My sister Helena chose our holiday this year, as she had suggested a family trip and we were distinctly lacking in imagination. Fiscardo, on the Greek island of Kefalonia, was our destination.
Kefalonia satisfies all the beach holiday 'must haves': crystal clear water, beautiful beaches, quaint harbours, and a predictable climate. It also wipes you out. I'm not talking waves, but wallets. Fiscardo harbour's summer takings (€7 frappe, anyone?) will most likely solve the nation's debt crisis.
We followed the flocks to the harbour, and ate mediocre food at £30 a head for a few nights (chewy stifado, and enough Greek salads to put me off feta for life), before we decided to turn away from the harbour, dragged ourselves up the hill, and came across this beautiful place overlooking the bay.
The 83 year old owner and chef, Hrodotos, has been running his business, Panorama Taverna, for over 40 years. He'll offer you a laminated menu, but there's little point reading it. He makes 2 or 3 slow-cook dishes early every morning, and has a fresh selection of fish, meat, and vegetables for grilling or deep frying. Every day the menu changes: just as it should be. 'Let me tell you what we've got', followed by mouthwatering descriptions of the components of each dish, was music to our ears.
This was the beautifully rich feta (used judiciously) and tomato saganaki.
This murky Greek version of 'bouillabaisse' won't win any beauty contests. Hrodotos described it as 'special bouillabaisse', and it didn't disappoint on flavour: delicate and soft flakes of cod and red mullet in a light and herby vegetable-based stock, a refreshing change to the heavy greasy dishes Greece has earned a dubious reputation for.
Fried calamari. Not a hint of chewiness to these deep-fried and perfectly seasoned cephalopods - a hard trick to pull off.
Slow-cooked veal with lemon, carrot and potato. I rarely add potato to stews, rather cook them separately. If you do too, break the habit. It's easier to chuck them in a stew, requires fewer pans, and they take on the taste of the rich stock. Our 1-year-old boy couldn't get enough of this. The lemon and carrots gave it a fresh and sweet lift, and the veal could not have been more tender. A simple yet artful dish.
The homemade crème caramel. These little beauties were still setting, so I didn't get a chance to try them. I was reliably informed that they are worth waiting for.
Here's the man himself, gamely giving our boy a lift.
Should you find yourself homing in on one of Greece's most beautiful islands, please resist the overpriced harbour and head here. Hrodotos will welcome you with open arms, and the most spectacular home cooked Greek food you have ever eaten.