At Costa Navarino, resorts with Caribbean standards and old tower houses rub shoulders with idyllic pebble beaches. Elies on a beautiful beach north of Kalamata serves traditional Greek souvlaki wrapped in pita or threaded on skewers (mains from EUR12).
From olive groves to markets, Messinia is famous for its world-class oil – Homer’s “liquid gold”. Local rock salt and cheeses include feta, PDO-protected myzithra and pasto or synglino (pork with salt). Figs, watermelons, prickly pears, nuts and aromatic herbs from Mt Taygetus flourish.
1. Katerina’s Tavern
Located on the shore of Little Venice, this Greek restaurant and cocktail bar has been around for years. It’s family owned and operated by the Tsantilas sisters. Their daughter, Niki, and their son are also active in the business. Their food is a combination of modern and traditional dishes with an emphasis on the freshest ingredients.
This is a great spot to grab a bite of Greek food for lunch or dinner. The menu offers everything from salads to grilled seafood. There’s even a variety of pork filets. The restaurant has a nice seaside porch so you can enjoy your meal while enjoying the beautiful scenery of Mykonos.
The restaurant is very popular with tourists and locals alike. It’s located right next to the Westin Costa Navarino Resort and is a short drive from Voidokilia beach and other scenic spots in the area.
If you’re planning on dining here, it’s recommended to make a reservation ahead of time since the restaurant can get pretty busy during peak season. This is a great place to visit with friends and family for a nice Greek meal. The food is delicious and the service is excellent. You’ll definitely want to come back!
2. The Olive Tree
The Olive Tree is owned and operated by Sophia Daskalakis, who was born in the US but raised on Karpathos. Her restaurant is an authentic hidden treasure, with delicious Greek food that is truly local. She serves traditional Greek souvlaki wrapped in pitas or threaded on small wooden skewers, accompanied by fries cooked in Messinian extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with hand-picked oregano.
This region is also famous for its world-class oil and Kalamon olives, with the best time to buy the latter being in November and January (at the biweekly market in and around the hangar-like buildings between the bus station and the castle). It’s a great place to try some of the area’s wine as well.
It also grows figs, grapes, oranges and other citrus fruits, watermelons, prickly pears, peanuts and aromatic plants, as well as the wild herbs of Taygetus. And, of course, it produces a smoky variety of cheeses.
Among the regional specialities, look out for hondromenoudelo (coarse vermicelli-style noodles with oil, sauteed onion and grated tomato, slow-cooked and served with fresh ground pepper and feta), tabakali (beans cooked with courgettes) and kouzouni (cured pork with egg and tomato). Storto is a favourite dessert at weddings – but you don’t need one to enjoy it!
The town of Kalamata is the best base for exploring this westward corner of the Peloponnese. It has the longest city beach in Greece and is home to many of the region’s best restaurants. It’s also a gateway to Sparta, Messenia’s ancient sites (including Nestor’s Palace, the wise old king who appears in the Odyssey and Iliad) and Voidokilia, a beautiful, bird-friendly lagoon surrounded by old tower houses and mountains.
3. The Olive Tree Bar & Restaurant
At Foino on Ipapanti street, chef Giorgos Horaitis (of the famed Olympian Grill in Kalamata) and partner Dimitra Poulopoulou have created an approachable high-gastronomy venue. It’s a simple space, with a big plane tree dominating the yard. The menu includes nice traditional meze, like the suckling pig served in small pieces with crispy crackling and courgette flowers stuffed with rice, as well as more inventive dishes such as the grilled sardines with olive jam and fennel salad.
The food is a real surprise, with an impressive range of dishes and quality cuts of meat. The steak tartare was a highlight, as were the veal cheeks and pata negra chop. The wine list is also very good, with plenty of choice from the region.
Among the wines that you can try is Roditis, Fileri and Mandilaria. You can find local varieties in restaurants as well as at vineyards and wineries where you can take a tour, learn about the process of grape-growing, and sample a glass or two.
The gastronomy of Messinia is not to be missed, especially since the region is rich in ingredients and produces excellent wines. It’s a bit of a drive from Athens, but well worth the effort for foodies. The regional capital of Kalamata is a little more convenient, with an international airport, and boasts the longest city beach in the country. It’s also the gateway to Sparta, ancient Messene and the sands of Voidokilia. The village of Kardamyli is a must visit too, with old tower houses and views of the sea and mountains of Taygetos. Stay at Elies (mains from EUR10), which does modern takes on local cuisine and serves great regional wine.
4. The Olive Tree Restaurant & Bar
The Olive Tree is a hidden gem for locals. It serves breakfast specials all day (omelets, pancakes, french toast etc). Their lunch menu consists of sandwiches, wraps and burgers. They also serve homemade dinner selections everyday. Some of their most popular dishes are chicken piccata, crab cakes and greek gyro. They also have delicious tiramisu, baklava and chocolate cakes.
The Olive Tree is a family owned restaurant in Ocean City that has been serving great food and service for over forty years. They are a true hidden treasure for anyone who loves Karpathos and Greek food. They have a great all you can eat salad bar, garlic bread sticks, homemade sauces and incredible desserts.
5. The Olive Tree Bar & Restaurant
When it comes to Greek souvlaki (seafood wraps) and grilled fish, the best place in Messinia is The Olive Tree. It also serves a handful of other Greek classics including pasta, casseroles and salads. This venue is perfect for family meals, date nights or large group celebrations. The food was amazing, the service was outstanding, and the drinks were on point! I will definitely be returning.
You can’t help but love the olives when visiting Messinia, with acres of groves beckoning with shimmering leaves. At a nearby olive-press, you’ll discover how 95% of Messinia’s PDO olive oil is made and enjoy tasting the creamy myzithra (a saltier, spicier alternative to feta) and the pungent, lemony sfela. The area’s fruit and vegetables are equally impressive – look out for PDO pomegranates from Ermioni, melon from Argos and artichokes from Iria, as well as wild cherries, prunes and figs.
The capital of Messinia, Kalamata, may be better known for its olives but it’s also home to a long city beach and California-style unfussy attitude that pervades the town’s bars and cafes. The sprawling Costa Navarino resort offers Caribbean-style service but try neighbour Gialova for a more intimate stay.
In the old town, pedestrianised Staikopoulo Street with cheek-by-cheek tavernas touting for your business is ideal for people watching and lunches. Vasilis(mains from EUR10) is a reliable choice for hearty Greek dishes and has an excellent lamb dish, while Bouboulinas serves fish in a dreamy setting by the waterfront. A short drive south of the town is the coastal village of Kardamyli, which is a favourite stop for travellers looking for an archetypal Greek island experience. Its picturesque harbour front and medieval tower houses are set beneath the peaks of the Taygetos mountains.