A former teacher and charity worker from the North East of England, I love people and places and like to try out new experiences wherever possible. Capturing that 'perfect pic' is all part of the pleasure. Access issues are a particular interest.
Published October 20th 2014
Come in Your Table is Waiting
Margaret with husband Colin Out on the Town in Kefalonia
There's something about eating outdoors. it's always part of a great holiday in my view and the Ionian island of Kefalonia has been our choice of destination three times over the past twelve years. On each occasion we've chosen either self-catering or bed and breakfast holidays, our reason being is that Greek food is so delicious, it would be impolite not to sample the local fare while you're there.
Over twenty years or so, my husband Colin and I have done our share of all-inclusive, half and full board holidays, but there's something about Greece that is so inviting when it comes to dining out.
I can't ever remember being touted to eat in a Greek restaurant unlike some other holiday resorts we've chosen. Sure, we stop at places that take our fancy and maybe look at the menu (and the prices) on display outside the establishment, but we don't feel pestered. It's more a case of 'come in, your table is waiting' than the blatant touting you get in other European resorts.
Many of the tavernas in Greece are family owned; besides offering great, unpretentious Mediterranean cuisine, there's a great sense of welcome when you arrive and you never feel hurried to leave.
With fish hatcheries in the Bay of Argostoli and an agrarian economy based on olive trees and Mediterranean vegetables, meat and milk comes from goats while Kefalonia also has its own vineyards, there's a great sense of consuming fresh, locally sourced food and buying into a way of life when you visit a restaurant on the island.
During the daytime, there's something to be said for the Mediterranean culture of sitting outdoors on a glorious afternoon enjoying a drink or meal and watching the world go by.
So here's my selection of a few lovely local restaurants and tavernas on Kefalonia that we've repeatly visited.
La Gondola Argostoli
La Gondola Restaurant sign - Facebook image
The first time I ever tasted frappe (more than a decade ago) was in a restaurant called La Gondola in the Kefalonian capital Argostoli's, Villianous Square, which is the city's main square near the Ionian Plaza Hotel.
On a very hot day, and feeling a bit footsore, my hubby, son and I sat down on sumptuously thick cushioned cane chairs under their large and very welcome sun umbrellas and ordered some iced coffee. Frappe means something different in other countries such as Italy where it means a milk-shake, but in Greece it means iced coffee even though La Gondola is an Italian restaurant.
Made to order to suit your individual preference in terms of milkiness, sweetness and with or without ice cream, it was the most delicious coffee I'd ever tasted. Needless to say we stayed for more and spent a pleasurable afternoon in a very nice setting just watching the comings and goings of Kefalonian life while we sipped our drinks.
This time round it was lunch time so I ordered a Mediterranean sandwich. Not quite knowing what to expect I was surprised when a large, warm baguette arrived consisting of feta cheese with black olives and salad with an olive oil dressing to moisten the bread. My husband had a tuna baguette of similar proportions and we spent a good while happily munching our way through these while enjoying our frappes and other drinks we'd ordered. I think it came to less than 20 Euros for the meal, two frappes each and some beer and cola. Not bad at all.
Officially classed as a pizzeria/restaurant, La Gondola also had an extensive menu of hot dishes Greek, Italian and international favourites such as omelettes, steak and fish dishes.
As we were only in Argostoli for the day we were staying in Lixouri across the bay we didn't sample any of the evening meals but if the quality of the food and the friendly service we received was anything to go by, we would go back anytime we got the chance.
Argostoli is a very nice place to visit while you're on Kefalonia, with its museums, shopping and interesting, places to visit.
Its grand public buildings, many of which were rebuilt following a major earthquake in 1953, are impressive and a reminder of classical Grecian architecture. There's also a clock tower in a square at the other end of the main shopping street, which is the historical centre of the city. For a small fee, you can climb the spiral stairs to the top and investigate the inner working of the bell tower and see beautiful views over the city. There's also a photographic exhibition of Argostoli before 1953 on the first floor showing images of the Venetian architecture which once prevailed across the island.
A visit to Koutavos Lagoon turtle conservation area on Argostoli Bay is also a delightful way to spend your day when visiting the island's capital.
Kefalonia map from Greeka.com
Kefalonia is very popular with Italian visitors due to the regular ferry service from mainland Italy to the Kefalonian port of Sami and this is reflected in the selection of Italian dishes available in many Kefalonian restaurants alongside traditional Greek food.
