One of the best spots for a refreshing and tasty meal around Mani, Lela’s Taverna is a must especially if you’re up for a seafront dinner. Delicate dishes form a great menu that has nothing to be jealous of that of more established restaurants in Greece’s capital. All the more when this is combined with a picturesque location and an al fresco dinner!
Whilst driving around Mani exploring the various small seafront villages, we found ourselves spending a late afternoon in Kardamilli and were starving for some seafood after a long stint of meat eating. Lela’s Taverna was highly recommended from friends that had previously visited the area numerous times and along we played. It turns out they were 100% right!
We visited on a hot summer day just before sunset when the restaurant gets super busy. The staff greeted us in a friendly manner and managed to swoop in a table for us, albeit at the back of the restaurant. Regardless, we sat in the beautiful garden and under the pleasant shade of the lush trees and started reading a very interesting. The story is that prior to venturing out on her own, Lela was the head cook at the house of Patrick Leigh Fermor (the famous who played a prominent role behind the lines in the Cretan resistance during the Second World War).
On August 13th 1983, almost 30 years ago, Lela transformed the family summer house into a small taverna next to Kardamili’s port and Meropi’s island. Since then, the restaurant has been offering home-cooked dishes and run by Lela’s son Giorgos, a cook himself. In 2021 though, famous chef Dimos Balopoulos was added to the team, known from Nolan and Frater & Soror in Athens and with extensive experience in famous cuisines in England like those of Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal.
The menu we tasted had front right and center the good produce from the Messinian land. And this is actually one of the chef’s goals who actually recruited a team mostly from the wider region of Messinia for his new team. Highly emphasising on fish, the menu is simply outstanding with lots to choose from.
We ordered a delicious seabass tartare to start off and paired it with the famous Lela’s green salad although the beetroot one seemed also very appealing. For main courses, we tried a very tasty shrimp orzo, infused with bisque, and a brilliant grilled seabass on top of grilled vegetables and dressed on a tomato vinaigrette.
Other highlights on the menu included a sea urchin pasta and the famous moussaka with potato cream and Mani cheese… but we left that for next time!
Just after sunset, the front row tables also started filling up in the beautiful backdrop of the red painted sea… we said, we’ve got to come back here again!