The Greek Island of Crete is home to a veritable foodie feast of olive-oiled, honey-brushed, feta-cheesed morsels.
I recently returned from a trip to the fantastic Apokronos region in the west of the Island where I have been lucky enough to visit many times.
Every visit I always look forward to throwing myself into trying the local cuisine at a ramshackle hillside taverna or sea front restaurant to its many gyros stands.
One of my favourite restaurants is Elpis, a family owned taverna tucked away in the hillside village of Plaka. I’m almost hesitant to reveal its location and reputation as one of the best tavernas in the area because then everyone would go there. It’s appeal is in its rustic charm, home cooked food and its road less trodden quality which gives everyone eating there the sense that they have stumbled upon somewhere the masses have failed to find and which can be enjoyed with a quiet smug satisfaction.
One of my favourite dishes, (not to mention a good number of family members) is the pork steak which comes piled high with mushrooms in a creamy sauce accompanied by an avalanche of rough cut crisp potatoes. Simple and uncomplicated but so satisfying – it has to be tasted to be appreciated.
On this occasion I also tried the lamb kleftiko served in terracotta pot and wrapped in paper having been baked in the oven leaving the meat deliciously tender. Another favourite is the four cheese sagnaki – a cholesterol busting dish of melted cheeses, including feta and Mizithra, topped with grilled tomatoes and spices. Delicious dipped with bread.
With a two course meal setting you back a pleasing 15 euros what’s not to love? Did I mention the complimentary bread basket with dips, generous bottle of raki to finish the meal (a strong Cretan spirit distilled from the grape skins left over from making the regions village wine), and sweet plate for the table? Such is Cretan hospitality.
Further down the hillside you will find the bustling seafront of Alymyrida where the number of tourists noticeably increases, which isn’t saying much considering this is still a relatively quiet and small holiday resort.
Here, my go to restaurant is Erotokritos – a far larger family run restaurant and ever popular among the two dozen or so establishments along the seafront. Some of my favourite dishes to start include dolmades with yoghurt and a full plate of plate of crispy calamari sprinkled in salt and lemon juice – a personal weakness. I tried the moussaka for the first time this trip which was so tasty that I was left thinking about it for days!
My final tip? Francoise cafe and bar. There aren’t many places where you can sit metres from the lapping waves, toes in the sand, with a margarita in hand watching the sunset over the bay – but this is one of them.
Located on the Alymyrida beachfront it is notorious for its huge portion sizes so go hungry for lunch, (think a club sandwich and chips the size of your head). I could go on about my many favoured eating spots in the area – The Thalami fish taverna in Almyrida, Totem bar in Plaka, Provlita in Kalyves. The list goes on.
So take a trip to Western Crete – fly into Chania and enjoy its Venetian harbour and bevvy of fine restaurants. But don’t forget to take a second glance at the Apokronos. Venture into the mountains, track your way up the hillside and you’ll find it has more than a few delights to tempt you away from the city.