|The amazing private beach front at Elounda Mare|
Perched on the edge of a beautiful, desolate peninsula at the most Eastern point of Crete, the Elounda Mare literally has its toes dipped right into the bright blue Mediterranean sea. There’s a pool which you would expect, but there is also beautiful sandy beach front and the room options include individual villas with their own private pool. The villa I stayed in has all the standard hotel features that I love so much and then a lot more. There were deep, beautiful baths with air jets, huge flat screen televisions, wifi, antique furniture, local art and lashings of high end toiletries.
|Club sandwich – the ultimate hotel test|
Elounda Mare is a Relais and Chateaux property and so of course the food is sensational. So good in fact that we did not venture anywhere else on Crete for our three nights there. Shameful I know. The test of any hotel is of course the club sandwich and Elounda Mare’s version while steeply priced (€20) delivered in spades with warm toasted bread, tender chicken and an accompanying serve of crisp french fries.
|Not one, not two.. but six lamb chops per serve. Thanks very much.|
For casual fare there is the Deck restaurant. The seafood risotto (€30.50) was stonking, packed with seafood that literally popped with freshness and six (now that’s generous) perfect lamb chops (€30.50) were juicy with a memory of pinkness inside.
|The setting for our Welcome Cocktail night – outside Elounda Mare’s own white washed church|
Every Friday there is a “Welcome Cocktail” night that all guests are invited to, held on the village square at the hotel which is bordered by a tiny, white washed Greek church where they hold weddings and a couple of shops which I was too scared to enter for fear my credit card would spontaneously combust. The cocktail is followed by the Fisherman’s Evening at the Yacht Club restaurant which has a seafood buffet for €60. After two weeks in Greece I had become accustomed to great seafood but this was great seafood in ridiculous abundance. There were bowls of salty and intense fish soup, huge plump mussels cooked in a creamy sauce and delicate slivers of citrus flavoured ceviche. After the buffet main course arrived, a plate of sword fish and sea bream fillets grilled simply and eaten sitting out over the ocean with the water lapping at the base of the restaurant.
|Two words – seafood buffet!|
The seafood frenzy was followed by a dessert buffet, and if there are two words more dear to me in the English language than “seafood buffet” they are clearly “dessert buffet”. The table was groaning with chocolate drenched profiteroles and wodges of trembling almond cake.
|And more seafood buffet – check out that ceviche…|
However, the highlight of our stay was dinner at Elounda Mare’s Old Mill restaurant. The restaurant is open air and faces out on to the sea with a grand piano in one corner setting a romantic mood. The food on offer is grown up and never over wrought. To start, the tartar of sword fish (€17.50) was light and zesty and accompanied by a perfectly dressed herb salad. A prawn “cappuccino” (€22.50) turned out to be a cup of velvety foam dotted with tender chunks of crustacean.
|Amazing desserts at the Old Mill restaurant|
Tuna fillet defied the fish’s tendency to tough meatiness and crunch was added with a hazelnut crust (€41.50). Not as assured was the Cretan rabbit (€37.50) with walnuts in a honey sauce which erred on the side of being too dry. However, the sweet end of the meal here was strong with an ordinary sounding chocolate brownie arriving as a sliver of rich, fudgie brownie topped with red fruit mousse and teamed with vibrant green tea sorbet (€13). Cretan cheese cake (€13) would not recognise itself in its “reinvented” form of cherry and lemon sorbet balanced on thyme flavoured biscuit and topped with rich cream cheese. It was a sensational dining experience and one worth travelling for even if you are not staying at the hotel.
|Breakfast of Strapatsatha – proving it is never too early in the day to have fetta|
For those who are guests, the breakfast is certainly worth getting up for with a buffet of fresh fruit, cereal, pastries, meats and cheese and hot food cooked to order ranging from Strapatsatha, a Greek breakfast of scrambled eggs with fetta and tomato, to a stack of pancakes drizzled with maple syrup.
|Our own private pool outside our room – true luxury|
A few nights at Elounda Mare allows a little piece of what feels like paradise. Everything is perfect here from the service to the food. The catch is the price, this is an expensive kind of paradise and getting the ultimate hotel fix does not come cheaply.
Gourmet Chick was a guest of Elounda Mare.
Details: Elounda Mare Hotel, 72053 Elounda, Crete, Greece (Ph +(30) 28410 68200)
Damage: Budget Breaking. Rates start at €290 a night. The two bedroom villa we stayed in with a private pool starts at €700 a night for four people.