Freshly ground coffee. Sweet cinnamon. Unmistakable oregano. The magical aromas of Greece are some of the strongest sunny memories you’ll collect. Arguably, it’s the food you eat that you remember in years to come: that frothy iced coffee you sipped in the Cretan village, the mindblowing tzatziki you sampled at that family restaurant with the wonky chair, the softest fish you devoured by lamp light by the quay. To help make those foodie dreams a reality, we’ve rounded up the most stunning foods to eat for the ultimate Grecian experience and handpicked the best restaurants in Greece to sample them in.
What do locals eat in restaurants in Greece?
The best restaurants in Greece only offer one type of cuisine: avoid places with lengthy menus listing everything from Greek food to pizza, pasta, burgers and everything in between. Chances are, the quality will be average. If you’re feeling bamboozled perusing the local dishes a menu in Greece, then there are a few that won’t fail you. The most common savoury dishes to try are:
- Simple, fresh Greek salad. Think plump tomatoes, cucumber, purple onions, feta cheese and plenty of black olives.
- A classic moussaka: an oven-baked combination of sliced aubergines, minced meat, tomato and bechamel cheese.
- Stewed meat such as beef, chicken or lamb in tomato sauce (kokkinisto), or pork with celery in an egg-lemon sauce.
- Taramasalata (creamy smoked fish roe blended with olive oil and lemon).
- Vegetables cooked in olive oil and tomato and herbs (lathera).
- Tomatoes and peppers stuffed with rice (gemista).
- Anchovies or sardines (salted or marinated).
- Boiled greens (horta) with rich feta cheese.
- Tzatziki (a refreshing dip served with gyros or kebabs).
For sweet-toothed travellers, there are some unmissable desserts to sample:
- Deep-fried doughnuts (loukoumades) are bite-sized delights served warm and drizzled with honey then dusted with cinnamon. They’re free of calories too (wink wink).
- Chewy, fluffy almond cookies that are crisp on the outside named amygdalota – like a cross between macaroon and amaretti. Very moreish.
- A classic baklava: mouthwatering filo and honey-based desserts.
- Traditional walnut cake with aromas of cloves and cinnamon (karidopita).
Three perfect places to eat in Greece
1. For old-fashioned Cretan fare: Avli Restaurant: Rethymnon, West Crete
You’ll be gushing about Avli restaurant in years to come. After spending the day exploring Rethymnon’s knot of old streets, you’ll dine at white-clothed tables peppered with vibrant coloured glass and handsome candelabras. The award-winning eatery is one of the Founding Members of the Society for the preservation of Mediterranean Cuisine. Yes, it takes its food seriously – but there is no stuffiness here. Instead, creative Cretan recipes such as village goat cooked in honey and thyme (fouriariko katsikaki) bring the true flavours of Greece to your taste buds. Pick from more than 460 vintage wines and sip them under a canopy of leafy foliage before heading up to one of seven of the restaurant’s very own luxury suites for a full-bellied sleep.
2. For authentic gastronomy: Kyrimai: Gerolimenas, Mani
Discover storybook Greece without the crowds and tap into its true cultural spirit at Kyrimai, winner of the Historic Hotel Gourmet Award 2018. As befits a mesmerizingly unique hotel, the menu is a one-of-a-kind experience. Authentic tastes that have stood the test of time are given playful, genius twists using local ingredients. Choose from dishes such as caramelised stuffed aubergine, pies filled with cream cheese and rose jam, or the juiciest souvlaki (kebabs) with pita bread, tomato, onion and tzatziki. The fried local shrimps on a fish roe mousse are also a must. The wine list is eye-widening: superior Greek wines with a gold-star sommelier to match each grape to your dinner as you gaze lazily from the waterside terrace.
3. For an Argentinian twist: Bristol Hotel: Thessaloniki
Silky marble staircase, handmade oriental carpets and beautifully handcrafted furniture: Bristol Hotel Thessaloniki was quite evidently built for those who enjoy the finer things in life. The spectacle isn’t limited to its decor: this historic hotel has one of the most imaginative menus in the city centre in its restaurant El Correo. The reason locals keep coming back is because the fare is unmistakably Argentinean – a national fare with foodie traditions very similar to Greek ones. Rich, authentic dishes sit alongside clever salads, mouthwatering appetisers and fine cocktails on the menu, which your impeccable hosts will guide you through in a relaxed manner.