Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Captivated by Kefalonia

In June my partner Glen and I took our little, then nine month old, daughter Bridget on our first holiday as just the three of us – destination Kefalonia.

If you regularly read this blog, you will know I’m heavily influenced by Greek cuisine in my own cookery – I adore the flavours and I adore the Greek islands too. This was my first trip to Kefalonia and I can safely say it won’t be my last and I jotted down a few things to share, should anyone want any pointers if visiting the island.

We travelled with Olympic and stayed in the resort of Lassi at the charming and quaint Irilena Hotel. The hotel was named for the owner’s daughter, who in her early thirties was regularly seen at the hotel bar – however this was primarily the domain of her fiancé Aggi, and Tasos, both local men from Argostoli. We got on so well with both of these, they were just the friendliest people and my daughter adored both of them as they were constantly making a fuss of her. We would have a tipple in the bar each evening – sometimes until 2am and then Tasos would have to get up and go to work in his 9-5 job too in the town – but you never heard a word of complaint from him.

In terms of the rooms – they are fairly basic and typically Greek to be honest – although kept spotlessly clean and they have everything you could need as a base if you’re not spending too much time in the room. Athina – the owner was around each morning and again made such a fuss of the baby and was always checking did we have enough of everything in the room. She even gave up her own personal room on our last day so we could get Bridget and ourselves showered before our late flight. Nothing was too much at this hotel.

Lassi in general, as we learned, is a purely tourist resort – but this couldn’t take away from its’ charm. With a scattering of tavernas serving all of the local delicacies, such as Kefalonian meat pie, moussaka, stiffado and kleftiko there really was something for everyone. I won’t go through each and every restaurant as we did have good meals everywhere – but some of the restaurants in the resort of note, include Veronika’s, Butler’s House and Nefelli’s. We also had a fabulous night at Zorba’s where traditional dancing took place and the food was fantastic too. 


Feta topped Mushroom 

Kleftori Mushrooms

Beef Stiffado

Moussaka

Feta Saganaki and mix plate

Feta in the oven


We kept our week fairly low key, being as it was warm and we obviously had Bridget in tow. However this didn’t stop us venturing into Argostoli three days of the week. The bustling capital has some fabulous sites and was just an eight euro taxi ride away – I was very excited to see the fishermen selling their wares to local on the harbour-side. Argostoli is full of shops, bars and restaurants and if you were looking for some nightlife this would be the place to find it – on this part of the island at least. 

Argostoli harbour


Mid-way through the holiday we’d booked onto the island tour trip with Etam Travel and this was an absolute highlight. We took in some wonderful sites that are frankly must-see; Myrtos beach is that beautifully picturesque bay that is seen on postcards, in films and the like, and the view is truly spectacular. We were rowed through the Melissani Cave, a natural wonder, and traipsed down the Cave Drogarati too – a strangely eerie experience where you manage to feel incredibly cool, despite the outside temperature being over 90 degrees. Another highlight was visiting and tasting a selection of wines at the Robola Wine Co-Operative – where we also bought four bottles to bring home. We also visited the Monastery of St Gerassimos which was a moving experience – the people of Kefalonia call on this saint when in need even to this day and it brings back what a deeply religious place Greece can be. During the island tour we stopped for a couple of hours for lunch at Aghia Efimia a little fishing village where we enjoyed a lovely lunch and yet more beautiful views.


Myrtos Bay

Mellisani Cave

At Myrtos 

Aghia Efimia

I celebrated my 31st birthday whilst on the island and we took this opportunity to visit Lixouri – you take the ferry from Argostolli and on such a warm day, this was a pleasure in itself. We visited a little beach (I’m afraid I don’t recall the name) and had some cold drinks after about a thirty minute walk to find it. We then had a beautiful lunch in the main square of Lixouri – a platter of Greek specialities including Kefalonian meat pie, moussaka, dolmades, stuffed tomato, giant beans and a selection of dips – heavenly. 

Greek mix plate


My favourite experience of the week though has to be one we stumbled upon thanks to a female taxi driver we met – once again an example of how friendly and helpful a people the Kefalonians are. We asked to go to a different beach and Maria recommended one in Svoronata – she said it would be perfect as the water is shallow there for baby and slightly cooler as a result – she also told us the taverna there was so good that her family went there on special occasions, which we took with a pinch of salt wondering if she was recommending a friend or family’s business.

The beach was Avithos, and the restaurant To Enetiko – our best meal of the week by far. The beach was small and less busy than Costa Costa where we’d spent most of the week, it was perfect for Bridget – especially when she had a couple of naps. Peaceful and tranquil would be accurate descriptions. The food at the taverna was exceptional and makes my mouth water even thinking about it. We were greeted with home baked bread, olives and a tapenade and ordered a couple of Mythos beers to quench the thirst built up in the gorgeous sunshine. We shared the squid starter and it was the freshest, most tender, and flavourful version I have ever had – it literally tasted of the sea, in a good way. Glen had the special of the day, a slow-cooked rabbit dish in a tomato stew and I had my favourite prawn saganaki. Both were gorgeous. 

Calamari

Prawn saganaki


We did spend a fair bit of time on Costa Costa Beach too and if you have little ones or like some proper shade from the sun, they hired out gorgeous white cabanas for 30 euros for the day which were ideal for keeping Bridget out of the sun. And another tip off if you can manage an uphill walk, is to visit Logos Beach Bar in Lassi – logos meaning hill means a beautiful view up there and perfect for watching the magnificent sunset – the perfect setting for a boozy cocktail.

Me at Logos Beach Bar


Having got to know Aggis and Tasos throughout the week and making friends with them, I had expressed my disappointment at not finding a good place for gyros or souvlaki in Lassi – having worked in Corfu previously this is a favourite item and I was so looking forward to it. They told us that you had to have a special licence to cook ‘on the spit’ and that the best place by far was To Karvouno and that they would happily deliver to the hotel. So on our day of departure we had a pita gyros with pancetta belly pork. We had one each, some chips and a feta salad and the entire meal cost 15 Euros and was one of the most enjoyable meals of our week in Kefalonia.

Pork Pancetta Gyros 


Kefalonia is the most captivating island I’ve ever visited and I’ve been raving about it ever since and cannot wait to return. If you haven’t been – I strongly advise you do.

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