Ios Island, tucked away in the Southern Cyclades, has a phenomenal selection of truly world class restaurants. The sheer range of cuisines available and the quality of the food never ceases to amaze and delight me, from traditional Greek tavernas to modern and inventive nouveau Greek, through a plethora of international restaurants serving everything from Mexican to Thai. A short stroll through the alleyways of the village, down the main road or along the beach will reveal a whole host of fabulous eateries for you to sample. Below is a small selection of some of our favourites.
Owned and singlehandedly run by a wonderfully bohemian young Greek couple, Katogi is the epitome of eccentric fabulousness. George the chef has created a menu of imaginative modern Greek food that exceeds expectations at every turn. Each dish has been thoughtfully created to tantalise the tastebuds. Highlights include the beyond delicious Pasta Purses filled with pear and cheese and smothered in a creamy carrot and cheese sauce, a combination of flavours that leaves my mouth quite literally jumping for joy; Pork Bites in Honey Sauce – tender, sweet and bursting with flavour, these delectable bite sized pieces also come in Mustard or Jack Daniels sauces; Meatballs in Spinach Sauce, a fresh and flavoursome take on the traditional Greek keftedes meatballs; and the Popeye Salad, whose sweet and tangy dressing is to die for. The restaurant is done out beautifully with an eclectic collection of oddities adorning the walls, bougainvillea growing across the outdoor terrace and the flamboyant Theodora looking after the customers and making sure everyone feels like they have been given extra special care and attention. As much as the food is superb, the hospitality and décor put the perfect finishing touches to this unique restaurant. My only complaint is that they have not opened a Katogi in London, for which I wait in hope!
The Mills is a perfect example of the traditional Greek taverna at its absolute best. Nestled amongst the old windmills at the outskirts of Ios village, the setting could not be more authentic nor the view more idyllic. The Mills is run by a local family, headed up by Kyriakos, whose warmth and hospitality emanate throughout the restaurant while their traditional fare has earned them the deserved reputation for producing some truly top class food. The menu consists of some time-honoured Greek dishes such as Giovetsi and Mousaka, but comes into its own in bringing some of the little known Greek dishes into the limelight. From Rooster and Rabbit from the family’s own homestead to Kokoretsi, a skewered dish made from some of the less common parts of the lamb. For the less carnivorous among us, the Zuchini flower stuffed with rice is just divine. But the absolute highlight of the Mills’ menu is lamb on the spit, slow-cooked over an open fire with a secret recipe of herbs and spices, crispy skin and moist tender meat makes for one of the nicest Greek dishes you’ll find anywhere. Wash this down with a glass of wine made from the family’s vineyard and you have a recipe for the perfect Greek evening.
Located in the centre of the village, Lord Byron’s is somewhat of an Ios institution. Reputed for its excellent food, its first rate cocktails and its hearty portions, you will not leave this restaurant disappointed. Greek food with an international slant, chef and owner Billy cooks up a treat every night and highlights include scrumtious crispy little filo parcels filled with local cheese and a sweet chilli dip; pork chop in a delicious creamy mustard sauce and the consistently enormous steak. Daily specials can involve anything from Sardines Greek Style to Sea Urchin Pasta (if you are very lucky) and Lobster and Champagne Risotto. At the bar, owner and cocktellier Molly mixes up a storm with her selection of innovative cocktails and impressively well stocked tequila collection. As with the food, specials adorn the drinks menu with a flair and creativity that entirely complements the kitchen’s culinary skills. You can choose to sit in Byron’s quirky interior and entertain yourself enjoying their décor, or outside on the terrace watching the world go by as Ios warms up for another evening of fun.
Also worthy of note are the new but highly regarded Arhondiko in the village for its mixture of tasty Greek dishes and home cooked Australian fare; The Fabulous Rock and Roll on the main road, a magnificently decked out 1950s style diner serving top notch burgers; and Harmony down on Mylopotas Beach for Mexican food, spectacular views and a super chilled out vibe.
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*Credit and thanks to Malcolm Kinnear for almost all of the restaurant photos used on this page.