Think of all the world’s best resorts today and one common trend emerges. Their food is increasingly local, fresh, often organic – and SIMPLE. This could well be because that is what luxury travellers want, so it is a case of chicken and egg. Resorts that still go for chefs’ concoctions, messed up artistic works, do not please their diners, and luxury travellers, thanks to word of mouth and social media, do not favour such old-fashioned offerings. Santorini’s best-performing and unforgettable Iconic Santorini, for instance, has one restaurant, with several nooks and crannies where tables can be put up. No outsiders can eat here, and hotel guests must say by 2.30 p.m. whether they will be dining here or going out. The gal had a treat in being given a private cooking demonstration of what chef Mattheos Sorotos can produce.
Everything was already prepped. He was going to show how to do three highly popular local dishes, fava, using local beans to make a flavourful dip not unlike hommus; tomato fritters fried in sunflower oil, and saganaki, which implies the hemispherical metal pan used for eventual presentation – this dish turned out to be a stew of whole prawns with garlic, spring onion, feta cubes and the delicious Santorini tomatoes that are justly famous. Mattheos Sorotos is so passionate. Now 27, he started cooking in high school. Local suppliers bring him what he needs, including just-caught fish. He buys in bread and yoghurt but little else. Generally, his dinner menus, displayed on a blackboard by Yannis, run to a rough 14-night cycle while breakfast, which is usually a composed multi-course meal, is on an eight-day rotation.
Of course Iconic Santorini is as flexible as it can be, though if anyone wants halal, sorry, and the only kosher is catering packs flown in from Athens. For me, at breakfast, a change was necessary but no problem. Set out on my Mediterranean-blue tiled table on the private terrace outside the hotel’s Cliff Suite was, exactly at eight, as requested, a blue and white linen mat, Raynaud china, WMF cutlery and masses of superb coffee in a big white Alfi pot. Imagine eating the best Greek yoghurt in the world, and two eggs served in their skillet, with oil-frosted lightly-toasted farmers’ bread, floating on the cantilevered terrace above the steep-sloping cliff.
I ate so well at dinner, too. Salad showed that the cubes of halloumi, here, are not nearly as salty as overseas – it came with julienne of carrot, fennel, spinach, sun-dried tomato and sesame sauce. I went on to Soutzoukakia, long meat balls usually served with tomato sauce but no problem, mine came with celeriac purée and a big side of artichoke hearts. I honestly liked the Santorini white wines better than the reds: one of my favourites was Estate Argyros 2016 Assyrtiko, fermented in French oak. Yes, I ate so well, and so too do all the team, but no-one here carries an ounce of extra flesh, which is not surprising since everything, from incoming drinks and food through to guests’ usually-elephantine suitcases has to be carried down from the outside world. And then, reversing the Grand Old Duke of York, back up again. Yes, this is a truly unforgettable place, more like a sprawling private house than a hotel. NOW SEE A COOKING LESSON VIDEO