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Santorini Tell Me Where You Are, And I’ll Tell You Where To Eat

In summer, this beautiful island, with pristine white towns clinging to formidable cliff faces, welcomes the European jet set who come to bathe blithely in spectacular private pools with sea views. In parallel, another sector of the population ekes out a living offering donkey tours to Japanese tourists. These are the two faces of contemporary Greece, a land which still preserves that majestic profile of a lingering past, despite things crumbling around it, which has in Santorini a jewel that has not fallen prey to the horror of mass tourism and urban development. Following is a selection of four venues located in the salient spots in this piece of paradise where you can delight in the wonderful local cuisine.

Tranquilo (Perissa)

On a trip to Santorini, sooner or later you happen to find yourself in the vicinity of Perissa, its main claim to fame being its beaches – the Red Beach and the Black Beach. Perissa puts up more modest tourists than those who stay at the fantastic boutique hotels in beautiful Oia, Fira and Imerovigli. Hence, it is a good place to spend the night, as it is full of pretty, picturesque hotels, like the charming Kouros Village where we stayed, whose breakfasts on the terrace we still fondly recall.

By night, its seaside promenade speckled with restaurants is a good place to take cover from the exorbitant prices of other spots on the island and enjoy their down-to-earth Greek cooking. One such venue is Tranquilo, a beach bar with sea views where reggae sounds out continually and their friendly dreadlocked staff follow slow-food precepts to the letter, serving up delicious 0-km organic Greek food at laughable prices. Be sure to order youvetsi (Greek pasta) or one of their bio macro-salads.

Sphinx Wine Bar (Oia)

This restaurant in Oia, which opened just a few months ago, is the perfect spot for indulging in Greek wine and cuisine with creative flourishes based mainly on fish. It does not have sea views, but it does have a magical terrace in an alleyway in that beautiful, fairy-tale village, and its success is endorsed by that of its big brother – the Sphinx Restaurant in the capital, Fira.

This secluded corner, decorated in exquisite taste and with a cellar tailored to sybarites, has a spectacular wine list, which Panagiotis, their sommelier, knows by heart and will lecture you on in depth. Their array of dishes ranges from lobster with octopus to carpaccio and the odd nod to vegan and vegetarian cooking, as well as salads as their super-foods and desserts with such suggestive names as When Mango Meets Citrus.

The Wine Bar (Imerovigli)

At the Hotel Heliotopos in Imerovigli we came across an area called The Wine Bar which we advise you to try with an open mind and palate, prepared to taste more-than-interesting Greek wines. Located in a small natural cellar, which contributes to preserving the wine and endows the experience with a touch of magic, you can taste countless marvels produced from the local grape variety known as Assyrtico. We recommend you take your glass with you onto the terrace at dusk, to witness one of the best sunsets on earth.

Koukoumavlos (Fira)

In Fira, the capital, you have to tread carefully. There, all the restaurants look wonderful, with spectacular views over the sea, but you have a good chance of ending up with an apology for a moussaka. The capital of Santorini is crammed with dubious tourist draws, like the donkey ride that took us to the ferry which leads to a volcano, or the exorbitantly priced restaurant tourist traps. You should avoid making the mistakes we did, like becoming spellbound by the views and letting yourself be cajoled by a bearded waiter, a cross between Bardem and Varoufakis. So, take our advice and go for Koukoumavlos, a superb choice. Their €68 menu is a good way of enjoying the essence of this restaurant’s offerings. They have specialised in Mediterranean cuisine for the last 30 years, have endorsements from the public and critics alike, and the spot affords fantastic views of the volcano.

Text and photos by Laura Conde of Gastronomistas.com

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