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A free evening in Thessaloniki is both an essential and a dangerous feature of tours in Macedonia! Thessaloniki is, beyond any doubt, the culinary capital of Greece. Although the city has only a quarter of the population of Athens, which is the capital in political, governmental, economic and some cultural aspects, Thessaloniki has its own claims and holds its own where it can. It is the student capital of Greece, it has a vibrant cultural life and it has amazing food. Thessaloniki gastronomy is second to none.

The city's culinary offerings range from traditional Greek taverna food, seafood or meat, via various regionally or ingredient-themed eateries to multiple options of gourmet food. The high-end part ranges between internationally accepted gourmet dishes and locally-inspired ones - and I'm more interested in the latter. I took the opportunity to use the evening to retry a restaurant I had found during a reconnoitre two years ago, through a recommendation by a highly-trusted friend. I was also joined by another beloved friend and returning guest. The place we chose is what I would call an innovative seafood restaurant, its dishes grounded in Greek tradition, but lifted beyond traditionalism by a highly original chef. Thessaloniki's gastronomy at its best is defined by such an easy-going approach to international ideas of cuisine, tempered by a solid grounding in the local ingredients. The results are incredible.

Our image shows a small sample of what we tried: grilled shrimps with sour soft cheese and poached eggs, accompanied by homemade pita bread. It was absolutely delicious, flavours and textures melding into a unique whole. That applies to every other delight we tried, including an amberjack carpaccio - Greek sushi - and delicate ravioli with a filling of shrimp and asparagus.

Thessaloniki offers a wider variety of gastronomic delights. You'll be able to savour many on our Exploring Macedonia tour!

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