We Want YOU: To Visit Our Favorite Foodie Hotel in Greece
Fab flavors and design flair unite in Crete? Mais oui!!
Note de la rédaction: on attend impatiemment la réouverture de l'hotel. La chronique ci-dessous vient du cahier de notre "correspondant" Antoine de Grant, c'est comme ça.
= HERAKLION, CIRCA 2019 =
I have often wandered over the ramparts in this not very European city that is my inexplicable but infinite Trieste and old Jaffa rolled into one, sailed in saner times to her rocky but enchanted shores: and quite simply, I don’t think you’ll find any finer home in Crete’s intriguing Heraklion than here...
Officially, of course, it’s an island in the Mediterranean, but in terms of Hellenic geography, Crete is more like a continent. It’s not an island like some of those closer to Athens that you can “do” in a day. In fact, the history of a place like Heraklion, the largest city of Crete and the fourth largest in Greece, is so rich that one day is not really enough even for that.
And then there are the intertwining legacies for which Crete is justly celebrated: the legacies of culture and gastronomy, of freedom and fighting for it, and fos: the light. They all manifest themselves in various ways: perhaps it’s the tangy-sweet Cretan olive oil you drizzle over your Greek salad, or the way the morning sun fires up the walls of Koules, the Venetian fortress that has guarded Heraklion’s port since 1540, or the bust of Nikos Kazantzakis, the author of Zorba the Greek and much more, that sits unobtrusively in the lively square in front of the Legacy Gastro Suites hotel.
The truth is, this celebration is multifaceted. Crete is the kind of place that beckons you without ever coming out and saying it to slow down, ease up on the selfies and do something perhaps counterintuitive in these hyperspeed/fractured times: indulge your senses and as my grandmother was wont to say in her latter years, enjoy.
Crete is the kind of place where a beach might be more than just a beach and where a port city is more than just a port...and where a hotel like Legacy Gastro Suites is more than just a place to sleep. Enfin bref, it's an experience.
When I arrived, hot to the point of overheated—Crete is about as far south as Europe gets, remember—I was offered a friendly smile at the check-in desk and a glass of refreshing lemonade on the rocks paired with a small local treat to nibble: the perfect way to take the edge off the exhaustion that accompanies modern travel.
Then I went up to my room, the K Suite (as in K for Kazantzakis) on the fourth floor, opened the door and immediately found my attention was torn between the panoramic view of a part of Heraklion’s Venetian ramparts and the sweep of blue sea beyond—and the gorgeous customized food station which seemed like an invitation I could not refuse.
That’s partly owing to the design, a very interesting design, think warm blend of marble and walnut with a range of nooks and crannies filled with various curated gourmet Greek treats and yet more items to tempt such as Cretan cold cuts and local cheeses all neatly arranged in a chic glass-door mini-fridge underneath. In sum? Yum.
Fresh Cretan artichokes in olive oil, smoked Portobello mushrooms (also in olive oil), savory askordoulakous (Greek bulbs with vinegar and salt), Galeni Cretan soft cheese and a serving of tender Kavourmas beef—yes, I think I’ll try it all! But not all at once, because there’s no hurry and as I mentioned, I’m tired. And so I momentarily turn away from the food station and the view to sink into a plush velvet sofa, from which I look up at framed prints of antique maps of Candia, as the Venetians called Crete. The sense of place is as they say in Hebrew, chazak (emphasis on second syllable): strong.
Then, there are the wonderful walnut bookshelves, a slender one next to the écritoire by the big window and another one built quite ingeniously in two layers over the vintage-style headboard. And of course, there are the books: Alexander the Great, Neolithic and Cycladic Civilization, Greece travel guides, art books, scholarly books, a biography of Louis XIV—and did not Kazantzakis, who is buried within the Heraklion ramparts, spend his final years in strange but occasionally tantalizing France?
There won’t be enough time to digest it all because there never is, and in the meantime, light is streaming in from the infinite Cretan sky and filling the room. Should I take that nap? With the touch of a button the drapes will close and I can drift off but no, an afternoon snooze might be a slight disservice to the poetry of arrival, because this place inspires happiness and local pride so though I wouldn’t normally do so outside of a meal, I decide it’s time for a glass of Cretan rouge out on le balcon.
I text a local friend who wanted to meet up at a popular café in the square. No way, I write back: you are coming up here, and when you see this range of delicacies and this view, you will see why. The friend comes. Another glass of wine is poured. The sun is high, the sea sinuous and blue like the tail of the blue monkey in the Minoan fresco in the famous museum at the opposite end of the square (with his monkey cousins in Santorini) and I think, why can’t every afternoon be like this? Well, that’s an easy one: because you can’t spend every day at Legacy Gastro Suites. Dreams are only real while they last. And I am in no hurry—not to run off to the beach, not to surf the Internet (though the Wifi is super fast) not in a rush to do anything, really, except hit the brakes and, I must unapologetically say, luxuriate. La salle de bain...!
...et la chambre!
That first night in the K Suite, morning took a while to come. When it did another culinary experience accompanied it, in the form of a delicious gourmet homemade breakfast. Yes, I could have ordered à la carte and on another day I would but today’s would be a set breakfast to the tune of tachini pudding with cocoa and nuts, an absolutely delectable trahanas (a kind of porridge) with feta and herbs; freshly baked bread, homemade breakfast cakes, fresh orange juice, and good strong coffee.
This is home-style Greek cooking with true Cretan flair. With all due respect for the one and only cucina Italiana, this is cooking with heart and soul. And when it tastes this good, it only leaves you with an appetite for more. Mais voilà: that food station isn’t going anywhere. And for a precious while at least, neither was I.