The coasts of Crete are famous for their beauty, but there is also great pleasure in spending time in the enticing inland, adorned with stunning natural vineyards. We are heading to restaurant Bakaliko in the beautiful wine village of Archanes.
We are driving from Heraklion along the waving roads in the beautiful valley south of Knossos and come across the first vineyards in no time. Vineyards galore, beautiful landscapes and sleepy villages, until we reach our destination Archanes. There is a lot to say about this village located on the slopes of the holy Mount Giouhtas or Mount Yuhtas (811m), where legend says the god Zeus was buried. Archanes is one of the most flourishing villages in Crete, with deep roots in Minoan antiquity and a rich wine producing tradition.
The winding road from Heraklion to Archanes, the wine route of Crete
Viticulture around Archanes has a history of circa 4,000 years. We can safely assume that the area was part of an ancient Minoan wine region. Not far from Archanes, archeological excavations have brought to light one of the oldest Minoan (second millennium B.C.) wine presses on Crete. The Minoans didn’t consume their wines only locally. Seafarers as they were, they traded and transported their renowned wine in amphora vases throughout most of the Mediterranean.
Archanes seems quiet and empty in the hot afternoon sun until we reach the main square. The central square is full of lively tavernas, their tables carefully arranged in the shade of leafy old trees. It struck us that many activities occur simultaneously on the square, people come are sit here to meet each other, to eat, to talk, to gossip, as long as time lasted.
A Cretan love story
Amidst all the Greek tavernas, we find Bakaliko. Bakaliko was founded in early 2013 by two pioneering Hungarian women, Agnes and Susanna, who had come separately to Crete and both fell in love with Cretan island living. Enamoured by the beauty and bounty of Crete, the Cretan produce and wines, they decided to stay. The idea was to create a store and delicatessen restaurant. To cook some simple recipes to help visitors discover the amazing Cretan products. The name Bakaliko was a natural choice. Bakaliko, a word of Turkish origin, refers to a store. In 2017, Agnes returned to her native Budapest to pursue other interests.
Local with a twist
Bakaliko is now run solely by Susanna and her husband George, a native Cretan. Susanna and George met at a sailing-club restaurant in the port of Heraklion, where she worked as a cook and he in the dining room, before they started their Bakaliko adventure together with Agnes. We ran into George after lunch to discover his passion and knowledge of the wines of Crete and Greece.
As lovers of good food, we could not resist the temptation to savour the tastes Babaliko had discovered. Bakaliko’s commitment to fresh ingredients, prepared with lot’s of love for the produce, delighted us. Genuine Cretan flavours, but with a twist, executed with modern techniques, sophistication and elegance. We are in for a remarkable lunch.
Bakaliko’s philosophy of fine foods and wines
We order Dakos, the typical Cretan rusks topped with tomatoes, olives, olive oil, fresh herbs and crumbled Myzithra; delicious dolmades, the beautiful bulgur-wrapped vine leaves finished with lemon and mind tzatziki, and the rice pilaf with feta, toasted pistachios and pomegranate seeds. All accompanied by a savoury watermelon salad. George was kind enough to pair all of our dishes with a well-selected wine per glass that complemented the dish.
Life is filled with unusual surprises. One of them was the tarte tatin. This heavenly French dessert with the taste of dark and sticky caramel, sweet apples and crisp pastry. George told us that people come specially to Bakaliko to eat this wonderful dessert. Good food and wines are part of Crete and Greece. When you visit Bakaliko restaurant you’ll be in for a treat as much as we were at this charming, little place.
Lovers of good wine, Archanes-Asterousia, one of the major wine-producing territories of Crete, has a website showing the wine route to numerous wineries open to visitors, offering guided tours and tastings.