Untouched by the Ottoman Turks and conquered instead by the Venetians, French and the English, Corfu’s gastronomic offerings reflect its rich history.
The dish stifado – from the Italian ‘stufato’ – for example, was gifted to the island by the Venetians over 600 years ago. This rich, slow-cooked tomato stew of beef, rabbit or octopus (the latter being very on-trend with the restaurant kitchens of Corfu right now) infused with the combined flavours of sweet shallots, bay leaves, red wine, cumin, cinnamon and nutmeg and served with pasta or orzo stands as a dish that represents the island. As does the spicy bourdeto – scorpion fish cooked in tomatoes, garlic and red pepper. Or the similarly hot-on-the-tongue tsigareli, a side dish of wild greens that packs a spicy punch. The Corfiots are not ones to take it easy on the spice rack.
You wouldn’t think it driving past the €2 English breakfast offers in tired resorts that had their heydays in the late eighties and early nineties, but the Ionian’s second largest island has enough must-visit restaurants and foodie hotspots to easily fill a week-long vacation. From beach-front tavernas with stunning views to hidden gems you would never find without a bit of inside information, this is the definitive guide to the essential places any gastronome should have on their list, should they find themselves in Corfu.
1. Toulas – Agni Bay
In spite of its reputation as a place for the rich and famous holidaying in Corfu, this seafood restaurant on the northeast coast of the island is relatively understated and affordable, especially considering the likes of supermodel Kate Moss and British royalty have been known to anchor their yachts just to come here.
Serving up seafood favourites with an extra side of Corfiot flare, owner Toula gets first dibs on the fisherman’s daily catch, handpicking a premium selection for the restaurant. The focus is on excellent produce and attentive service. Expect a prawn linguine that is actually served al dente and an impressive view over the turquoise, tree-lined bay with neighbouring Albania in the distance.
The dishes to try here are the towering millefeuille of super-light puff pastry interspersed with buttery prawns spiked with dill, and the lobster giouvetsi (baked and spiced orzo pasta.) The expert sommelier is also on hand to recommend a native Greek wine suited to your palate.
2. Sirens Beach Bar – Marathias Beach
Completely renovated in 2019, this haven on a cliff-backed beach towards the south of the island is akin to a beach bar you might expect to find on a remote island of southeast Asia, were it not for the predominance of all the olive wood amidst bamboo and banana trees. Walk down a path through the tropical flora and out onto a cacti-lined bar with views of the bright blue Ionian, offering morning yoga and perhaps the best brunch you might find on the whole island.
At Sirens, choose between walnut and chocolate-doused fluffy pancakes, smoothie bowls packed with chia, and sourdough bread topped with scrambled eggs, salmon and creamy avocado. Pair with an iced cappuccino coffee to perk you up for the first swim of the day. If you’re staying for lunch, try the hefty Sirens burger served on a sweet brioche bun with oregano-dusted potato wedges. It will not disappoint.
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3. Klimataria (Bellos) – Benitses
Owned by Mr. Bellos, the kind of proprietor always on hand to recommend a dish of the day as well as to look offended when you can’t quite manage to lick your plate clean, Klimataria is a Corfiot institution. Unassuming and camouflaged amongst the cheap tavernas of the former fishing village Benitses (now a tourist resort in south of the island), it serves up the kind of dishes you might expect were you to be welcomed into a Corfiot grandmother’s home for lunch.
Seasonal produce and an unchanging menu of traditional seafood fare is the focus at Bellos, with the tomatoes – simple as they are, coated in Mr. Bellos’ own olive oil and sea salt – being famous amongst the foodies of the island. The octopus macaronada (spaghetti) is a standout, owing to its rich combination of the Corfiot flavors of cinnamon, bay and spicy red pepper.
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The Scallops …… …… by @yiannisvlachos … ——————————————————————– This little plate of heaven was served up at @thevenetianwell in Corfu town, and is still the best Scallops dish I’ve ever had ( that’s right London restaurants — ,I’m challenging you) !! ——————————————————————– Repost by @jemimaelle ! ——————————————————————– We thank you so much !!!???????????????? ——————————————————————– #thevenetianwell #finediningrestaurant #cuisinecreative #scallops #scallopseason #creaty #mediterraneancuisine #tasty #finedininglovers #londonfoodblogger #travelphotographer #instatravelgram #traveller #corfu???????? #oldtow #kandounia #achefslife # #yiannisvlachos #fnlguide #SaveThePlanet #Vwmoments ????
4. The Venetian Well – Corfu Town
Chef and owner Yannis Vlachos had his eye on this spot located in a quiet piazza of Corfu Town long before its spell as a (thankfully) short-lived bar. Were you not on the look out for it, you might well miss the Venetian Well, which has become one of the island’s most high-end dining spots. Hiding in the shadow of a 16th-century church, this restaurant, shrouded in wall-climbing plants, spills out onto the pretty pink square, its neatly set tables positioned around a well, built six centuries ago by the conquering Venetians.
Its impossibly romantic setting, surrounded by the terracotta, yellow and pink palette of the Old Town’s architecture is enough of a draw to visit this restaurant – but chef Vlachos’ food is as attractive as the Venetian Well’s location. Greek flavors are distilled in elegant dishes made from simple, locally sourced ingredients for a gourmet take on the classics.
Don’t leave without trying the taramosalata (a thick and indulgent fish roe dip served with the restaurant’s own soft white bread) and the scallops on a bed of creamy fava with wild herb-infused foam.
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5. Pomo D’oro – Corfu Town
Chef Aristotelis Megoulas trained in Italy before returning home to Corfu to launch the island’s best Italian restaurant. Don’t expect your standard pizza and pasta here though. Exciting flavor combinations and expert textural pairings are what set apart the menu at Pomo D’oro, which embraces seasonality and makes the best of Corfu’s produce according to the month you’re visiting. Think Italian finesse making the most out of all the flavors the island has to offer.
The salad selection here is extensive, with options that far surpass the humble and ubiquitous Greek salad. At Pomo D’oro, salads feature honey and watermelon, creamy goat’s cheese and edible flowers. Meanwhile, the ravioli ranges from jet black pasta with squid ink to hearty beef-filled squares, all prepared on the day. The fried goat’s cheese served with honeycomb may well be the best thing you taste in Corfu.
6. The Merchant’s House – Old Perithia
Not a restaurant per se, but a guesthouse that should be visited if you have the time, this foodie spot is a restored 13th century Merchant’s House located in an all but abandoned village at the base of Corfu’s highest peak, Mount Pantokrator. Run by an Anglo-Dutch couple, Mark and Saska Hendriksen, this once-crumbling structure has now been restored to its former Venetian glory and transformed into a boutique B&B.
Visit if only for breakfast, prepared by Mark, who is proud to be one of the few Corfiot residents reviving the ancient tradition of sourdough baking. Enjoy all-you-can-eat servings of crusty, sourdough bread for breakfast, slathered with conserves made from the fruits that grow on the overburdened trees of the abandoned village. The fig, plum and orange marmalade, along with local beekeeper Vasili’s honey is the stuff of saccharine dreams.
Ask and the couple will even take you past the crumbling Venetian settlements and up to where Vasili tends to his hives.