Ask the expert
Authentic Lesvos on a plate
9+1 dining experiences you can’t miss in Lesvos, where traditional gastronomy is its peak, by the renowned food expert and author of many cooking and pastry recipe books, Effie Gialousi.
My island is an entire country of its own. It bears something great and grand. It reserves liveliness, a stress-free fast pace with no sign of that slow, relaxed motion of the small aegean islands. Be prepared to eat well everywhere. Even at the most remote little village, you may find a delicious meze and a glass of ouzo.
I arrive at the main town. I start strolling around it. On the wharf, at the port, I explore the narrow alleyways all around, the market, and I reach the starting point. The town and the entire island is imbued with the smell of the angels’ local drink. It is called ouzo and goes with everything. Down town and all year long I buy tsoureki at Maskotitsa (+30 22510 47700, maskwtitsa.gr). It smells sweet of mahleb, cardamom and mastic. I like its doughiness and moisture; they’re just the right amount. The grocery store of Skopelitis (+30 22510 26639) at Bas Fanar fills my basket with olives, local legumes, ladotiri cheese from Mytilene and Adalis’ yogurt of Mantamados in the “gragouda” (clay pot). I stop by Ermis’ taverna (+30 22510 26232) for the first ouzo of the day. The environment takes you back to other eras preserving its authenticity as an old coffee shop with its leather sofas and wooden carved mirrors. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Its dried green pea fava soaked in local olive oil and the cured meats simply whet my appetite. For the main meal I choose Refenes in Apano Skala (+30 22510 55701), next to the tarsanas (shipyard) and behind the Castle of Gatelouzi. Right across, there it is, Asia Minor. Here you can taste the island’s best raw material. I was mesmerised by a white seabream grilled on excellent olive wood coal. The zucchini, green beans and collard taste as if drizzled with honey. Don’t miss the most sensual, freshly-cured mackerel in the universe. Not to mention the salted papalina –the sardine found in Kalloni Bay. I simply surrender to the best Greek sushi ever! In summer, at Pyrgi (+30 22510 42875) at Geras Bay, I indulge in the fish of the bay, the fava beans with olive and oregano, and the garden vegetables.
WHO IS WHO
EFFIE GIALOUSI WAS BORN AND RAISED IN MYTILENE. SHE STUDIED PHILOSOPHY AND SOCIOLOGY IN AUSTRALIA, BUT FOLLOWED HER PASSION FOR THE KITCHEN, AS SHE HAS BEEN COOKING AND COLLECTING RECIPES SINCE SHE WAS 11 YEARS OLD. SHE HAS TRAVELLED ALL OVER THE WORLD AND TASTED THE MOST AMAZING DISHES, THUS LEARNING ABOUT TECHNIQUES AND INGREDIENTS IN THE COUNTRYSIDE OF PLANET EARTH. BESIDES HER AWARDED BOOK “MYTILENE FLAVOURS: RECIPES FROM THE CAPITAL AND VILLAGES OF LESVOS”, SHE IS THE AUTHOR OF COOKING AND PASTRY BOOKS, CONTRIBUTOR TO MOST GREEK GASTRONOMY MAGAZINES, AND CREATOR OF TOURIST GUIDES. AS SHE STATES HERSELF: “I AM WHAT I EAT AND I EAT WHAT I AM.”
If I crave Lesvos’ best meatballs, I go to Antonis (+30 22510 61951) at the hanging village of Kayiani (current Taxiarches). They smell deliciously of cumin, ouzo and spearmint. The dolmadakia are divinely wrapped in silky vine leaves, the fried cuttlefish is otherwordly and the view to the endless blue is immense. For meat patty and sougania (fried onions) I will definitely head to Vayies and stop at Akrotiri (+30 22510 43532) to be served by the most polite girls on the island. At Eressos you shall find Soulatso (+30 22530 52078) and its signature local specialties while gazing at the sunset on a wooden platform next to the water.
In Mythimna I will eat at The Octapus Restaurant (+30 22530 71317) serving huge portions in a home-like environment, although this is the most touristic spot on the island. To sip coffee and have a rich local breakfast I will sit at the Loriet Hotel (loriet-hotel.com), hosted in one of the most beautiful mansions in Greece. Just stand before the marble staircase with the stunning knightly iron door amidst palm trees and centenarian pine trees.