Eating out in Corfu
We are often asked where we like to eat out and to be truthful, we get a little scared of this question! We will explain.
There is an old saying that one man’s meat is another man’s poison. We have fallen foul of other people’s recommendations which have made us reluctant to recommend places. Some people are influenced solely by cost. Sorry but a cheap meal is not necessarily good, nor is an expensive one.
Whilst we have been revamping the website we have deliberately not published any recommendations until now as, to be honest, we were concerned as to how many eating places would be effected by the austerity measures that have been imposed here in Greece. Some tavernas and restaurants change hands almost on a seasonal basis and so it is hard to say whether standards will be maintained.
Often rents are increased dramatically which gives the restaurateur a major problem. Do they attempt to cut costs (and maybe quality) to compensate? Do they compensate by increasing prices? Do they say, ‘Enough is enough,’ and refuse to pay the higher rent? This latter has happened.
In general, taverna and restaurant prices seem to have stabilized over 2009 – 2010. They were in danger of spiralling totally out of control. Finally it seems that most have realised that there is a limit to what visitors will pay. This is borne out by the increased popularity of the ‘all inclusive’ and self catering holidays. The ‘all inclusive’ holiday may not be everyone’s choice but it has to be accepted that in these economically challenging times, everyone, apart from the very wealthy have had to carefully examine their budgets.
Visiting Greece for the first time?
If you are visiting Greece for the first time and maybe you are unsure what some of the food on offer is, do not hesitate to ask. You will not offend anyone! In traditional tavernas it is not uncommon for there to be a number of dishes simmering, ready prepared in pots, Some such establishments still exist and you will be expected to go into the kitchen and to make your selection.
Getting back to fish … if you, like us, love kalimari (squid) ALWAYS ask if it is fresh or frozen! Don’t get us wrong. There is nothing wrong with frozen squid but there really is no comparison. Expect to pay a little more for fresh. We have noticed that many tavernas and restaurants are beginning to specify on their menus when fish is frozen. A welcome development!
Essentially, you have a number of choices when eating out in Greece. Establishments vary in type, size and price. I will attempt to summarise.
Restaurants are much the same the whole world over. They tend to be the upper end of the market although you will find some tavernas labelling themselves as restaurants. Save these for ‘special meals’!
The taverna is the traditional eating place in Greece. Once upon a time, the owners would have a few dishes ready prepared from which you would go and choose in the kitchen. There are still a few about but they are becoming increasingly rare.
Tavernas will generally offer traditional Greek fare although those in the areas visited by tourists will offer a more cosmopolitan menu as well. For those of you familiar with the film ‘Shirley Valentine’, don’t be afraid to ask for ‘Chips and egg’ if that’s what you fancy! Never be afraid to ask what something is or, especially, to see it first. You will not offend!
Fish Tavernas (Ψαροταβέρνες)
The fish taverna or Psarotaverna is exactly that – a taverna specialising in fish dishes. If you enjoy fish, then these are the places for you. From memory, there is an enormous number of different species of fish available in the UK and northern Europe in general so there should not be too many surprises.
The fish taverna is definitely a place where you check out what’s on offer first. It will either be on display or available for inspection in the chillers or fridges in the kitchen.
A word of warning to our visitors from northern Europe. Don’t expect fresh cod! It’s a cold water fish and not found in local waters! However, salted cod is available and if prepared well, it is delicious.
For regular visitors the concept of a meze or eating mezedes will not be a novelty. For the uninitiated, this is a number of small dishes shared amongst friends and accompanied with the usual range of beverages.
It is a very sociable way to eat and one that we enjoy. It makes a real change from the regimented idea of having a starter, a main course and a dessert. This style of eating is not confined to the Mezepoleios. It is quite accepted in tavernas.
Grill Rooms (Ψησταριά)
These are probably one of the best kept secrets and one that the casual visitor to Greece may omit from their itinerary. Big mistake! Having said that, you won’t enjoy them if you are vegetarian!
The grill rooms are simple places, often not very large. Generally, there will be a seating area or you may just order to take away. They will cook all manner of meats. You name it! Chicken, lamb, goat, pork. They will provide it by the kilo or portioned. Souvlakis (Cut up meat on skewers) are very popular as are the ubiquitous pita gyro.
The gyro is slices of lamb or chicken on a large ‘skewer’ which is rotated in front of the heat in much the same way as the ‘doner’ that most British will be familiar with. The difference is that the meat in the gyro is actually sliced meat, not ground up reconstituted lamb as in the doner. Asking for a doner kebab will invariably result in puzzled looks as the doner is of Turkish origin!
These establishments are extraordinarily popular amongst the Greeks. That should tell you something. They also represent outstanding value for money … If you are not vegetarian!
Back to the recommendations
So here we are at the end of 2012 and we now think that we have a selection of places to eat out that are worthy of passing on. We have consciously decided not to name and shame places that we don’t rate. We just won’t recommend them! Remember that these are our personal recommendations and you may disagree with our assessments.
The observant reader will notice that most, but not all, of our recommendations relate to establishments in the north and north-east of the island. Fear not! There are excellent places to eat all over the island! It is just that we can’t get everywhere and only recommend places that we have personally visited. The list of places to eat will ultimately be quite long and so I have attempted to list them by area.
If you have had good experiences, please share them with us. If we agree, we will include them.
Right! Here we go in no particular order. Whatever your budget, there should be something here to satisfy your culinary needs!
Click on the relevant location below to read about tavernas, restaurants and grill rooms in a particular area.