There are two things you will never go without whilst travelling through the Mediterranean…A shortage of incredible eating experiences and being spoilt with breathtaking scenery and beaches. I might be biased, but Greece is a jewel of a country. Its landmass might be meagre compared to its European neighbours, but that doesn’t take away from the richness of its diversity. There is no other country that stirs me in quite the same way Greece does. I’m in awe of its capacity to completely take my breath away.
There are two things that I go out of my way to seek while I’m travelling here. I always consult the locals about the best place to eat and I seek out all the nooks and crannies for the best place to swim.
Having ventured to some incredible eateries whilst traveling here, it’s hard to compile a list that reduces these memorable experiences to just a narrow few. The ones listed are by no means the exception, but if you ever find yourself in these parts of Greece, you must do yourself a favour and visit them. They have each left me with an insatiable appetite for more…
Dinner at Levantis, Paros: In the old town of Parikia in Paros, Levantis is a complete feast for the senses. Nestled in the courtyard shaded with century old grapevines and stripped back décor, this place manages a fine balance between old and new. Serving modern Greek cuisine in a sophisticated yet completely unpretentious setting. I wish I could fly and eat there every day…It completely stole my heart.
Breakfast at Byzantino Hotel, Monemvasia: Owner Anna Traiforou has an infectious personality. Her warmth and passion exudes in every aspect of the Hotel’s but what she has an exceptional talent for is cooking. I have never had a buffet breakfast like this before. All made in-house, Anna cooks with heart and soul and it’s evident in each and every mouthful you sample of her incredible breakfast spread. From the steaming rice pudding to the savoury pastries, I struggled to say goodbye when it was time to leave. She knows how to make a lasting impression.
Restored Farmhouse, Ikaria: This was one of those accidental finds where you happen to be at the right place at the right time. Eavesdropping in on a conversation one night led me to the gorgeous hideaway of George and Eleni. Nestled in Ikaria’s stunning mountain ranges, the husband and wife team have created a humble abode that feels like the garden of Eden. With a focus on organic framing and sustainability, George and Eleni have converted their century old stone houses into quaint accommodation. Eleni is an incredible cook. There is a feast prepared each morning for breakfast and dinner. Focusing on traditional Ikarian cuisine, communal dining is shared with fellow guests under the shade of twisting grapevines, overlooking Ikaria’s sprawling mountain ranges and the couple’s vineyards.
Underground Bakery, Areopoli: I still don’t know how I found this place. All I remember is turning a corner and suddenly being struck by the wafting aroma of freshly baked bread. I saw people intermittently spilling out of a hollow opening in the wall laden with baked goods. It was early morning, my stomach was rumbling and there it was before me. No sign or formal shopfront, I literally felt like I’d walked into someone’s home. This was a lucky find…
Elies Taverna, Kardamyli: Nestled within an olive grove, just across from the beach, this is where you go to find respite from the peak of the Mediterranean sun and savour a delicious feast. I can still taste the juice of the plump tomatoes in my salad. Visits here became routine during my stay in Kardamyli. Rolling off the beach and squeezing in at a table sprawling with patrons, lunches at this gorgeous taverna had me completely spoilt.
Mantela Restaurant, Sardes: The picturesque winding roads that lead to the village of Sardes set the scene for what awaits at Mantela. Alfresco dining under a vine canopy shared by locals and few fortunate visitors is the layout at this quaint but lively taverna. Traditional objet d’art decorate the interior, while the menu boasts local specialties prepared by the new generation of family members taking over the kitchen and honouring their ancestry. I always make sure I return here. It is a Lemnian institution.
Enjoy and savour your culinary feast in the Mediterranean. Avoid the crowds and get the lowdown from the locals. The more you venture off the beaten track, the richer your culinary experience and satisfaction is likely to be. My most disappointing meals in Greece have always been the ones shared at places overcrowded with tourists – usually they run along the main drag. If you need the expertise of any guidebook, I only use Lonely Planet. Often they recommend the very same eateries and beaches mentioned by the locals. Get to know the place you’re visiting, look beyond the surface layer. This is where the essence and true nature of the place reside. It’s where you will have the most memorable experiences imprint themselves on you for life…
Happy Travels…Paula x