Booking a table. Researching where to go. Finding something for all the family. Aren’t these the tasks you try to escape when you go away? Instead, explore the true value of Greek cooking at family-run tavernas and Ikos’ Michelin-inspired restaurants, where each meal is an effortless discovery.
Words: Francesca Lee-Rogers
From ancient Greece to the modern day, the way food is prepared, eaten and served throughout the Aegean and Ionian seas goes beyond the pleasure of a single meal – it’s a way of life. Take olive oil for example. Not only has it been used to dress salads and cook fish, it’s also become the fuel in lanterns to help people see and the main ingredient in hand soaps to soothe skin. It shows that given the right environment, people who have the freedom to explore a boundless appetite, uncover a lot more – an ethos that is ever-present at. To really understand the value of Greek cooking and reap the rewards, they encourage you to dig a little deeper, without limits, through a sumptuous reinvention of an all-inclusive culinary scene created by Michelin-starred chefs.
This food philosophy takes you on a gastronomic journey from mainland Greece at Ikos Oceania and Olivia, to Ikos Odisia and Dassia on Corfu, across to Ikos Aria on the island of Kos, spanning all the way to Ikos Andalucía in Spain. Every resort has at least five restaurants to choose from, so no mouth goes wanting, and behind each one is a world-class trained chef and master in a specific cuisine.
You could be a gym bunny looking for a lean, egg white-only breakfast, a family crying out for an array of pic’n’mix style plates at a Mediterranean buffet or couples looking to swoon over tagliatelle with duck ragout and the unmistakable waft of warm truffle. You’ll find it all here.
An alfresco lunch in the sea-front pavilion of Ouzo restaurant (one that features in all of the resorts) is perfumed by a sea breeze that floats up straight from the water. Sunlight slips through the white wooden slats of the canopy above, as you’re encouraged to sink into a menu that champions local fare. The menu is created by Michelin-starred chef Lefteris Lazarou, who is known for his knack of bringing forgotten produce back to people’s attention. Every mouthful hints at old traditions, exudes bountiful flavours, and has unique contemporary twists. In fact, it feels like you are island hopping as you savour dishes from all over Greece.
There’s the fish soup with saffron from Kozani that trickles down the throat like a calming elixir. The spiral-shaped cheese pie from Skopelos with wafer thin pastry that melts on the tongue, served with a rich peperonata of stewed peppers, onions and tomatoes. And then there’s the moussaka, which captures the essence of hearty and wholesome Greek cooking, traditionally served from one dish to feed a family.
Heroing local food doesn’t just expand palates, it also preserves cultural identity. Ikos Dassia in Corfu, where Michelin-starred chef Ettore Botrini was born and bred, is a shining example. Heading up Kerkyra restaurant, he serves up a staple from the neighbourhood, chicken pastitsada, a signature dish of the island. It is considered Corfu’s traditional Sunday dinner and ignites the same feelings of nostalgia, warmth and comfort.
If you think that’s where the gastronomic journey ends, you’re wrong. Continue testing your tastebuds beyond the resort’s walls with the complementary Ikos Dine Out experience. Find yourself perched at a table on the stone steps of an old windmill, reaching for forkfuls of grilled octopus, as the gentle twinkle of lights from boats glisten in the surrounding bay below.
Or take a gentle stroll through a local village to a family-run taverna and be welcomed with a glass of Athiri white wine and a spread of lovingly homemade mezze. The gentle hum of a husband-and-wife team cheerily turning to family recipes in the kitchen is an uplifting sound.
These aren’t the only chapters to the Ikos cookbook either. The resorts are planning new openings across Mallorca, the Algarve and Crete, so you can continue your unfettered taste exploration.