounce Cointreau

1 ounce fresh lemon juice (mix in some lime if available)


Shake well before abuse.

Astron, 3 Taki St, Psyrri. Tel: 6977 469 356.

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