Don’t expect Michelin stars or “exotic” ingredients or recipes – the majority of restaurants on Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula are family affairs serving traditional dishes using home-grown produce. But there’s a lot more on the menu beyond lamb chops and moussaka to discover on a foodie odyssey. Crispy pork, homemade egg pasta, and freshly foraged herbs and greens are just some of the gastronomic gems. The restaurants’ settings, often in ancient village squares under the plane trees, add to the flavour.
Here are the absolute must-eat places to prioritise on a foodie trip to this spectacular region in southern Greece.
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O Thiasos, Kalamata
It might sound surprising, but Peloponnesians adore their pork – perhaps a hangover from the Ottoman occupation when locals knew that if they reared pigs their Muslim rulers wouldn’t interfere. The star act at this lively restaurant under the plane trees near Kalamata’s cathedral is roast suckling pig, gournopoula, with crackling just the right level of crunchy. In autumn it’s served with local quinces. Follow it with moustalevria, a jelly made from grape must (freshly crushed fruit juice). Genial chef-owners Vasilis and Kostas are guided by the seasons as many of the vegetables come from Kostas’ farm. Apart from roast pork, must-trys include fava (yellow split pea puree), black-eyed beans with spinach and meat pie made from wholewheat pastry.
Monemvasia, a mighty rock off the Peloponnese’s southeast coast, is Greece’s Gibraltar and, with its ancient churches, castles and cobbled streets, oozes history. Often in such places, it can be hard to find genuine local food. But Matoula, right on the city walls of the Lower Town, is a delicious exception. Sit in its vine-draped garden overlooking the azure sea as you enjoy courgette patties, stuffed aubergines and pristine-fresh salads. Its speciality though is saithia (spinach wraps), which are sublime.
Located in a quiet, geranium-draped square overlooking the town, Sofos has been run by the same family since the 1950s. Dishes are a riff on traditional meals and served on eye-catching artisan pottery. In the Peloponnese, chicken is…