Avli in Rethymnon: Cretan Dining Defined
Avli in Rethymnon offers a sophisticated take on Cretan cuisine, complemented by an ambiance that brings out the best of the Venetian-influenced old town.
Avli in Rethymnon
To get to Avli means walking through the impossibly scenic streets of Rethymnon’s old town. The port city is an organized labyrinth of pedestrian lanes; the heart and core of a town known for its Venetian-era style. The classic and elegant architecture is maintained in a coat of original rich colors from dark reds to muted yellows.
Avli fits right in this scene. The restaurant is sprawled across the ground floor of a cluster of elegant buildings dating back to the 16th century.
Taking up a corner in an enchanting old town, Avli was easy to find and immediately easy to admire. Outdoor tables were set along the cobbled lanes offering a perfect view of pedestrian traffic, right under the decorated windows and walls of the restaurant.
Avli in Rethymnon: The Restaurant
I walked in the restaurant to find another kind of maze, a delightful set of dining spaces surrounded by warmly lit stone walls. The carefully placed decorative touches seemed to have been funneled from Cretan history: heavy antique glass bottles, intricately painted plates, jeweled trinkets and period statues. Most impressive was the barrel vaulted dining room which led to the namesake avli; the word means courtyard in Greek.
In the avli, tables draped in stark white filled large and small spaces; elegant palm trees and colorful bougainvillea filled the rest. The lighting was low, the décor perfect and the atmosphere intimate. Avli featured a unique blend of traditional Cretan architecture with the right balance of modern and chic.
For 25 years, Avli has been going strong, considered one of the top tables in town. It has expanded into a traditional market and a hotel. The core of it all – the foundation to its success- has been its menu where an emphasis is placed on offering traditional Cretan cuisine with the right amount of creativity. Food comes directly from local producers in Rethymnon and from greater Crete.
The Dishes at Avli in Rethymnon
The menu states the philosophy:
The cuisine of Crete is not complex. But, it is sophisticated.
We started off with the house Avli salad, a petite mix of lettuce, arugula, green apple pear avocado, pine nuts, walnuts and a flavorful Roquefort vinaigrette.
A Cretan dakos plate followed. Dakos is a traditional bread rusk hailing form Crete and quite popular all over Greece. The plate offered a selection of local cheeses, and dips including a spicy and flavorful tomato paste.
The menu had all of the delicious and traditional dishes I have learned are the pride of Crete including gamopilafo, a traditional wedding Cretan rice pilaf and chochli, a snail dish in tomato sauce with cracked wheat. Also featured was fouriariko, free range goat baked with honey and thyme.
We opted to try the pasta dishes. Stef ordered from the Creative Cretan section, a fantastic sioufikta which is a Cretan style pasta with shrimp, cherry tomatoes in a white wine sauce. I ordered from the Traditional Cretan Cooking section and loved the hondros, a crushed wheat and cereals risotto with fresh mushrooms, zucchini and thyme.
As with any Greek restaurant with an excellent name, Avli boasts an excellent selection of the finest local wines.
The Right Blend
The recipes of Crete are some of the favorites of Greeks today, and the island continues to grow its notoriety as having some of the healthiest and most flavorful dishes in the Mediterranean.
With a wonderful basis to work with, including the natural products of Crete and the ambiance that only Rethymnon can offer, Avli continues on with a formula that works: a blend of tradition and modern creativity.
Avli in Rethymnon
Xanthoudidou 22 and Radamanthios
Reservations necessary in the summer.
+30 28310 58250
*From 35 euro per person and up (including appetizer, main and glass of wine).
My Greece, My Travels was a guest of Avli in Rethymnon. As always on this blog, all opinions as a food and travel writer are my own.
How to Get to Crete
There are more than a dozen daily flights from Athens to the Heraklion International Airport in Crete via Aegean or Olympic.
International travelers arrive by air, usually with a change in Athens. Between May and October, charter and low-cost airlines operate direct flights mainly from the U.K., Germany and Scandinavian countries.
Ferries connect between Heraklion port in Crete to Piraeus port in Athens. Travel time by ferry is about 9 to 10 hours, and the journey is typically an overnight trip.
I highly recommend Minoan Lines. I journeyed on an overnight ferry from/to Athens and found the accommodation excellent (cabin room), great facilities around the boat and friendly service. Check out my earlier post: Overnight Ferry to Crete with Minoan Lines.
Getting Around Crete
The easiest way to get from point A to point B on the island is by driving. If you’re looking for a reliable and professional company, I recommend Rental Center Crete. They have car hire services at the Heraklion airport, Chania airport and the port of Heraklion. Other rental services are available in Hersonissos, Gouves, Kokkini Hani, Georgioupolis, Agios Nikolaos, Rethymno and Bali.
If you’re not looking to drive or bother with public transport, another option is booking a great private tour of the island. I’d recommend Crete Cab Airport Transfers. Besides transfers, they offer a variety of interesting tours and excursions with an array of vehicle types to choose from.
Where to Stay in Crete
I highly recommend the following stays in Crete.
I stayed about 25 kilometers just outside of Heraklion in a beautiful mountain village with a view of the sea named Achlada. Mourtzanakis Residence is traditional eco-minded stay set on a lush private property with a pool (adult and children’s pool) and features sunbathing areas. There are studios as well as larger villa homes. It is run with care by a wonderful local Greek family. Check out my full review: Mourtzankis Residence: Eco Villa Beauty.
Centered between Rethymnon and Chania, you’ll find a hidden gem called Natalia’s Houses. The property is set in the mountain village of Douliana about a half-hour drive to either city. The homes are traditional, offer great amenities and amazing peace and solitude. There is a pool and access to a hiking trail. This property is also run by a very hospitable Greek family. The property is a member of the Guest Inn – Greek Network of Rural Accommodation. Check out my full review: Natalia’s Houses: Greek Guesthouse Experience
Just steps from the old town of Chania you’ll find the four-star luxury Samaria Hotel known for its modern and beautiful suites and rooms. Views to Chania’s picturesque old town. Excellent breakfast and sparkling pool. Overall service is great.
For a rundown of top destinations to choose a home base in Crete, visit my earlier post Where to Stay in Crete.
What to Do in Crete
For a rundown of what I experienced in Crete, check out my post: 10 Things I Learned in Crete in 7 Days
Some of the best beaches in Greece are in Crete, check out: Photo Tour: Beaches of Crete to get inspired.
Stay tuned for more details on all of the properties above and more about what to do in Crete Don’t miss a post. Crete has more amazing restaurants, sites and villages to explore. Sign up for the My Greece, My Travels newsletter here.
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Have you dined at Avli in Rethymnon or any fine restaurants in Crete?