Three lunches out and about in Greece

1. Unnamed side-street cafe, Pothia, Kalymnos Island, Greece (22 June)

With very little time but hunger in our bellies before we had to catch the ferry back to Kos island we ducked into a bakery shop on a side street opposite the port in Pothia – the capital ‘city’ of Kalymnos. There was nothing worth eating in that shop so we did a one-eighty and crossed the road to another establishment that had tables and chairs outside in a small area by the pavement. It guess it was the Greek equivalent of Gregg’s but they did a great vanilla milkshake, gave us free water and the flat cheese, ham and tomato pastry I had sure hit the spot.

2. Syrtaki Taverna, Kefalos Bay, Kos Island, Greece (25 June)

There were plenty of tavernas to choose from along Kamari beach in Kefalos. We had spent a short time exploring the town and then walked down the hill to relax on the beach for a while. I had scoped out a few nearby tavernas while Siggy sweltered and so when it came to lunchtime we made a bee-line for Syrtaki taverna.

Siggy had mushroom soup and bread. No really she did. A great winter warmer but in Greece in the middle of a heat wave? Anyhoo, I had a Syrtaki salad which involved croutons, grilled chicken, cheese, tomato, lettuce and cucumber. The dressing was excellent and they were happy to leave off the onions for me.

I had intended to have some fish but I was disappointed to find that most of the reasonably priced fish was from frozen and the fresh fish was priced ridiculously. Anyway I got my little fishies on a little dishy on our third trip oot and aboot…

3. Olive Press Taverna, Kardamena, Kos Island, Greece (27 June)

Situated right next to the sea in the rather iffy resort town of Kardamena the Olive Press taverna has a lot of fresh fish on the menu and was an obvious choice for me given my cravings for some sardines. It was getting rather blowy at around two o’clock when we sat down for lunch and so place mats, serviettes and even the drink coasters had to be weighed down. The wind was welcome though as it was damnably hot (in the low 40s centigrade).

Before the fish we got a little hors d’œuvre plate in the form of a sun dried tomato, olives and unidentified green leaves (may have been sea related) in olive oil. We downed some lemonade (a Greek version of Fanta called Natural rather than homemade lemonade because were cheapskates) and a bit of water while we waited for the fish to be cooked on a small open air grill situated on the large patio area shared by around six or so tables. The view was of the sea, the boats and wind-surfers passing by, and the thin strip of beach leading away from the main built-up part of Kardamena.

Siggy had an unremarkable ham and cheese toastie but toasting was evidently the best thing to do with the bread supplied with our meal which was a day old – tough and dry. The sardines were presented very simply on a fish shaped glass dish and lettuce leaf and drizzled with a light lemony dressing. The fish were filleted and butterflied – the first time I have seen this done in all my sardine eating experience (and trust me I’ve eaten a school of the little blighters in my time and spent ages picking the bigger bones out if they weren’t soft enough to eat). There were still the tails and sometimes the top fin to scrape away but most of what was on the plate ended up being edible.

The taste of freshly grilled fresh sardines combined with lemon juice is something that I will always associate with being on holiday in Greece and that taste sensation coupled with the nostalgia over other holidays is the reason I craved this simple dish. There was an almost bitter iron taste to sardines which needs to be cut through by the acid of the lemon and the combination is simply classic.

All photography (c) Matthew Haynes.

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