Hi folks, I'm back. Sorry about the long-ish gap, but I'm of the opinion that it's best not to write unless one has something half-decent or interesting to write about. Otherwise it's not going to be much cop when all said and done. That of course, and the fact that I was - as they'd say oop north - "raht poorly" for a few days last week too.
Sounds a bit quintessentially British doesn't it, "Ice cream on the lawn"? I mean of course, that we ate ice cream whilst sitting on a lawn, not that the ice cream was, ...oh well, you're already there aren't you.
Having arrived home from the UK late on Saturday evening of the 20th, after - when all's said and done - a very smooth journey home, thanks to my mum's nextdoor neighbour Roger, First Great Western Trains and Easyjet, we went straight to bed, after a nice cup of Earl Grey of course. As I mentioned on the "News and Stuff" page, the day we travelled home was also our wedding anniversary, so we didn't exactly celebrate in style. So, executive decision, Sunday morning we'd unpack everything and then scoot off somewhere for lunch, since it was a wonderfully clear Rhodean day without a cloud and considerably warmer than the temperatures we'd been experiencing for the preceding few weeks.
Where to go was the question. Somewhere we'd been before or somewhere different? The better half came up with a good idea: why not go to a taverna which we'd often heard good things about and yet never eaten at ourselves? We had in fact turned up at Maria's, one of the two tavernas within close proximity of eachother on the road down to Tsambika Beach from the main Rhodo-Lindos road not far south of Kolymbia, but on two previous occasions found it closed. Our fault of course, because we'd been trying to find somewhere to eat on a weekday in the middle of winter. This time, however, it was a Sunday, the day when loads of Greeks go out to lunch, plus the season had cautiously begun and the weather was perfect. We could be pretty sure that we'd find Maria's open for business. We were right.
Quite a few friends and acquaintances have told us they've found Maria's to be very good and so it was long overdue for a visit. As you drive down the tree-lined leafy lane, you come upon the taverna as you round a gentle bend and it's on your left-hand side. Determined not lose out on the action, as you turn into the parking area you see a huge sign on the other side of the road advertising Taverna Edem (which is the Greek version of Eden by the way. Not sure whether all the staff serve you naked, or whether birthday suits are required of the guests there though. Probably just an attempt to make one expect rather beautiful surroundings, marginally less interesting though, eh?) If you check out the link there, you find that Edem also gets some very good reviews. But on this occasion, we'd decided that Maria's it would be.
There is a rather large indoor area to the establishment, but, as would be expected, it was entirely devoid of diners as we walked through it at around 3.00pm. Everyone was out on the lawn, a very pleasant grassy area, even sporting a few kiddy things like an ancient roundabout and a few swings. Apart from one table, which was occupied by a British couple who were just paying up in preparation for their departure, the entire clientele were Greeks, predominantly families. All the tables had some kind of shade or part-shade, ranging from four-legged canopies, through parasols to olive trees. We were immediately greeted by a large friendly man (evidently Maria's son) of probably around my age (young, of course!) who asked us where we'd like to sit and escorted us to a table...
|The view from our first table, though before the food arrived we'd moved to the one just in front of us there under the olive tree. Times like that remind one that one has a half-Greek wife. It's in the blood you see.|
We ordered a couple of drinks and set about drinking in the environment as well as perusing the extensive menu. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but in case you haven't tried it, always ask what else they have on. Very often in traditional tavernas there'll be a couple of home-cooked dishes available that aren't always listed in the menu. The environs were extremely pleasant and the atmosphere was complemented by the sound of running water from the few cascades they'd built along the perimeter wall and fence beside the road. All in all, we began to expect good things.
After having chosen some revithokefte'des (chick pea rissoles, our favourite) a nice green salad of lettuce, rocket and chopped red onions (why does anyone ever eat white ones?) and some freshly cut fried potatoes, my wife asked if they had gi'gantes (those huge oven cooked beans in lots of sauce). "No, sorry," replied the friendly man with the notepad, "but we do have fasola'kia, they are very similar, only smaller. Made to our own recipe and also baked in the oven." Fasola'kia it was then. I was very content with my Fix and so we sat back and awaited the arrival of our lunch...
I have to say, right here, that the portion of chickpea rissoles was not only the largest we'd ever been served, but the rissoles themselves were also bigger than any we'd been given at any taverna ever. Their taste also added to the experience and we both agreed that they were simply TDF. Y-Maria said that she was going to ask for a doggy-bag because she was certainly not going to leave any on the plate. As it turned out, we ate them all anyway. Well, to be accurate about it, I ate most of them. Well, I didn't want her to have to go to all that bother of carrying them home. I'm all heart, you ought to know me by now.
The bread too was delicious. It was authentic, home-baked horiatiko, that round flattish loaf, the "flesh" of which is slightly yellow. More than half a loaf arrived and that was also something which the better half decided wasn't going back to the kitchen.
When we'd finished we were well and truly stuffed and, as we sat back and sipped at our glasses of water and allowed it all to settle in our stomachs we enjoyed listening to snippets of all the conversations across the lawn. The fact the all the clientele were now Greeks speaks volumes wouldn't you say? Anyway, just as we were thinking rather reluctantly about asking for a bill, Maria herself came to clear the tables and so we were afforded the opportunity to thank her for her excellent cuisine. We also made the promise that we'd be returning some time soon. After she'd accepted our words graciously and moved on to clear another table, we noticed the bloke who'd served us exiting the building across the lawn and walking out in our general direction carrying two ice cream cones. One was evidently strawberry and vanilla and the other quite possibly toffee or some such. Now, as there were quite a few toddlers running riot (and rings around their seniors), we naturally expected that he'd pass these cones to a couple of them. Uh, uh. Arriving at our table he asked Y-Maria which she'd prefer and then gave them both to us. Nice dessert and on the house too.
Not only this, but when we asked for the bill and expressed our desire to take some bread home, he retreated inside, only to return minutes later with a whole, still-warm loaf in a plastic bag, which he also presented to us compliments of the house...
Our whole lunch added up to just over €20, which our host rounded down to 20 anyway, although we gave him extra - he deserved it.
When we visited our friend Brenda in Pilona a couple of days later, we weren't all together surprised when she told us that she'd never visited Maria's without coming away with a freebie of some sort. Now that's how to assure repeat business. Especially when the food's exquisite too.
It was quite strange at moments during this meal. To be seated at a table on a lawn eating ice cream made us feel almost UK pub/café garden-ish. Except for the fact that the light was of that wonderful clarity that you never seem to get in Britain, of course!