The restaurant is open all year round from 10a.m. - 1a.m. each day.
Address - Platia Vallianou, Kefalonia, Greece
Tel: 30 2671 023658
Last time we visited Kefalonia seven years ago, we stayed in Aghia Efimia a beautiful fishing harbour and resort on the eastern side of the island and we dined a few times at the Captain Corelli restaurant.
It was at this restaurant that I first tasted octopus. Although fish has never been my favourite, I have an internal zest to try the local food wherever we go the way I see it is that you're going to get a taste of something new, prepared by someone who really knows how to cook it.
Octopus is not something you usually find on the menu in UK restaurants so I was happy to give it a go. It was beautifully cooked and it has definitely converted me I've eaten octopus several times since then.
The restaurant seemingly adopted the named during the filming of the Hollywood movie Captain Corelli's Mandolin in 2000 when most of the cast and crew would meet there at the end of the day.
This year we visited Aghia Efimia while on an island tour coach trip and we stopped there for lunch. Suffice it to say, I wanted to see if Corelli's had changed all that much.
Situated on the harbour road close to a pier used for many boat trip departures. The open sided restaurant has beautiful views of the bay across to Sami.
Enjoy the View - Colin on the pier in Aghia Efimia 2007
Once again we each had frappe and some delicious goats chees toasted sandwiches. The food and drink was very nice but they took a long time to arrive and, as we couldn't stay all day, I felt obliged to inform a waitress that we were on a coach trip and in a hurry.
Margaret enjoys her frappe at Captain Corelli's Taverna
Life goes at a slower pace on Kefalonia and we hadn't factored that in when we chose a busy restaurant to stop for lunch, but I would certainly go back again. Maybe I'm swayed by the star-struck effect, but who cares, I'm on holiday.
This year (summer 2014) we stayed in Lixouri, which is just across the bay from Argostoli, the island capital. Lixouri is the second largest town on the island of Kefalonia but it has a distinctly village feel about it in comparison with the large conurbations of the UK. The town has a pretty harbour and a shoreline that is a ribbon of red sand on the Gulf of Argostoli, stretching all the way up to Lepeda Beach where it meets the Ionian Sea.
We ate several times at Maxim's restaurant, which is just off the square facing the sea and looking across to Argostoli.
On the menu were a host of traditional Greek dishes, of which we were happy to partake over the course of our two week holiday.
Among our favourites are kleftiko - a tender lamb shank slowly oven cooked in its own dish over the course of the day, moussaka a traditional dish made from minced lamb, aubergines and a bιchamel sauce arranged in layers and oven baked and souvaki skewered pork or chicken with local vegetables and peppers served with rice (or chips. There were also lots of fish dishes such as kalamari (squid) and sea bass, to name a few.
I ordered moussaka on a couple of occasions and it arrived piping hot in its own oven proof dish the waitress warning me of its bubbling temperature before setting it down on the table in front of me.
I heeded her warning and was happy to run my knife through the contents of the dish to allow it to cool while I ate my salad (and chips) that came with the meal. Once cooled, I was then able to eat it with my fork having already cut it into bite sized pieces. It was delicious.
Colin ordered fish whenever I chose the moussaka but on one occasion we both had the kleftiko. A long time Greek favourite of ours we were looking forward to savouring the slow cooked shank but we both found it a little too 'herby' for our liking. It seems, however, that this is a traditional Kefalonia recipe as we also had kleftiko at another restaurant while we were there and again found the amout of dried herbs used when cooking the meat not to our taste, in comparison with other places we've visited in Greece.
In keeping with Greek hospitality we were served with chunks of fresh bread and butter (free of charge) at most restaurants while we waited for our starter or main meal to arrive and often had a complimentary plate of melon to share and/or a shot of liquer at the end of the evening too.
The service was excellent, they couldn't do enough for us, even if the rustic chairs were a little numbing on the behind after a while, but the atmosphere was nice and we had a good time every time we visited Maxim's.
As for Colin, his favourite dish was the grilled sea bass. I'm sure I can still hear him purring.
The tables were set out close to the water's edge and on one occasion the moon appeared and cast a glow over the water on Argostoli Bay. Lots of camera came out as couples got that perfect picture of their significant other in the moonlight. Romance is not lost when you're on a beautiful Greek island on a balmy summer's evening and the moon even appears on cue.