Patmos is a sacred Dodecanese island that shimmers unspoiled in the blue of the Aegean Sea. The book of Revelation was written here and there’s even a Cave of the Apocalypse, but our recent trip to this airport-less island was much more secular in nature. We hired scooters and sped along the quiet roads that crisscross Patmos and its coastline, took a vertiginous hike to Psili Amos beach and looked around the imposing monastery high up at Chorá. Our lunches and suppers, meanwhile, centred around cheese saganaki, courgette fritters and fried calamari all too often. And though it was delicious, we were soon ready for an alternative to typical taverna fare.
I had been tipped off about Benetos, widely considered the island’s best restaurant, by several people – shoe designer Paul Andrew, Greek-born Maria Lemos, who owns Mouki Mou in London’s Chiltern Street, and the jeweller Ileana Makri, who often comes down from her home in Chorá to eat here. The restaurant was opened by Greek/American couple Benetos and Susan Matthaiou in the summer of 1997, on a site overlooking a quiet inlet a short taxi ride from the harbour community of Skala. The menu features house-cured and -smoked fish, breads baked on the premises and organic vegetables from the restaurant’s garden, as well as ingredients that are rare in most Patmos restaurants, such as miso and wasabi. Until recently, chef Benetos would spend winters working in Miami, which no doubt accounts for his fusion approach to Greek food.
We waited for our table propped up against the large outdoor bar, sitting alongside a tree festooned with candlelit lanterns, perusing the menu. Makri told me to try the seafood risotto that is “always perfectly cooked in squid ink with fresh mussels, shrimps, scallops and calamari”. Lemos, meanwhile, prefers the sea-urchin salad. Sitting in the restaurant area that spills out onto a spacious veranda, I started with the house-smoked sardines with split pea puree and chutney (€8), then plumped for the risotto (€19), which was delicious, while my husband opted for the tasty herb-crusted seared tuna (€27).
“It’s the only restaurant on this rustic island that offers five-star-worthy Greek food with a delicious western twist,” concludes Andrew. And he should know – the New Yorker has been coming to Patmos in August for over a decade.