Dozens of the best Cretan wines from the best estates on the island are available
From the terrace, the tone of the Bakaliko restaurant is set: friendly. The chairs are covered with comfortable cushions in pastel lavender, eggplant and olive tones. On the tables lay small pots of aromatic herbs. No ostentatious sign of a traditional restaurant as can be seen in many tourist restaurants. Just a desire to promote conviviality and terroir. The eye is directly attracted by these green and purple boxes that cover a part of the wall of the boutique restaurant. Dozens of Cretan wines from the best estates on the island are available for wine lovers. Undoubtedly the work of an oenophile so much the choice shows an enlightened knowledge of the best Cretan houses and promising grape varieties. We surprise Georges in full reflection in front of a wine fridge to extract four wines that will be tasted by amateur customers. We can see in the eyes of this passionate man all the love he has for his land. With a wave of his hand, he determines the order in which he will serve the selected wines to them and then leaves, the precious liquid in hand. On the way back, a smile lights up his face: we understand that the customers appreciated the wines. “I was born in a restaurant,” says Georges Kteniathakis ironically. “My father had a restaurant in the centre of Heraklion. Then we moved to Gouves, where he ran a grill house. Naturally, I started working in the restaurant. Then I worked at the sailing club restaurant in the port of Heraklion. “That’s where we met,” says Zsuzsanna. “I worked there as a cook and he worked in the dining room. I worked there for 18 years before opening our own restaurant in 2013. Zsuszanna’s journey is surprising. A physical education teacher in Hungary, she decided 38 years ago to change her life and move to Crete. “I wanted this change, a more favorable life context. I immediately liked the art of living and the Cretan hospitality. I have settled here.
How Bakaliko restaurant was born
The sailing club restaurant in the port of Heraklion played a significant role in the wonderful adventure of the Bakaliko restaurant and its protagonists. Perfectly self-taught, Zsuzsanna worked for 18 years in the same restaurant, at the Sailing Club in Heraklion Harbour, before deciding to fly on her own. It is there that she met, as a client, Agnes Wenninger. Agnes, of Hungarian origin and having lived in Canada, has recently arrived in Crete. “I had just moved to Crete with my partner, an American of Greek origin. Before that, I had lived in Canada and Hungary. And each time, I ran a restaurant. In Canada, the establishment was located on the shore of a lake and offered more of a bistrot food, so-called tavern dishes. In Hungary, it was quite different,” Agnes explains with a laugh. “It was a gastronomic establishment with French and Mediterranean influence. We welcomed politicians, celebrities, … »
Very quickly, there was a good feeling between the two women, who decide to open a restaurant with a particular concept. “We wanted to settle in Heraklion but the rents were too high, so we chose the traditional village of Archanes, where I lived for 8 years. The idea was to make a delikatessen restaurant where the product would be promoted,” recalls Agnes. “Just a kind of showroom of products and some simple recipes to help you discover the products. Recipes to use these products every day, to highlight them The name of the restaurant is a natural choice for the team: Bakaliko. This name, of Turkish origin, refers to a store, a kind of Greek grocery store. And the success is there.
“At first, we did little cooking, just enough to present our products. It is our customers who have asked us for more and more different dishes. And over time, the restaurant has grown. Since then, the restaurant has offered introductory courses to Cretan cuisine and tastings of Cretan wines and cheeses. ” emphasizes Agnes. This collaboration will last three years, then Agnes going back in Hungary, Georges and Szuzanna now develop the simple philosophy of Bakaliko Restaurant. “Our products are local, very fresh and carefully selected. But we highlight them in a different way, with a touch of fusion cuisine, a new Cretan style… We follow the seasons and maintain a small menu, innovative if possible. With a wide choice of desserts because they are highly appreciated by our customers. The Cretan cuisine is very vegetable oriented, so we also offer many vegetarian dishes”, say the two cook, Zsuzsanna.
A glance at the delicacies carefully aligned on the shelves of the Bakaliko is enough to convince you that the emphasis is on the quality and diversity of the products: Greek lavender and lemon loukoums, thyme honeys, aromatic herbs, such as verbena, dictanny,… And of course a very wide choice of olive oils, from the sweetest to the spiciest. A display fridge filled with smoked meats and local cheeses completes this small Cretan palate of good taste. But our eyes as wine lovers are constantly drawn to these bottles, which fill brightly coloured wooden crates. Vidiano, Kotsifali, Liatiko, Thrapsathiri, Mandilaria, Muscat of Spinas… The “best varieties” of Crete are well represented. They are surrounded by discoveries such as a local Roussanne or liasto sweet wines (a Cretan sun dried grapes passerillé type of wine). Not to mention some beautiful addresses on the greek mainland. The catalog offers more than 90 domains.
And Georges to take us to discover his universe “I discovered my passion for wine 15 years ago. At the time, the wine supplier in the restaurant where I worked brought in Greek winegrowers to talk about their wines, help us discover them and train us to sell them. That’s when I discovered my passion for wine. My first wine trip was to the Naoussa region of Greece and its very good wines… Then I went to Central Europe: Hungary, Austria, Germany, without forgetting of course the French wines… » As an enlightened amateur, he gives us his opinion on the terroir and Cretan wines. “There has been a great evolution after 2005. New vineyards, such as Diamantakis, Idaia, Pateriannakis, Stilianou,… as well as a new generation of winegrowers who have not counted their efforts in the vineyard. They have understood well all the work that a good wine requires. But it took time. There is also a better collaboration between winegrowers to propose a new image of Cretan wines. They work on native varieties, go together to international exhibitions, win international prizes,… ». His opinion on the future of Cretan wines? “Three grape varieties are very promising: Vidiano, Liatiko and Muscat of Spinas. Cretan winegrowers expect strong demand. The problem for Cretan wines is the very difficult planting of new vines, which will probably not allow the production volume to be monitored. Many Cretan wines are already sold directly for export and quickly out of stock”. .