My ex-girlfriend is Greek. Thankfully, we are still good friends. Over the past decade I have seen Greece in all four seasons, and I still frequently travel to Greece to stay with her and discover more of that beautiful country. One thing I quickly discovered, is that I really love fish tavernas.
But not all fish tavernas are created equal. No sir. All will serve fresh fish, of course. But it isn’t uncommon for some tavernas to have only have frozen squid and octopus on the menu, though many more will (additionally) offer the more expensive fresh cephalopods. And as anyone who knows anything about seafood will readily inform you; freshly caught is always superior.
This brings me to Achilleas Fish Taverna, on the island of Crete. Plenty of fresh seafood there. Located in Chania, about 15 minutes walking distance from the famous Venetian port, you’ll find that establishment on the corner of Monis Gonias and Akti Papanikoli, where you can sit on the terras outside for probably much of the year and have a nice view of Nea Chora beach and the sea. After a short wait for a table to become available, we sit down and order. We decide to have fava, cretan rusk with tomato and cretan cheese, little fried fish, grilled squid, and fried potatoes.
Oddly for a fish taverna, one of the tastiest dishes was the fava. Without question one of the best I’ve ever had! Beautiful smooth rich creamy texture, served with a separate plate of fresh onion so you can add as much as you like. Exactly as it should be.
The fresh grilled squid (“καλαμάρι”) was simply delicious, and the marithaki (“μαριδάκι”)—little fish that are grilled or fried—was even better. You eat these tiny fish entirely in one bite: head, bones, and tail. Loved these! The only slight niggle I have is that they removed the heads, which I don’t understand. Maybe squeamish tourists complained too often? Weird, because you can still just decapitate the fish yourself if you don’t like the heads. But okay, it’s not a big deal.
We also ordered fries (πατάτες) and a typical Cretan dish comprised of Cretan rusk called paximadi (“παξιμάδι”), tomato, olive oil, and a special kind of Cretan soft cheese called mizithra (“μυζήθρα”). Also very tasty.
And now for the really amazing stand-out feature of this taverna: the vast selection of ouzo they offer. Ouzo is a typical Greek drink, famously known for the so-called ouzo-effect wherein the anethole that is dissolved in the ethanol is forced out of solution by the addition of water (e.g. from the ice cubes), creating an emulsion that causes the light scattering effect that makes the drink appear milky white. More importantly, it is very tasty and one of the traditional accompaniments to mezethes (“μεζέδες“). It goes well with seafood.
I have honestly never been to a taverna that had so many types of ouzo to choose from. There were something like 60 different brands and varieties from all over Greece! We complimented the owner on his splendid assortment, and then he proudly told us that several producers of ouzo (not big commercial ones, obviously) have come to his tavern and were pleasantly surprised to find that they were actually able to order their own ouzo. I can tell you that this is very special.
We selected two bottles of ouzo. The first bottle was from Frantzeskos, from Samos, and it is simply amazing! Soft, velvety, sweet, no harshness and wonderfully aromatic. One of the best ouzos I’ve ever had, no question.
The second bottle, Nisiotiko by Giokarini, was also from Samos. Still velvety but a tad harsher compared to Frantzeskos. Also plenty aromatic, but a bit less of that light creamy sweetness. Perhaps a bit ‘fresher’ and therefore arguably a slightly better match with seafood. Certainly still in my top ten, but I definitely liked the Frantzeskos better. We were also served a plate of fish meze with this bottle, compliments of the house, which is a very nice gesture.
After dinner in Greece it is very typical for tavernas to offer a little desert, usually some slices of watermelon. But in Crete, you are usually served tsipouro instead—often distilled by the taverna’s owners themselves. We were served a pleasantly light chocolate cake instead, definitely for the best since we’d already drunk two bottles of ouzo.
The unique ouzo selection and outstanding seafood make Achillea’s Fish Taverna the kind of place I would wholeheartedly recommend, and I will 100% visit it again when I return to Crete. Fresh seafood is always a little bit more expensive, but the prices here were absolutely reasonable—certainly for this quality. There was no table available when we arrived, also a sign that the food is going to be good. We had to wait a little, so it may be advisable to make a reservation. After dinner, it’s a good idea to go for a little walk along the promenade to digest the food a little. At the end you’ll find a little harbour, where it is quite possible you’ll see the fishing boat, like the one below, that was used to catch your dinner. How cool is that?