Where to eat near Chania
This blog does not usually feature restaurant reviews. But – inspired perhaps by the presence of Fay Maschler on the same plane back from Athens – I thought I’d venture to share with you a couple of my favourite, regular eateries near Chania.
In fact, we had a number of memorable meals while we were in Crete. One extraordinary evening involved dining in an inland village restaurant…a single table was already laid up for us in the road in front of the church as we drove in, and the lamb chops were already cooking on the brazier, and a feast followed. As one of my Greek friends said, it felt a bit like a scene in an Italian movie.
But for regular re-fuelling we went either to the restaurant in our village, or on the beach. Both of them must count as “unspoilt” (no glossy pictures of the food propped up outside, no man stationed in the road to entrap the passing tourist)…both have been going strong, to my knowledge, for 20 years. Both are in easy reach of Chania by car.
The first is in Tsikalaria, just a few miles outside Chania, off the road leading to Souda. It isn’t honestly much to look at: an open terrace with a do-it-yourself roof, and an inside room for when it’s cold. But it has a stupendous view right over Souda Bay (we would watch the huge ferryboat chug out for Athens at 9 o’clock every night) and at the right time of year the swallows parade on the telephone wires that run by the terrace teaching their rather dopey young to fly.
The restaurant’s called “To Kouneli”, or “The Rabbit”. Our children used to think that this was a charming Bugs Bunny sort of title. In fact it refers to one of the establishment’s specialities. (They also used to think that the animals in the field across the road were part of a zoo – rather than a collection of what would sooner or later end up on a plate.)
Not everything the menu promises is on offer each night, but you can regularly get delicious meat (not just rabbit, but lamb and pork too) and a whole range of Cretan goodies. We always went for the “horta” (wild or garden greens), “mizithra” (soft sheep or goat’s cheese, a bit like ricotta), and the “kalitsounakia” (little cheese and spinach pies), and the wonderful cheese-topped chips. I also have particular liking for “staka”. This comes hot and tastes like soft melted cheese. Actually I discovered last week that it was pure sheep’s cream, lightly fried…enough cholesterol to last a lifetime.
Anyway for three of us, we usually had more than we could eat and drink (good local wine) for less than 30 euros for the whole lot.
The other is the restaurant on the beach – Kiani Akti – where we went after a good morning’s work. This beach is on the way from Chania to the English colonies of Kalives and Almirida. But – apart from one large and dreadfully ugly new hotel (happily not visible from our bit of the beach) – it is still a Greek family beach, just as it has been for decades – nicely equipped with restaurant, looking over the sand (enabling kids to be watched while parents continue consuming).
In addition to the other options, here you can get tremendous fish. Heaven knows what sort it is (fish names, for me, are completely baffling in any foreign language . . ) and it changes from day to day. But it is all wonderful – especially, in my view, with the “kolokithakia” (that is the fried courgettes).
Fish is pricier than meat. But even pigging out on more that you can eat, plus drinks etc, it would be hard to spend more than 60 euros for three.