One of the most magical of all the Greek islands is Mykonos. Its charm and beauty have firmly cemented its reputation as being the jewel of the Aegean sea for decades now and many devoted regulars to the island say it surpasses the delights of Capri, and that it is widely preferred by the world’s elite party goers than Ibiza. Over the past quarter of a century, the low-lying, sun-drenched island has welcomed the jet set, and anyone who likes to party past sunrise will adore Mykonos Town. The local town is the meeting place for all tourists and locals. With its white washed cubed houses built to confuse pirates centuries ago, even today the town’s narrow streets are a magical labyrinth of alleyways and buildings with heavily white washed stairwells and walls finished with the most brilliant blue window shutters.
However, not much is known about how Mykonos is building a reputation as a Mecca for foodies, an inspirational epicentre for some of the finest dishes and restaurants you can find anywhere in the world.
My first stop on my Mykonian quest is Avra, located in the picturesque Kalogera Street behind Alpha Bank. The entrance to the restaurant is charming and inviting, walking down into the outside garden and courtyard I am thrilled by the stunning setting. Lined with gorgeous pink and white bougainvillea trees, candle light and the cosy décor Avra has encapsulated inside and out.
When I arrive one of the owners Niko takes time to welcome me and we talk over an espresso. Immediately I know I’m going to enjoy my visit as the coffee is smooth and rich served at the perfect temperature. We talk about the Mykonian culture and way of life, and he tells me about his partner in Avra, Sarah who is on a photo shoot for the evening. All the staff at Avra are knowledgeable and friendly, with a warmth often lost in thriving tourist hotspots such as this. It’s the end of season now but in July and August Avra is packed out every day and night, they will always manage to find each guest the perfect table however.
Sadly, like all fantastic restaurants the choice of dishes is endless and so I can’t try everything on the menu as I would like to.
Being a fan of feta, and rarely tasting it out of a salad I immediately spot the hot appetiser, Sesame Feta. This comes thinly wrapped in soft pastry deep fried and topped with sesame seeds, at the side come grapes and a delicious rose petal jelly. The soft cheese with its warm and salty texture melted perfectly with the crispy sesame pastry and the sweetness, and fresh flavours from the jelly and grapes clean the palette to perfection.
The Shrimp Avocado, the Octopus in white wine sauce and the Moussaka also take my fancy so will have to come back next year for those…
On to the main and similarly there are many dishes which catch my eye, most notably the vast selection of pastas, risottos and salads which all come in a mouth watering array of different combinations and Avra special sauces and accompaniments.
It’s clear that Avra doesn’t just serve food. It’s one of the key places to wine and dine, celebrate and party, relax and meet friends while either working in Mykonos, or simply holidaying on the island.
Sometimes, to experience top class cuisine you need to go back to basics, and appreciate the quality of their produce even from the simplest of meals. I opt for the beef burgers with Roquefort for my main course. I am literally blown away by the lightness of the beef. Soft and delicate in texture, but hearty and divine in flavour I ask Niko what the secret is to the recipe. “It’s all about the cut of the beef we use. Many people when they make burgers they take the cut from the leg. It’s tasty but it can be very tough and you end up with a hard burger. We use the shoulder, and with some oregano, and olive oil and our secret spices it makes for a lighter and more pleasing texture.”
I don’t have room for dessert which is surprising as I have a really sweet tooth; however it just shows how generous the portions are at Avra.
This is a first class Greek odyssey, one that must be seen to be believed. Niko’s twenty years experience as head chef in many major restaurants in Mykonos, brings his reputation and unique talents into the Avra kitchen, priding himself on quality. Avra will be hard to beat and I thoroughly recommend taking a trip to Mykonos next year, just so you can visit.