Patmos is an untouched Greek Island where you can hear the cooing of doves early in the morning, start the day with the cockerel's crow, and be filled with the joy of life on hearing the chirping sparrows. I love it all – the calmness, serenity, friendliness of the people, nature, and flavours… What more could you want from a holiday?
-Ufuk Kaan Altin
Patmos is one of those islands that fill you with joy. You wake up with the cooing of doves, cockcrows and a symphony of chirping sparrows. It is one of the few islands with plenty of green spaces. Nature is untouched and life is slow here, like on many other islands. Patmos is a religious centre with monasteries worth visiting, but it's also a delicious island. Let's start our tour by climbing a small hill to Chora, the historical centre of the island. Chora was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2006.
I came here to eat a nice meal at the Pantheon Fish Restaurant. But what on earth is this? The restaurant is closed when I get there at around 4 pm. It's not open yet! It's a big disappointment, but I start to wander through the narrow streets of Chora. I take pictures of the blue and white houses, the monastery, and the windmills visible in the distance. I wander around for about an hour and when I pass the restaurant for the first time, thankfully I see a big man washing the floors of the tiny garden. “Are you open?" I ask. He invites me in and we introduce ourselves. It's none other than the owner of Pantheon, Yannis. His father, Vasilis Simadiris, opened this small, cosy restaurant in the '60s. Yannis has worked here since his childhood. Since Vasilis migrated 2 years ago, Yannis now runs the restaurant with his wife. Their two children, aged 18 and 16, help them during the high season – it's a real family business, you see.
Saganaki, fried calamari and…
I'm hungry but I don't have much time, so I order food while we are chatting. I choose a rocket and tomato salad for starters, and fried cheese (saganaki), as well as a 20 cl Raki. The saganaki is fried golden and extremely delicious. The rocket and tomatoes are also very fresh. I also tasted the restaurant's fried calamari. Yannis barely fried these; they were crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside. I wish they would cook them like this back home. It is very difficult to find fresh squid in Turkey.
The fish smells like the sea
“What fish do you have?" I asked. That evening they had swordfish and saddled sea bream, which is a very spiny fish. I decided on the swordfish and I'm glad I did. Yannis grilled two large fillets and he added blanched spinach on the side. The fish smells just like the sea – fresh and delicious, as well as juicy. I waste no time in devouring it all.
The meal is over but our conversation is not. One of Yannis's friends is sitting at the next table. He visited Istanbul many times when he was working on the ships. He doesn't want to let me go but as I mentioned above, I don't have much time. I reluctantly leave.
I paid €48 for this exquisite meal, including Raki.
A different experience
Next up is a different experience. I will see the sunset at Benetos restaurant in the Sapsila area near the harbour. I say “a different experience" because Benetos is a fine dining restaurant, which is a rare sight on the islands. They only serve in the evenings, except Monday.
I sit down in the spacious garden. The waiter hurrying to take my order is competent. I ask for the menu, which is nice and concise. The special of the day is sea urchin. The sea urchins brought to me on a large plate are very delicious. They bring freshly baked homemade bread with the dish, and the olive oil served at each table is also made by them. Most of the fruits and vegetables used in the dishes come from their own garden.
The things we do for love…
I also order a seafood risotto, with black cuttlefish. It has mussels, calamari and prawns in it. The rice is firm and al dente – it's a very successful dish.
I notice a stylish lady who is a little over middle-aged. She is chatting to the people at the next table and I overhear their conversation. Susan, who is an American artist, first came to the island 22 years ago. She first fell in love with the island of Patmos, and then with Benetos, her future husband. She came back within a year, and she stayed. Susan is a real islander now. Her husband is responsible for the kitchen while she helps with the service and administration. Every night she welcomes the guests and chats to them.
Susan leaves the other table and greets me. I seem to have piqued her interest by taking pictures of the food. She asks me how I am and what I think about the food. I tell her what I wrote above and she is glad. She doesn't want me to leave without trying the desserts. As my friends know very well, I don't have a sweet tooth, but I don't want to be rude. From the dessert menu, the lemon sorbet suits me best. First, some black mulberries are served in a separate dish – again, from their own garden. This is then followed by the sorbet. It is cool and fresh, I only wish it wasn't so sweet. But as I have already mentioned, I'm not a dessert person, so my opinion might not reflect the truth.
At the end of this beautiful night, I paid €56 for the meal and drinks.
I loved Patmos. The calmness, serenity, friendliness of the people, nature, and flavours… What more could you want from a holiday? I hope you too can also experience this joy one day.
Address: Chora, Patmos Tel: 00 30 22470 31226
Address: Sapsila, Patmos Tel: 00 30 22470 33089 www.benetosrestaurant.com
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