The gorgeous Greek island of Crete is a dream destination for food lovers. Authentic dishes are crafted from fresh produce raised in rich Greek soil – think vegetables, fish and herbs which are expertly combined to create dishes that are so much more than the sum of their parts. When searching for your next fix of fluffy pitta or skewered lamb it’s easy to get lost in the labyrinth of sun-soaked restaurants on offer – but that’s where we come in. We’ve selected four of the best restaurants in Crete so you can dine in true Cretan style, sampling village favourites and recipes handed down from one proud generation to the next.
Owned by two brothers who share a passion for Cretan cooking, Leventis Taverna is the place to sample the island’s tasty traditional dishes. This rustic restaurant is tucked away in the backstreets of Stalos, with a cosy interior that opens onto a terrace with mountain views that are almost mesmerising enough to steal your attention from the dishes. But the Chatzimanolakis brothers are the real stars of the show here. Take your pick from slow simmered goat, wine drenched stews and crisp bread loaded with crumbled feta and tomatoes (not an easy decision, we know). Laventis Taverna has received numerous awards for its hearty Cretan cuisine and will likely draw in locals and tourists alike for years to come.
Love a sea view and all things fine dining? Then you’ll adore Palazzo Al Mare. Perched on Chania’s old harbour, the al fresco dining experience oozes elegance and waterside serenity. The menu blends traditional Cretan and Mediterranean cuisine with the sort of top-quality ingredients Crete is known for. Whether it’s seafood fresh from the surrounding waters or vegetables grown in local soils, dishes here are prepared with real artistry. Fried graviera cheese, grilled octopus that sizzles on arrival and saucy shrimp linguine served with a carefully selected Cretan wine will leave your stomach certain that this is one of the best restaurants in Crete.
Hidden in the foothills of the Lefka Ori is Dounias, a rustic farm-to-table tavern where the recipes rustled up seem to be pulled from a loving grandmother’s cookbook. Think vegetables cultivated in the surrounding gardens, cheese made from self-raised cattle and olive oil extracted from their own orchard, all loaded into a clay pot above a roaring log fire. You’ll struggle to beat the dining experience here with slow-cooked goat falling apart on your fork, a snug seat on the thatched veranda and views over the mountain valley below. Sign us up!
Last on our list of the best restaurants in Crete is AVLI, a quaint Venetian villa that offers up world-class gastronomic dishes from rich stews dotted with delicate edible flowers to slathers of tzatziki on burnt orange ceramic plates. Located in the colourful city of Rethymno, AVLI is the kind of restaurant where you come for the delectable food and stay for the luxurious ambience. The patio is a real treat, decorated with cloth laden tables, bursts of palms trees, dapples of shade and drips of sunlight. And the cherry on top? AVLI also offers the chance to learn about their creative process with hands-on cooking masterclasses, where you can experience their passion for bespoke Cretan ingredients.
Written by Evie Buller | Header image by Pierre Brumder