On holiday in Santorini, we had a most enjoyable gastronomic dinner at Koukoumavlos, the island’s best restaurant. Koukoumavlos, which means “owl” in Greek, is also Santorini’s most genuinely romantic restaurant and its most awarded one for gastronomy.
THE MEANING OF ROMANCE
When I say “genuinely romantic,” what I mean is that it’s not a staged dramatic restaurant in some luxury resort. Rather, it’s a wonderful old-fashioned restaurant in a very old building in the heart of the town. It also has great decor, a fantastic terrace, and a killer view.
Well-heeled residents of Athens, as well as foreigners from other parts of Europe who have vacation villas in Santorini have been regular clients of Koukoumavlos for years. So it’s more of a fine dining local restaurant patronised by foodies rather than a tourist restaurant serving typical Greek food.
We had the best dinner table in Santorini tonight
A ROMANTIC RESTAURANT IN SANTORINI
What a lovely evening, and what an enjoyable time we had. We really laughed all night long — that is, when we weren’t enjoying the food or having the most philosophical discussions about Travel, Life and Love with Koukoumavlos owner and chef Nikolas Pouliasi.
Chef Nikolas — or Niko, to his friends — kept us enthralled with very deep insights about life, in between cooking us the most amazing courses of food himself. Talk about extreme multi-tasking here. So if you’re a foodie headed for Santorini, make sure you schedule at least one dinner at Koukoumavlos.
THE BEST RESTAURANTS IN GREECE
Koukoumavlos is one of the top 15 restaurants in the whole of Greece, and it’s won a whole slew of food and gourmet awards. Chef Niko has cooked for the who’s who of Greece and the world. All the movers and shakers of Greece eat here when they’re in Santorini. So do presidents and prime ministers. Former United States Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have dined here.
He also cooks for the Russian millionaires, Hollywood celebrities, and European royalty who visit Santorini. Everyone in the know eats here because the restaurant is really lovely in a very authentic Santorini way. And in a very original Niko way, I must add, because the food is the best on the island for non-traditional fare.
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
As for the restaurant itself, it was love at first sight. Koukoumavlos Restaurant is exactly my type. Quirky but elegant, formal but fun.
First, it has a very artistic and yet natural feel. It’s filled with antiques, curios, paintings, mirrors and objets d’art that obviously had been collected over its 30 years of existence in Santorini as a restaurant. Yes, Koukoumavlos celebrated three decades in business in 2019.
NO ARTIFICE OR PRETENSE
This was not some antique-looking place that had been designed to look romantic, created by some decorator over a period of two months. This was obviously a work in progress over 30 years.
Second, nothing matched but everything looked good together. I felt really comfortable here because this is just how I like decor, in general. Third, the view of Santorini’s famous caldera from a table on Koukoumavlos’ terrace is second to none. This has got to be the best dining table on the island.
A SIMPLY DELICIOUS DINNER
The food, too, is creative, original and absolutely delicious. I can’t even describe what it’s like because it’s nothing I’ve had before. I almost dare to call it experimental or molecular gastronomy, but it really isn’t. It doesn’t belong to any school of cooking because the chef didn’t go to any kind of cooking school.
Every dish served at Koukoumavlos is the brainchild of a bon vivant of a gentleman who taught himself to cook. He himself shops for fresh produce and creates the dishes every single day. Many dishes aren’t even on the menu. He just produces these on a whim based on whatever ingredients are in the kitchen.
That night we had seven courses for dinner and about two bottles of wine. Everything was so strange, unique, amazing and delicious that we were left speechless.