When your sister-in-law tells you there’s one thing she wants for her 30th birthday and it’s dinner at a specific restaurant, it’s a pretty good request to get. Little sis’ Manning and her other half have been holidaying in Corfu for years and on one of their many visits were introduced to Archontiko by some friends. They’ve raved and raved about it, and a bit of research will show you it’s ranked the Number 2 restaurant in the whole of Corfu. So when Claire declared her biggest 30th birthday wish was to have dinner here with us and the friends who introduced them, it wasn’t exactly a hardship.
It certainly is a pretty special place. Perched high on the hills above St George on the south of the island, it’s not somewhere you would stumble across, especially as a tourist. On a sunny June evening, our taxis wound their way up some scarily narrow, steep tracks,feeling like the road to nowhere, then suddenly popped out at one of the most impressive restaurant locations I’ve ever been to.
A huge sprawling building, with panoramic terraces, furnished inside and out in impeccable style. There’s a Koi pond with picture perfect bridge, perfect for photos. And stunning views from the terraces across Corfu, the sparkly sea (I hesitate to call it azure, although it is) and beyond to mainland Greece and Albania. We had one of the impressive outdoor tables made of an ornamental Indonesian teak root topped with thick glass, laid with sparkling glassware and cutlery, and a beautiful floral centrepiece.
Akis the owner is a legend in his own right. He oozes charm, wooing guests with his soft voice and calming charm demeanour as he and other family members serve up food cooked by his wife.
The menu is a combination of traditional Greek dishes and some more Mediterranean choices, but all with a fine dining twist. As the newbies to the party, Mr M and I were happy to be guided by our fellow diners who, with probably more than 30 visits between them, can easily be considered regulars. So, rather than choose individual starters, we let Akis order a meze for us. Always a nice way of doing things in Greece.
There was the almost obligatory bread and Tzatziki, as well as Tirokafteri, a spicy feta dip. And then the feast really got going. There were some Greek classics, some slightly more Italian-influenced dishes and then some slightly unexpected, but still tasty offerings.
After months of anticipation, we dug into griddled asparagus, large sweet green peppers stuffed with feta, and courgette cakes – strips of tender courgette (from Archontiko’s own garden), pepper and tomato formed into a cake and deep fried to form a crispy side. Alongside this, We had plates of cured Iberico ham, and beef carpaccio Served with rocket and balsamic vinegar. We also tried an unexpected, but tasty, dish of oyster mushrooms cooked in a Chinese five spice sauce.
For main course, there was an array of choices, from fresh fish to Greek classics, but after years of rave reviews of the steak, we couldn’t ignore the selection of fillet steaks with various sauces. I went for fillet with pepper and mushroom sauce, while Mr M opted for a T-bone. Most of our table ordered steaks, while one chose the swordfish. The steaks were simply presented, served with jacket potatoes and asparagus and cherry tomatoes. As you know, I’m more of a ribeye than a fillet fan, but the steak was lean and tasty, while the sauce was not quite as peppery as I’d like but tasty all the same.
My dinner neighbour (thanks Neil for your patience backlighting my photos!) had a steak with a Ranchero sauce which I would choose next time. Smoky fajita-flavours which complimented the subtle taste of the fillet well. His lovely wife Jayne had surf and turf so got the benefit of steak as well as some whopping great big grilled prawns. The swordfish was tender and soft, and packed with flavour. A generous portion too, with two large fillets served with roast courgette, boiled potatoes, garlic mash, artichoke hearts and samphire. A winner of a dish, I reckon.
Each course was punctuated by shots of raki or limoncello for those of us who don’t like the former, adding to the party atmosphere, although I’m told this is par for the course and not just for special occasions. The homemade desserts, I’m told, are usually quite impressive and can vary from night to night, but we were treated to a special birthday cake of nutty, chocolatey, moussey goodness reminiscent of a Ferrero Rocher.
By this time, the sun was well gone, and we wiled away the early hours of the morning overlooking the dark hills, punctuated by smatterings of lights from the nearby villages, with liqueurs, coffees, and cigars for some. Eventually, we wound our way back down the steep hilly tracks in taxis, full of food and fond memories of a special 30th birthday celebration.
I can completely see why our family and friends have raved about Archontiko. You’re hard pushed to find such a unique setting, welcoming owner, and food that is certainly different from your average Greek taverna. If you’re in Corfu, try to find your way to Archontiko. It’s more than just a meal, it’s a dining experience you won’t forget.
We paid for everything we had at Archontiko, and they didn’t know I was going to write a review (until I had a few drinks and told them about my blog at the end of the night ;-))