Expert guide to the Greek Islands
Brimming with olive groves, fruit trees and vegetable patches, verdant Rhodes offers up a delectable array of culinary offerings that ranges from firmly old school to five-star innovative. While the choice of quality establishments in the medieval Old Town is slim, there is a diamond or two to be found in the back alleys. A down-home taverna hidden in a remote village and a fine dining restaurant at a resort on the northeast coast are both striving to reawaken local dishes almost lost to time, albeit in different ways. Meanwhile, chefs in must-see Lindos and little-known Lachania are brazenly experimenting with seasonal island flavours.
Efi Dede, the effusive owner of Marco Polo Mansion, had no choice but to open a restaurant at her small, earthy boutique hotel hidden along a low-lit backstreet: guests insisted on it. Mustard and rust-coloured walls lend a Moroccan feel to the al fresco, tree-shaded courtyard. Swathed in colourful scarves, Efi swishes between tables, revealing the day’s specials and recommending in line with your preferences. For starters, try the calamari and prawn croquettes. Asian spices elevate hazelnut-crusted prawns, an unwavering menu favourite, to near-cult status. Local pasta dish mandi is revised as beef-filled tortelloni. Pistachio-dusted crème brulee makes for a grand finale.
Contact: 00 30 22410 25562; marcopolomansion.gr
Opening times: Apr-Oct, daily, 7pm-11pm
Reservations: Essential between Jun-Sep
Vegans and vegetarians may well feel they’ve landed in epicurean heaven. Mara Martinotti is in the kitchen at this purple-walled happy little spot, dishing out feel-good fare that changes daily. How about vegan feta and cherry tomato pancakes with spirulina, oat, chocolate and fruit smoothie for breakfast? If that’s not enough cheese, roasted aubergine with cherry tomatoes, capers, mozzarella, Parmesan and chicken-flavoured slices – all vegan, will sate your craving. Hot days call for cold beetroot and coconut yogurt soup, while those with a sweet tooth go for the deliciously gooey gluten-free chocolate cake. On your way out, pick up Mara’s vegan cookbook.
Contact: 00 30 2241 304394; tomaroulirodos.blogspot.com
Opening times: Mid-Mar-Oct, daily, 9pm-10pm
Reservations: Recommended in summer
Locals who live and work nearby congregate at this centrally located meeting point – a café, wine bar and deli rolled into one – for generous platters that literally map out the country’s most eclectic cheeses, cold cuts and wines. Savour prosciutto-like nouboulo from Corfu, mortadella sardinella from Drama in northeastern Greece, piquant arseniko cheese from Naxos island and even organic matured buffalo cheese from the tiny Lipsi islet. Fruit-based spoon sweets from the Cycladic island of Syros add a fragrant contrast to the diverse meat and dairy medleys. Inquire about the flirty rosé and sweet wines from the island’s own Alexandris winery.
Contact: 00 30 22410 22989; grancafferodos.gr
Opening times: Daily, 8am-12am
Reservations: Not necessary
Rhodes born-and-bred chef George Troumouchis and a few friends decided a few years back to identify the best cooks in some 40 villages and document more than 280 age-old Rhodian recipes to save them from obscurity. Today, Troumouchis and Noble head chef Stamatios Misomikes are recreating these dishes with respect and originality. Gastronomes can sample their daring degustatory designs at the monochromatic sea-facing candlelit restaurant within Elysium Resort & Spa. Themed tasting menus allow a comprehensive overview of the pair’s gastronomic genius. Among standout dishes are rabbit stifado with chestnuts and steamed mussels with cabbage, grape distillation souma and phytoplankton.
Contact: 00 30 22410 45700; noble.gr
Opening times: May-Sep, Tue-Sun, 7pm-11pm
Dress code: Smart casual
Established in 1932, this ever-busy seafood shrine on Stegna beach is a Rhodes institution beloved by both Rhodians and visitors. Evil eyes, wicker lampshades, shells and painted squash dangle from the interior section of this lively spot, where chair covers depict fish, of course. Grab a table outdoors and order fried rouzetia, a local hand-caught fish served with garlic dip. Mostra salad is a hearty mix of spicy and mild cheeses, tomato, samphire and wholemeal rusks. If dining after 7pm, choose from nine dishes, such as spaghettini with fish roe, mussels, limpets and sea snails, that take longer to prepare but are worth the wait.
