Lancashire based restaurant and food critic Anders Merrycorn tours the Greek islands and is somewhat underwhelmed by the offer.
One of the more enjoyable aspects about a luxury cruise around the Greek islands at a time of recession is the welcome value for money one encounters. Shops, bars and of course restaurants drop their prices. The upmarket establishments represent astonishing value for money while those at the lower end simply go out of business.
As we watched one rocky shoreline after another lazily drift by the Thirdrib suggested lunch at the next island we came to. The island in question, Karikilios, was perfect and we hopped off our chartered yacht, Thumbelina, and went in search of a table, a bottle and a menu to write home about.
By sheer coincidence the only restaurant on the island was owned by an ex-pat called Pat. Patricia Meads-Raleigh. She welcomed us at the door, explained she had been here twelve years and sat us at an exquisite table overlooking olive groves and a sea so blue it could have been freshly painted.
Whenever one visits an establishment that isn’t lit by chandeliers one hopes for authenticity in the cooking: local produce, the ommission of fadish fol-de-roles, an emphasis more on flavour than presentation. We were prepared to overlook the cliched candles on the table – a quick smell confirmed they were inedible fancies, but not the home made chairs that rocked just far enough out of the vertical as to annoy us both within ten minutes.
By the time the menu arrived Adele and I had almost forgotten we were here to eat. But one has to adapt to the slower pace of life in Europe and we were on holiday after all. At this point I should point out that I am a tolerant man and I would fight for anyone’s right to have a principle, but principles have no place in business and vegetarian restaurants are somewhat contrary to the whole idea and ethos of trade. Eating is, after all, a business.
Feeling hungrier than ever Adele decided to start with the olive selection in a parmesan blush and chrysanthemum petals. I risked a cadre of potted pens-au-coif, assuming, wrongly as it turned out, that the oil glaze would be extra virgin. Oh dear! I was so taken aback I almost visited the kitchen to remind staff that if you are going to serve a tureen with a spoon at least make sure the spoon is at room temperature.
The leaf salad was exactly that. Leaves, excused by the sprinkling of a noisy crumble. It was a world away from the description on the menu: a summer green leaf salad cheered by caramelised apricot. I found no evidence of caramel or sugar and found the whole concoction as bitter as a Thursday night in Stoke-on-Trent. Adele faired little better with her pan fried aubergine and tomato in a sesame sauce. The sauce was too thin and served at a depth sufficient to cast a rod and line. (Heaven knows what one would have caught.)
Only a fool would expect meat in a dessert, so with the agonies over we waited for Adele’s iced compose of citrus and my tarte Aragonais. The citrus collection of fruits were a mischievous troupe and the blueberries of the tarte complemented the creme. The fig leaf may have been a symbolic gesture of who knows what, but the meal finally delivered some semblance of culinary completion.
Wines were without fault. The Rue de Moroccane made up for the lack of body in the main course. Savoury, refreshing and with a hidden nose of freshly washed polyester. We decided not to have coffee preferring instead to go back to Thumbelina for the exquisite Cafe Roma from a real espresso machine. When the bill arrived it was gratifyingly as light as the food. After checking the exchange rates the total came to £5.28 and frankly one can’t buy an edible chocolate bar in England these days for that price.
Back on the yacht, we ordered a round of open sandwiches with Mediterranean hams drenched in tulip oil and dreamed of opportunities lost.
(photocredit – cyclonebill)