Grace Hotel Santorini welcomes Michelin star chef Lefteris Lazarou and the iconic Varoulko to the Cyclades.
Over recent years, the Cyclades has slowly climbed up our must re-visit places list; more and more people have come back raving about the food. Apparently, there is also a very famous sunset to see.
One of Greece's best hotels, Grace, member of the Auberge Resorts Collection, welcomed the iconic Varoulko earlier this year by Michelin-starred chef Lefteris Lazarou. In addition to its Michelin-awarded location in Piraeus, Varoulko found its second home in the Cyclades on Santorini and opened in April 2022. The menu re-introduces visitors to Greek traditional flavours in a dynamic form.
We started our evening at the 363 Lounge above the restaurant, watching the brilliant sunset over an Athenian Spritz. The Aperol/Campari-style drink was made with a Vermouth from Athens.
We both opted for the tasting – an impressive concoction of Greek fare on the fine side fusing surf and turf. The service was swift, professional and friendly, and we were whisked to our table sitting next to the stunning infinity pool. Bubbly was poured, linen blankets were spread, and the night began.
Bread came first; bread-as-a-course seemingly being a trend that's not going anywhere any time soon. And why not, because the art of a good loaf is worth celebrating just as much as any other bit of cheffery. These are made in-house. The traffic light of butters was impossible to overfeed on, particularly one which had some kind of meat or offal element which was spreadable edible heaven.
Kakavia “The Greek Fisherman’s soup” was served shortly after, which was an interesting take on the classic Cretian dish of barley rusk and fish stew. When the dish was placed down, a pleasing waft of the seaside accompanied it.
If it's even possible to make a bad fresh pesto dish, we haven't found one yet. Shrimp tartare with a firm bite and a few pretty leaves of basil, ginger and citrus sat on top of a spinach pie, each a bitesize package of fresh summery flavour and irresistibly moreish. It is one of Varoulko’s most renowned dishes.
The grouper was creamy, the juicy hunk of fish sat below a crispy shield of battered skin which was delightful. The beetroot, broccolini and carob on the side was a perfect palate cleanser. This was all washed down with a lovely bottle of Santo wine, a medium bodied Santorini classic with hints of elderflower – perfect with the seafood concoction.
Desserts were cracking. Literally, in the case of the "apple", which involved smashing a delicate sugar casing spiked with apple zest to reveal a smooth white chocolate mousse within. It was an unbeatable combination of stunning to look at and to eat, the super-concentrated fruit flavour being particularly notable. And this "vanilla tart" with a delicate thin pastry, a smooth custard filling and a nice thick layer of spice. The ice cream was great, and the effect of the custard and spice took me right back to childhood, as I'm sure was the intention. Clearly someone in the pastry section at Varoulko is having a ball.
So, the team at Varoulko have already settled very nicely into the space and are turning out fine dining very much worth the fine dining prices they're asking for it. It's a sensational restaurant, is all you need to know, and that's that. Varoulko at Grace Hotel in Santorini is one of the very best restaurants in the country, and a trip to the island without a reservation there would be a bit batty.