by Sandra Bancroft
Cretan dishes are especially delicious mainly because they depend on local fresh produce. The natural ingredients from the fields and the sea combine to make the island’s gastronomy genuine and wholesome. Cooking is not an excess of techniques where individual flavors and tastes are lost but instead simple preparation of foodstuffs ensure a pleasurable dining-out experience. Traditional dishes use oil, wine, wheat, milk, cheese, greens and vegetables but creative Cretan chefs add their own modern twist.
Here is a list of some of the best restaurants in the island’s capitol, Heraklion.
Brilliant Gourmet Restaurant, Epimendiou 15
This outstanding Brilliant Gourmet Restaurant opens annually from November until March and is to be found next door to the Lato Boutique Hotel. It operates daily from lunch time until late throughout winter serving authentic Cretan and Mediterranean fare. Opened since 2007, Brilliant Gourmet dishes up grilled meat, seafood, handmade pasta, seasonal salads, local cheeses and fine wines. During the summer months the talented catering team can be found on the roof at Herb’s Garden. Brilliant Gourmet is wheelchair friendly. Dinner for two without drinks will cost €30-50.
Elia & Diosmos, Skalani
The menu changes in this restaurant depending on the season’s produce. Top favorites to choose from include lamb chops with honey, pork cooked with figs, plums and pistachio nuts or free-range chicken in red wine. The deserts are tempting. A popular Cretan pudding is sfakianapita (home-made cheese pie) and the chef adds his own signature with honey, sour myzithra, and cinnamon and sesame seeds. Dinner for two without drinks will cost €30-50.
Marando, Sofokles Venizelou 11
Sit and enjoy the stunning views that include the island of Santorini while enjoying the wide array of crustacean that is on offer at this seaside restaurant. Mussels, crab and sea urchins all figure on the menu of this recent addition to Heraklion eateries. The style of cooking is innovative and even common root vegetables are elevated to new heights; try for example, the Beetroot terrine. Dinner for two without drinks will cost €30-50.
Istioploikos, Heraklion Harbour
The local Sailing Club owns this little taverna, so no surprises to find that it’s situated close to the water and that it specializes in fish and seafood. Freshly caught fish are simply grilled; the taverna is the only restaurant that cooks anchovies this way. There are other options other than fish and especially tasty are the stuffed cabbage and the baked aubergine (eggplant) stuffed with tomato and cheese.
Kouzinerie, L. Marinelli 17
This is a popular restaurant situated in the center of Heraklion, just a few steps from the sea. The ironstone wood oven is responsible for some tasty dishes, cooked long and slow. Recommendations include tart of artichokes, saffron risotto with mushrooms and a pork shank cooked for 6-7 hours. Diners can also pick up a sublime steak served rare and some of the best local wine. Dinner for two without drinks will cost €20-30.
Krites, Gournes Peace & Development Park
This tavern is located next to the CretAquarium and its playground means that it’s perfect for families. While the kids swing and play, parents can relax and enjoy the delicious food; the tavern is ConCred certified a food standard that ensures high-quality. There’s a range of meat to choose from including lamb, pork or rabbit and they are all cooked to perfection in the wood oven. It gets a tick for being value for money. Dinner for two without drinks will cost €20-30
Meet and Eat in Crete (Dine & Wine Guide) written and published by Agnes R. Weninger-Canadian/Hungarian Restaurateur & Food Writer.