The Cycladic island of Sifnos is the birthplace of the most famous celebrity chef in all of Greece, Nikolaos Tselementes, whose fusion of ancient cookery with modern European techniques gave birth to the archetypal Greek menu you’ll see in tavernas across the nation today. The little island is full of places to experience Tselementes’ legacy, so you’re pretty much guaranteed a good meal on Sifnos.
This Cretan/Sifnian place by Kamares port is your ideal entrée into the island’s food scene. The cooks, waiters, and even fish suppliers all hail from the same family, who have owned it for more than a century. The crispy revithokeftedes (a local type of falafel) come highly recommended, but to try a Cycladic-Cretan crossover, go for the dakos (Cretan barley rusks covered in tomato sauce) with creamy manouri, the local soft-ish cheese. They’re best enjoyed with generous lashings of balsamic vinegar.
Pescetarians, all your dreams will come true at this seafront taverna, sitting pretty in the turquoise horseshoe bay of Cheronissos. Spot the cages hanging off the sea wall – you can choose your own lobster, which you can either share whole with your companions or served on a bed of spaghetti. We’d recommend the latter – Cheronissos’ seafood spaghetti is known island-wide for its incredible mix of in-the-mouth textures.
Three terraces, each serving a different purpose, comprise this cool Apollonia hangout. One is an upscale Mediterranean restaurant with trendy takes on Greek classics, cooked by celebrity chef Yiannis Loukakos. Capers, so abundant they sprout out of Sifnian buildings and dry stone walls, are an ingredient you’ll find plenty of at Rabagas: the chargrilled octopus comes with them sprinkled on like salt, adding eye-popping sour flavour to a tentacle already smothered in olive oil, Santorini fava puré and sweet cherry tomatoes.
Apokofto beach is one of the island’s quieter swimming spots and offers an uninterrupted view of the 17th-century Chrysopigi monastery. The best place to take it all in? Chrysopigi Taverna, a rustic and reasonably-priced restaurant. Chrysopigi serves revithada (ceramic pot chickpea stew, Sifnos’ Sunday staple) exactly as it should be: slow-cooked with an aromatic bay leaf or two and a juicy wedge of lemon on the side.
Tsikali, a restaurant and dairy on the sands of shell-shaped Vathi bay, is run by Mr Nikos – an electrician-turned-sailor-turned-cheesemaker obsessed with using the freshest produce. The family farm supplies seasonal herbs and vegetables, which perfectly complement the cheese and meat dishes on the menu. To get the best of both worlds, try the spanakopita, a traditional pie lovingly made by Nikos’ wife. Bite through the flaky pastry to reveal just-wilted spinach, farm-grown dill and little bits of sheep’s milk feta peppered throughout.
The petite resort of Platis Yialos has a surprisingly sizable food scene – and ultra-modern Maiolica is your opportunity to try Greece’s famed Mediterranean diet. Take your pick of health-conscious small plates, which are prepared using innovative techniques: the green salad with biodynamic lentils is spread atop of a Sifnean ring of bread with tweezers. Dessert is an equally precise affair, with a spherical scoop of honey-pie-flavoured ice cream served in a nest of vermicelli-like kataifi and a port wine glaze.
Rumour has it Tom Hanks has been spotted at this fancy fish restaurant, but even if he’s not there, Omega3 in Platis Yialos is somewhere you’ll want to be seen. Book ahead and gear up for this feast for the senses: the crab ceviche, whipped with local pear foam, looks and feels as good as it tastes. Sprigs of purslane and pink smoked beetroot add a splash of colour to this citrusy dish, each tender bite melting on your tongue.
There are hotel options for every traveller on Sifnos that are bookable through Culture Trip, as well as some must-see attractions. For further exploration, head to Athens and check out the historical sites as well as the capital city’s best restaurants. Round off your stay at a boutique hotel.
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