Greece Travel Secrets recommends where to eat in Western Crete with tavernas and restaurants in Chania, Rethymnon, and Paleochora.
Walk round towards the western end of the harbour in Chania and the Amphora Taverna, owned by the excellent Amphora Hotel behind it, immediately distinguished itself for us by not having a waiter outside trying to coax you in. It otherwise looks nothing special but the food is first class.
Fresh fish naturally features but meze are a speciality here, and the mixed Greek plate can certainly be recommended. In fact, so can everything else on the menu. Last time we visited they had a table full of guidebooks out front, all recommending the place – including one of ours!
The place to be in this classy Rethymnon restaurant is the lovely interior garden courtyard with large palm trees like a tropical paradise and an open roof, though there are also tables in the street outside and in another indoor area, very tastefully done out. The Avli menu boasts ‘Gastronomic experiments with Cretan produce and an open mind’, and to find out if they succeed try a house speciality such as wild kid goat cooked with honey and thyme.
Walk west of Rethymnon’s inner harbour, where the waiters almost drag you physically inside, to this quieter stretch where locals tend to go. The Fanari has a much more laid-back atmosphere, with the restaurant on one side of the road and the outdoor seating area, with bright yellow and white tablecloths, on the other overlooking the sea. Check the meze for some interesting options, maybe followed by grilled meat and some of the tasty house wine. This quickly became a regular haunt of our when we spent some time in Rethymnon.
The excellent Galaxy Fish Restaurant in Paleochora has some roadside seating directly opposite the pebble beach, then an upper open patio beneath a red-tiled roof, and finally a further raised indoor seating area. On the back wall a large fisherman’s net is stretched, hung with crab shells, lobsters, starfish and other sea creatures. Although there are meat options on the menu, and old Greek favourites, the speciality is quite simple, as the menu states: ‘fresh fish from Paleochora. Enjoy the wine from the barrel too, and they also have good-quality rooms to rent.
Tables lining both sides of a narrow alley, tucked away behind the Rimondi fountain in Rethymnon, indicate Kyria Maria’s original little restaurant, where twittering birds in cages hang all along the street. There are woven table-cloths of dark red and black striped patterns in traditional designs, and so successful has Maria’s home-cooking become (her lamb kleftiko is a deliciously tender speciality) that the restaurant has been called one of the best on Crete. No website.
The Semiramis is a large taverna with outdoor seating running alongside one whole block of a narrow street in Chania, plus a charming garden seating area at the end. The place is rightly very popular expect to wait for a table. Cretan musicians play here nightly in season, and in the main taverna building over the street. The food is nothing out of the ordinary, with the usual Greek menu of grills, fish and meat dishes, but the garden is delightful, with a fountain in one corner, a chatty atmosphere and the whole operation run briskly and in a friendly fashion.
The Tamam serves some of the best food in Chania, hence the nightly queues for a table, by both locals and visitors alike. Once a Turkish bath-house, most people prefer to sit outside in the narrow street to enjoy the imaginative dishes combining the best of the Mediterranean from Italian risotto via Greek baked red peppers to Middle Eastern lamb with rice and yoghourt. Good range for vegetarians too, and well worth the wait.
Allow plenty of time to find this back-alley place, near Platía 1821 in Chania. The search will be rewarded, though, as the first class Well of the Turk combines the best of Cretan and North African cuisine, from simple shish kebabs and cous-cous, to specialities including calamari (squid) stuffed with seafood, herbs and rice and served with turmeric rice. There’s also a bar inside, and don’t forget to ask to see the actual Well of the Turk!