While by no means the definitive list of great options for food on Hydra (there’s plenty more to explore), these four tried and tested gems of restaurants on Hydra are certain to round out a perfect day with a fantastic meal.
Kodylenia – Casual chic
Taking a water taxi is surely the most glamorous way to arrive at a restaurant. We walk up the stairs to Kodylenia’s (pictured top) a little salty and windblown, buoyant with holiday mood. A broad shaded porch overlooks the little marina of Kamini. It’s crowded with whitewashed tables, all of them full. The sound level is idea – conversation flowing like water in a brook, breeze in the trees, the odd motorboat passing, the clinking of forks on plates.
Of course, everyone looks great – beach hair, sun-kissed noses, baggy shorts. Our Greek salad is topped with kritami, a seasonal green treat that grows wild by the shore and is full of the tang of the sea air. The grilled fresh calamari are huge – sweet, tender, chewy, charred around on the edges.
Enormous meaty shrimp come saganaki style – in the shell, covered with a zesty tomato sauce. It is hard to eat them politely because to get the most out of them you want to suck the sauce off the heads. Everyone manages. The sauce has a special ingredient that sets it apart from most saganaki. Dimitris, the owner, has had Kodylenia’s for 25 years. He loves having a restaurant and it shows. I tell him I really like what he put in the sauce. He smiles, and hold his finger to his lips, so if you want to know what’s in the sauce, you’ll have to go there yourself.
Kodylenia’s, Kamini Port. (+30) 22980 53520. Open for lunch and dinner.
Il Casta – Italian Romance
Il Casta embodies a special type of Mediterranean elegance – authentic and unpretentious. We loved the wine glasses of whisper thin crystal, the romantic lighting, and most of all the velvet banquettes ideal for our party’s two sleeping barefoot children to curl up on behind us.
If the food was average, you’d still go back again just to enjoy the dreamy courtyard under the stars. But the food is not average. Pietro Carola from Naples turns out chewy, supple tubes of hand-rolled pasta. The mussels are fat and so sweet their flavor still manages to shine through the lusty black pepper broth they steamed in – we finished it all, using our shells as spoons.
Octopus carpaccio with ginger feels exactly right- as though it were a classic island dish all along. Pietro’s father Fabrizio Carola is in the front of the house; his warmth and personal style, right down to the fancifully hand-painted plates he picked out himself on the Amalfi coast, will make you feel like you’re at the perfect dinner party.
Il Casta, 168 Tobazi, Hydra (not at all far from the harbor). Open daily 18:00 – 01:00 (groups for lunch on request). Tel (+30) 22980.52967
From Garden to Table at Christina’s
At Christina’s, everything they can get from the family garden, they do. Maria, her daughter-in-law, tells us this as she brings a warm salad of eggplants and yellow peppers grilled candy-sweet with melting slabs of haloumi, plus a green salad that was in the garden that morning. A creamy beet salad joins them – vivid purple, tangy and sweet, it’s almost the first thing we finish, tied with more garden peppers, red and supple and filled with white cheese.
Maria serves the calamari – big and fresh – fried in the lightest of batters, super crisp, in order to have some variety on the table. The local fish, “fagria” and “melanouria” – both with dense, sweet white flesh – are served grilled. Then Maria brings us some of her own glyko koutaliou (“spoon sweet”) on strained yogurt. Hers is carrot made exotic with cardamom.
There are two ways to return to Hydra’s central harbor from here – the pine scented path above the sea that we took from Kodylenia’s (stopping for a swim), or the inland path through eucalyptus trees. Winding in and up through the sleepy, secret side of Hydra, we find the best views of the harbor, glimpsed though whitewashed alleyways. On our walk we see just one other soul, and that belongs to one of the island’s many donkeys.
Taverna Christina, Kamini valley (50 m in from the port), Tel (+30) 22980.53516. Open for lunch and dinner.
Caprice – Local Italian Favorite
Hydra’s sophisticated international mood makes Italian, again, feel just as right as Greek come evening. With a quirky, rustic decor – equipment for sponge diving (a primary occupation on the island for years), and old photos – Caprice is a local favorite that hits an authentic note.
White stone walls, a little Demis Roussos mixed in with nostalgic Italian hits on the stereo, red wine, some pasta, maybe a thin crust pizza, all make for a sweet and slightly retro night out. Located 150 m or so in from the harbor – look for the caïque outside.
Caprice, Sachtouri street (near the Church of Agia Barbara), Tel. (+30) 22980.52454. Open every evening, 17:00 – 2:00