Contact:00 30 22440 22632; stegnakozas.gr
Opening times: Mar 25-Nov 15, daily, 12.30pm-11pm; Nov 16-Mar 24, Fri-Sun, 12:30pm-10pm
Reservations: Recommended; in August, walk-ins only
A dining destination in its own right, this minimalist, candle-lit restaurant at adults-only resort Lindos Blu is designed for couples. On summer nights, sit outdoors for bay views. Visionary chef Manolis Platellas reinterprets traditional island dishes with the flair of an artist. They may look completely different but the inspiration is clearly evident. Giapraki, the local version of rice-stuffed vine leaves, is reimagined as pork and goat risotto with cracked wheat. Hand-rolled koulouria pasta is dressed with sea urchin, clam, bottarga, citron, pumpkin seeds and sea lettuce. Conclude with Sweet Summer, a flower-topped meringue crown with luscious coconut, strawberry and basil sorbet.
Contact: 00 30 22440 32110; lindosblu.gr
Opening times: Daily, 7pm-11.30pm
Dress code: Smart casual
The owners of this rare gem, which dates to 1912, ignore their advantageous, mulberry-shaded position on Lindos’ main square and work hard every day to win over patrons. Michalis Mavrikos and his chef sibling Dimitris co-create the menu, upholding time-tested dishes, such as their grandfather’s silky fish roe dip with pumpkin, while constantly experimenting with new flavours. Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour owns a house nearby, and has been a staunch regular for decades. Black butter beans with carob honey is another longstanding classic worth sampling. Try tender, aromatic fennel braised in sweet Moscato wine, with cherry tomatoes and a cheese sauce.
Contact: 00 30 2244 031232; Facebook page
Opening times: Apr-Oct, daily, 9am-12am
Reservations: Essential in summer
Book a table for sunset and prepare to dig your feet into soft, warm sand at this romantic, ethereally lit Mediterranean restaurant, occupying a rocky outpost above the shamrock-hued waters of sheltered St Paul’s Bay. A sought-after wedding reception destination catering for up to 80, couples first exchange vows on a nearby wooden jetty, with views of the peak of the ancient Acropolis of Lindos. Menu mainstays include linguine with mussels, calamari, octopus and prawns and Milanese risotto with scallops. The seasonal fig salad with almond flakes, sesame seed-covered soft local cheese and balsamic cream is Greek summer on a plate.
Contact: 00 30 22440 33000; tambakio.gr
Opening times: Apr-Oct, daily, 10am-12am (opening date varies)
Italo Calvino’s short story Under the Jaguar Sun – about a couple exploring Mexico (and one another) through 'elaborate and bold cuisine' – roused the concept behind Puglia-born owner-chef Giovanni Scaraggi’s bold undertaking. With his Greek wife, Vicky, he meticulously restored a traditional home in Lachania village, where guests dine amid spare, white walls in two courtyards. The Noma alumni brings intrepid technique and Japanese influence to seasonal produce in dishes such as seaweed-cured beef tartare with yuzu juice in the shape of a coconut half shell. Start with amberjack carpaccio and couple comfort food, such as tagliatelle al ragu with Sardinia’s intense red Cannonau wine.
Contact:00 30 22440 46262; Facebook page
Opening times: Apr-Oct, daily, 6pm-11pm
Reservations: Essential in summer
Despite a population of just 900, Apollona village is thriving on its interpretation of tradition. Giannis Efthymiou is reviving and enhancing near-forgotten recipes. In a former Italian officers’ club, the snakeskin print apron-wearing chef has created a season-conscious, farm-to-fork oasis. Canny foodies travel miles for his pièce de résistance: goat stifado slow-baked overnight in wine and onions and served in its clay pot, which he ritually smashes open. Scoop up walnut and tahini-laced eggplant dip, with addictive handmade bread served atop wild herbs. Don’t miss chickpea dish pitaroudia, to which he adds mushrooms and Jerusalem artichoke purée. Turn up ravenous.
Contact: 00 30 2246 091247; paraga-apollona.gr
Opening times: May-Oct, Tue-Sat, 1pm-8pm; Nov-Apr, Sat-Sun, 1pm-8pm
Reservations: Recommended between Jul-Sep