It’s an early September weekend as we make it to the renowned taverna of Ntounias up in Drakona just 30mins away from Chania town. I’ve been lucky to get in on this tip from a pro foodie the night before and by the looks of it online, this is the perfect place to taste local Cretan food.
As we go up the mountain there is a light drizzle and overcast which changes the scenery to this autumn-like feel, making us even more hungry. We reach the taverna and right outside awaits the owner’s eldest daughter Danae in time to greet us.
Stelios Trilyrakis, the founder of this magical place, is tending to his parasies (clay pots in the fire) right outside the establishment in his makeshift kitchen. Bubbly sounds, light smoke from the fire and a man who is trying to have everything ready for 12.00 – it’s lunchtime! Him and his wife decided to move to Stelios’ village back in 2004 and opened this family-run taverna, serving slow food cooked in the fire and a wood oven.
The place is still empty but all tables seem to be reserved for lunch. Luckily, we find one to sit for a quick lunch as we promise we won’t linger for long. Little do we know, a couple of hours later we’re still debating on the best bits of this epic meal!
Stelios’ two other kids, Dimitris and Dionysis, also help with the kitchen with his wife also manning some of the tables. As he whisks back and forth to his kitchen outside, I kindly stop him to ask for the daily specials. He asks us whether we like feta cheese and of course we oblige. Moments later he brings this large piece of feta cheese sprinkled with wild oregano and dolloped with extra virgin olive oil “this is half goat’s milk and half sheep’s milk, try it!“. And it is indeed delicious!
They also make their own sourdough bread using four different flours in the wood oven – a thick and dense feel on the inside with a crispy, semi-charred crust on the outside… heavenly!
Apart from the main course, a beautifully cooked tsigariasto goat, we also devour an eggplant dish of their own that they mix with tomato sauce and hondros (a coarsely ground wheat found on the island of Crete). Together with Stelios’ raki, we wash down an amazing meal when at some point he comes back with some thick-cut french fries right off the frying pan! He has sprinkled them with some rock salt of his own and kindly offers them as a treat. What an a amazing guy!
Stelios intermittently checks on us to see whether we are enjoying our meal and offers a tip “next you try our homebred baby cattle”; I immediately bite and start asking more, when he pops a certificate from the wall and starts talking about the rare breed of his – one of the very few in Greece. Moments later he comes back with a small portion for us to taste, accompanied by a homemade potato purée.
Later we discover that he also runs an educational farm right next door with organic products, wine, oil and honey that are used exclusively in the restaurant. They also offer some agricultural tours if you want to get your hands dirty so before you visit, just pop the question.
One thing is certain, you need to make a reservation before visiting and make sure you go early!