Sometimes it’s the simplest meals that are the most special. And on holiday in Corfu, I was lucky enough to have one of these.
In case it hasn’t become completely clear by now, Mr M and I love Greek food. We had plenty of great meals during our hols (you can see lots of them in this gallery) and there are a few standouts, but one place was so simple yet wonderful that we went back twice.
Being the food-obsessed kids we are, whenever we go away there’s a bit of research that goes into finding some special places to eat. We happened upon a Daily Telegraph article that listed a few places we wanted to try, including some great fish restaurants. Armed with some names, a map, and our little scooter, we tootled off one day to find one of them in the nearby village of Boukari.
This picturesque little place lies right on the coast, complete with that picture-perfect scenery of little coves, glittering water and tavernas dotted along the road that runs just feet from the water’s edge. Each restaurant looked fabulous, with tables sitting over the water, amazing views, and menus packed with fresh fish. Despite the temptation, we stuck with our original plan and held out until we got to Boukari Beach.
When we arrived, it was at the perfect time for a lazy late afternoon lunch. The greeting was cheerful, our table in a perfect spot, and the menu wonderfully tempting. The beauty of the Greek islands, and especially places that are just down the road from the fishing towns, is you know you can eat something that was dragged out of the water that very morning. Our host offered us that day’s catch of sea bream, sea bass, red mullet or red snapper. How could we refuse? We went for snapper, and were confidently told we’d get a big enough one for two, with some salad and some chips. Being the greedy gutses we are, we couldn’t resist ordering a Greek salad and some Tirokafteri, or spicy feta dip (Mr Manning’s new fave starter, having impressively overtaken Tzatziki in his affections).
These were great, but when the fish arrived, I had one of those moments where you can’t quite contain your excitement at what you’re about to eat. When the waiter said enough for two, he definitely meant it. More like four, not that we were complaining. I’ve since found out that Mama Vlachopoulos, whose family owns the restaurant as well as some nearby accommodation, does the cooking. And a damn good job she does too. This was simplicity at its best, with the fish grilled then drizzled with olive oil and lemon. We were given an extra jug of olive oil and lemon, but it didn’t really need it in our opinion.
The fish was fresh, tender and moist, with meaty white flakes that fell away from the bones with the lightest of touches from a fork. The skin was chargrilled and smoky, and the flesh tasty and full of flavour. I can’t quite work out whether it’s the fact that we rarely get fish like that at home, or whether it’s the perfect combination of the setting, the sunshine, and the seafood that makes it so heavenly. Either way, it was bloody marvellous!
The chips were a simple accompaniment that we probably didn’t need, but ate anyway. I washed mine down with some local, light red wine, while Mr M enjoyed a beer. We wiled away the sunny afternoon enjoying one of those brilliant holiday experiences that you rave about for years to come, and a memory you store up for a rainy day. Cheesy, I know, but for me this is what holidays are all about – experiencing things you don’t get to do at home and having yourself your own little mini adventure.
Blown away by our beautiful find, we couldn’t help but return with little sis’ Manning and her other half a few days later. We arrived mid-afternoon and spent a few hours lazing on the beach next to the restaurant on the free beds they offer, and taking in the picture-perfect views. A quick enquiry as to whether they had another red snapper (little sis’ was super keen to have one) saw us dragged to the fridge full of that day’s stash of fish, where we chose ourselves a monster snapper for the evening, and got in an order for some other fishy treats, from octopus in classic Corfu Bourdeto sauce to fried calamari and mussels.
After a few beers, a swim, a snooze and plenty of sun, we wandered onto the terrace still in our beach clothes where we started off with Jamie’s beloved Tirokafteri, along with some homemade pitta bread. Forget cardboard-like pockets you get from Asda – Greek pitta is a whole new world. Fresh, light and covered in herbs, it’s the perfect vehicle for any kind of dip. From that point, we had a fishy feast to end all feasts. The calamari, light and crispy, was declared the “best I’ve ever had” by Claire’s other half. The mussels came in a garlicky, salty broth and were hoovered up by Claire, despite having never had them before. The Bourdeto, which is actually Corfu’s most famous fish dish, was my favourite – huge chunks of octopus cooked in a bright red, rich and tangy tomatoey and red peppery sauce. I can’t believe I’d never tried this style before, I’ve been missing out.
The piece de resistance was the red snapper (again). When you’ve enjoyed something so much and raved about it, there’s always that fear that you might have exaggerated it, or other people just won’t like it as much as you. So the taste was even better when it was accompanied by the feeling of relief that no, we hadn’t imagined it. This fish and the way it’s cooked really was something special. Tender, chunky flakes of fish; smoky, crispy skin; tangy lemony and olive oily taste. Perfection! Again, we didn’t really need the extra jug of lemon and olive oil, so good was it on its own. We probably didn’t really need the chips either, but yet again they disappeared all the same.
The wonderful welcome Mr M and I had received from the moment we first arrived at Boukari Beach didn’t wear thin, despite us appearing to have moved into the restaurant by the amount of time we’d been there. Our reticence to leave was somewhat enabled by the free dessert, coffees and copious shots of Raki, and never have four people so unenthusiastically left a restaurant. I suppose you could argue that it’s easy to be a place that people rave about when you’ve got an idyllic setting, perfect weather, and a ready source of fresh fish. But Boukari Beach isn’t just about that. It’s about the family atmosphere and the fact that as a guest, you’re welcomed into that fold. It’s the kind of place where people ask your name, and you get the feeling that they may well remember it when you come back the next year. It is the stuff of great memories, and I know for sure there are four people who will cherish that wonderful day of sun, seafood and simplicity for a long time to come.
We paid for everything we had at Boukari beach (which was very reasonable I might add). They didn’t know I was a food blogger or that I’d write about this.