Herculean portions

Hercules Taverna, Tigaki, Kos Island, Greece

The food in Tigaki isn’t particularly sophisticated but I really enjoy the Greeks’ attitude towards portion size and grilled meat. That’s why before the holiday I went on a diet and shed a good ten pounds. I knew that I would put most of it back on over the course of the two week holiday because of all the mixed grills and alcohol I would be consuming.

On the subject of beer, more bars and tavernas in Tigaki serve Alpha rather than Mythos or a rather obscure ‘local beer’ on draft which is much the same as the others and could be compared to a weak version of Amstel (also widely available). To my palette Mythos and Alpha are almost indistinguishable from each other – with perhaps Mythos having a heavier stronger flavour. All the local beers I think are less alcoholic than Amstel.

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Hercules Taverna is a small (roughly 18 seats) and unpretentious taverna at the cheap end of town (further from the beach). Last year I had this to say about it:

It’s not the most initially inviting of places given that it’s one of those establishments that has big colour photos of the food up alongside the menu but I have to say I enjoyed the food there a lot more than at Meni or Oneiros and the staff were very attentive and friendly. I had a very tasty chicken souvlaki followed by the Greek interpretation of a tiramisu which was quite blancmangey in places but very edible all the same.

So it was a bit of a no-brainer to revisit Hercules as soon as we had got unpacked and reacquainted ourselves with Mayflower Apartments. I don’t have any photos from the visit this year, because we’d forgotten the camera on the first night.

The mixed grill arrived on a 12” plate and consisted of a homemade burger, spare rib, pork souvlaki (that’s a kebab on a skewer with a bit of pepper or onion in between chunks of meat), chicken steak, half a traditional Greek sausage, tzatziki and various other trimmings.

Tzatziki is a traditional Greek dip made from yogurt, shredded cucumber, crushed garlic, salt, olive oil, wine vinegar, and usually also strands of dill. Also among the trimmings for the mixed grill was a blob of sauerkraut which signals that the locals are willing to provide for German tourists just as much as the British.

Thankfully there were no chips on the plate (not that there was much room left for them anyway) just a bit of salad and some rice. I generally avoid the rice when in Greece as I think that if it is boiled in local water it might upset my stomach. There were also slices of grilled pitta. The pitta bread in Greece is unlike the dried out husks you get in UK supermarkets and more akin to Indian nan bread – spongy, soft and when toasted crispy on the outside. Excellent for dipping in the tzatziki or mopping up meat juices.

Like a lot of tavernas in Tigaki, Hercules is family run by friendly and attentive staff. We got our drinks – two big bottles of Mythos (one of the local lagers) with a new ring pull top we hadn’t seen before – quickly and the food came, in Greek terms, pretty quickly too. The meat was all cooked within an inch of burning – just how I like it – with the exception of the chicken which was succulent rather than dried out.

Siggy had a Greek salad and I ate the olives – big, moist and salty – because she detests them as much as raw onion (which we asked to be omitted from the salad). They leaned towards more tomato than cucumber and so I helped her out with that too in exchange for a bit of chicken and sausage.

The sausage was pretty standard across all the Greek mixed grills I’m going to talk about on this blog – either halved linearly or cut in half and then halved linearly to ensure it cooks through properly. The skin is thin and the insides are pretty rustic but not overly gristly and with the fatty flavour of a saveloy. As far as I recall the grill cost around 10.50 euros and so definitely won the prize for the cheapest one that I had in Kos.

All photography (c) Matthew Haynes.

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