Rethymno restaurants: 8 of the best
Rethymno, the city and its environs, boasts some of the finest cuisine in Crete, and for that special lunch or dinner these eateries are extraordinary:
Hidden in the ancient alleyways of Rethymno’s Old Town are two standouts – Avli (Xanthoudidou 22) regularly wins some of Greece’s top gastronomy awards, and its exquisite dishes – exciting new takes on Cretan favourites served in a romantic leafy courtyard make this a refined and exceptional experience. Signature dishes include sardines wrapped in vine leaves with tarama-cured fish roe and ouzo gel, and slow-cooked wild goat with honey, thyme and grape molasses.
Nearby Raki Baraki (Arabatzoglou 17) with its retro deli vibe has a lovely ambience and informal feel. Choose a shaded outside table under the vines or head inside to witness the chefs’ labours of love. Dishes such as shrimp saganaki, rabbit stew, slow-cooked lamb with yoghurt sauce are served meze style.
For stunning fresh seafood head to 7 Thalasses (Stamathioudaki 89). At this refined restaurant chef and owner Giorgos Michelakis creates some of Rethymno’s finest cuisine with the accent on fish and seafood. Served in a luxurious location with tables at the water’s edge, try the grilled shrimps with olive oil and lemon, lobster with linguini, and steamed mussels with lemon and pesto. The desserts are to die for, including an impossibly light millefeuille with vanilla cream.
Prima Plora (Akrotiriou 4) on its dreamy absolute waterfront location prides itself on organic dishes. Seriously good food in a beautiful setting. Tuck in to prawn tempura with soy and chilli, kakavia (local fish soup), grilled fillet of sea bass and much more
Just 3km on your way into town from Syntopia, (near the turning to the national road) is a locals’ favourite – the big and bustling Taverna Zisis (Leoforas Machis Kritis 63). Take one of their many tables for a dazzling array of dishes featuring the staples of traditional Greek and Cretan cuisine. Choose from the menu, or better still, head to the busy kitchen to see their daily specials like pastitsio, moussaka, chicken with oven potatoes and vegetarian favourites like okra in tomato sauce and stuffed tomatoes. Great food and fun.
Out of town
In the tiny village of Goulediana, a 25 minute drive from Rethymno city, (take a left signposted to Kares just after Armenoi), Goules is one of the best tavernas in Crete. Discerning diners flock to this former kafenion to taste the delights of its cheerful owner and chef Costas Xamorgiogakis. Rooster braised in wine with home-made macaroni and exquisite pork with honey and thyme are just two of the delights on offer. This is the real stuff: authentic and remarkable Cretan gastronomy.
One of the province’s best kept culinary secrets is in the the Amari valley. A glorious 30 minute drive from Syntopia, Moschovolies is a beautiful small taverna in the village of Meronas, run by the Moschonas family. ‘Mama Vasiliki’ still cooks using the old ways – over an open wood fire and using the freshest local produce from their own farm. Along with the food (in winter savour their divine mountain-herb infused green salad), Vasiliki’s welcoming daughters Dina and Eleni make your visit a life-enhancing experience. Specialities include aubergine with feta and tomatoes, home-made cretan sausage and crispy feta stuffed zucchini flowers.
A favourite just west of town, near Argyroupoli, is Arkoudenas Garden. Owner Giorgos partnered by his mother (and chef) Angeliki, serve up colourful and inspiring dishes (think a 49-ingredient salad, and succulent lamb with gamopilafo (delicately flavoured risotto). This quirky garden restaurant is surrounded by Giorgos’s farm which provides the freshest ingredients for a unforgettable lunch under their ancient mulberry tree.
Cover photo: 7 Thalasses. Moschovolies photo by Mike Sweet.