Ask any foodie in Heraklion where to go for gourmet Cretan fare, and they’ll answer Peskesi. Well, no more.
The legendary, award-winning restaurant got a strong competitor a month or so ago and it’s just around the corner. They called it Hairi. Soula Apostolaki, who is the wife of the owner – Mihalis Angourakis – tells me that
It’s a zen restaurant, free of clutter and cliches. It has a bicycle with flower pots hanging on a wall, but that’s the only bizarrerie that breaks the flow. On a less rainy day, I don’t think it would have bothered me. I am not entirely sure it bothered me today – it was just the kind of thing that makes me go ponder “now, why would you do that?” To put it painfully honestly, it just doesn’t go with the vibe and quality of the place.
Everything else –
Moving on to food…
It’s been years since a restaurant managed to surprise me. I had my share of gourmet nibbles in more than 40 countries around Europe. When it’s fine dining, it’s fine dining. I know what to expect: flawless, orgasmic, food porn. Call it what you will.
I did not expect a culinary revelation entering
But is’a also not surprisingly creative. It’s presented in pretty – Instagram-worthy – shapes, but it is not creative. Cretan food is self sufficient, primordial, and full of zest. Always.
Taking something already perfect to the next level is nothing short of extraordinary.
Alexandros Vrythias is 35 and he studied at Le Cordon Bleu London. He gave me a tour of the restaurant, proudly relating how this old building was lovingly restored by hand. He showed me antique furniture and then, the cellar – a small room, with just the right temperature for Cretan wines and artisan beer.
Then, he went back to the kitchen, leaving us with Georgia Perraki – our waitress and translator most of the time and a genuinely Greek lady. I’ve never had better service. Well, minus forgetting my raki – but she made up for it with her sweet smile and the light in her eyes.
She has such a passion for her heritage – it’s just hard to describe. She talks about every dish with pride and joy – it’s a pleasure to listen and watch her. She tells me of the re-imagined, deconstructed dakos. It’s pure Crete on this plate, but Chef Vrythias used carob, local cream cheese spiced with mint, to elevate the ordinary rusks and tomato. Va-va-voom! It’s magic.
Things keep on happening. There are some
Then, my main comes: rooster in red wine with traditional pasta. A simple, slow-cooked dish – the type you expect to eat when the weather outside is messy and your grandma wants you to make it all better. It’s superlative comfort food – and it’s the best thing I had in months (and I don’t even like meat).
My Phil got the lamb – cooked to perfection, of course. The horta had an odd sauce that distracted from the earthy taste of the greens. But there were also deep-fried hand-cut potatoes there. A bite of childhood memories, just like that.
The savory feast was crowned by desserts fit for royalty – looking ready for a magazine cover feature and sprinkled with edible gold. Too bad I don’t eat sweets.
I rarely rave about restaurants – or anything – but this time, I was impressed. It’s not just the food, but the spirit, which I hope we’ll stay even long after they turn into Heraklion’s next hot spot. Remember, you read it here first!