Island hopping for epicurean delights
Beyond its cobblestoned alleyways and dovecotes, Greek islands are fast acquiring a reputation as gourmet destinations. Talented Athenian chefs have set up culinary ventures from fashionable Tinos to hippie Koufonissia – proof that innovative locavore cuisine is thriving. A review of five new island restaurants that promise meals to remember.
Made up of three islands, Koufonisia, inhabited by just 400 residents throughout the year, has a laid-back 1960s vibe, a favourite of the hipster set. Once you’ve sated on the island’s enviably cerulean waters, head to Laska for a refined, unpretentious meal.
Just a few minutes off the port, Chef Sifis Manouselis’ inviting new restaurant with novel Greek food and bohemian vibes, is all about a shared dining experience. So, expect lots of generous platters. Local delicacies like capers and small rocket leaves find their way into the dishes, and the menu reflects Koufonissian culinary staples: chickpea salads, local scrambled eggs with oil nuts, vinegar, garlic and handmade louza and grilled octopus. Try the scorpio stifado with gnocchi in wine sauce, slow-cooked to tender perfection, with thyme and lemon. The fish (and seafood) is sourced directly from the islanders, who still fish for a living! Sitting on a whitewashed terrace with a chilled wine in hand, overlooking Keros, resembling a supine female figure bathed in moonlight, you could be forgiven to want to linger a little longer.
Ano Koufonisi. Τel. +30.228.507.4599, Fb: Laska Restaurant
This celebrity bolthole might justifiably have its party-till-you-drop reputation, but Mykonians insist it is the unique energy suffused by Apollon from his sanctuary on Delos that gives Mykonos its always switched-on vibe. Little wonder then, that international bastions of gastronomy choose Mykonos as their launch pad to feed that insatiable appetite for life. This year its Coya, the Peruvian restaurant that has taken London, Dubai and Monte Carlo by storm, that comes to Mykonos.
Coya in Mykonos
With an impressive open-air restaurant and two Pisco Bar & Lounges, Coya doesn’t just make you love Peruvian food, it makes you lust after it. One of the most talked-about premieres this summer, expect Andean favourites like Ceviche and Hiramasa tiradito – silky slices of Kingfish served with a brothy mouthful of dashi, chives and truffle. Wallets and appetites permitting, dig into the pricey Chilean Wagyu sirloin or settle for the Solomillo de Res, a spiced beef fillet topped with crispy shallots. A Pisco Sour is obligatory and it comes infused with intriguing flavours. Done up in Mediterranean tones, the sound here is Latin, house and downtempo. DJs take turns on the console paving a rhythmic path from Latin America to the Island of the Winds.
Malamatenias St, Matogianni, Mykonos. Tel: +30.228.902.2515, Website
Tinos is attracting a different kind of pilgrim these past couple of years. Local businesses have been following the lead of pioneering microbreweries and winemakers, making Tinos a coveted destination for food-lovers. With Thama, Greek for miracle, expect divine intervention in the form of an exquisite meal.
Thama in Tinos
When Dimitris Katrivesis set foot on Tinos, he had a calling, he knew he simply had to come back. Having succumbed to Tinos’ charms, in his own version of veni, vidi, vici, the adventurous chef, is all set to conquer discerning Tinians too, with a cuisine rooted in ”tradinnovation.” In an elegant terrace overlooking the cobalt sea, enjoy a smoky pizza with a very special local cheese that ripens in a dried watermelon, served with a fantastic sanguine jam. One of the most charismatic chefs of his generation, Katrivesis’ presence here, is likely to draw other talented chefs to the islands too.
Leof. Stavrou Kionion, Tinos. Tel: +30.228.302.9021, Website
The Minoans, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Turks and Germans have all left their mark here and its layered history mingles with its contemporary spirit to make Chania a singular destination. Its picture-perfect looks with pastel waterfront houses and piercing minarets, and its cosmopolitan charm, with synagogues, churches and former mosques jostling for space on its cobbled streets, makes it the most attractive city in Crete. But when it comes to gastronomy, its Cretan sibling Rethymno always fared better. Liokalyvo is all set to remedy that misconception.
Liokalyvo in Crete
An evocative name for a restaurant that promises to be a draw this summer. This bohemian beach bar in Falassarna is aptly named for the instinctive hut-shaped gesture of shielding one’s eyes while gazing at the sun. Trust the Greeks to have a word for it – liokalyvo! With its enviable location on the sun-drenched blonde beach, there will be much squinting, shielding, swimming and sunning and Liokalyvo’s relaxing, boho aesthetic only enhances the Cretan summer experience. The food here is proudly Cretan, as is its chef, Manolis Papoutsakis. You’ll find that the cocktails here have a Made in Crete seal too – try the hugely popular Cretan Americano, made with sweet vermouth, Campari, carob honey and cherry soda.
Falasarna Beach, Chania. Tel.: +0030.695.611.6906, Fb: Liokalyvo
There is destruction written over every rock of the island, but so is endurance, and its capacity to renew itself. That sense of heightened emotion is what makes Santorini so special and its food so extraordinary. Farmers have had to struggle against the elements to coerce anything to grow on this rocky island, but they’re more than rewarded by its intensely flavourful produce. The result has been some spectacular restaurants. This year Kaliya is a welcome addition to the dining options on the island.
A cross between Kalliste, one of Santorini’s names which means “the most beautiful” and the Greek equivalent of “cheers”, Kaliya, housed in a handsome neoclassical building in Fira, is a welcome and striking addition to Santorini’s already booming gastronomic scene. Overlooking the Caldera, Dimos Balopoulos’s effortless Mediterranean cuisine and talented bartender Manolis Lykiardopoulos’ inspiring cocktails, match the sense of drama that the setting evokes. Start off your day with pancakes, power-packed bowls, and eggs in every form, for brunch; stretch into a languorous meal of fish carpaccio and sea urchin salad; and stay for a sip of Vinsanto Negroni made with Santorini’s distinctive sweet wine, Campari, sesame oil and tobacco (smoke).
Metropolitan Yavriil 22, Fira, Santorini. Tel. +30.228.602.3807, Website