Ever since our first holiday to Arillas in 2002 Brouklis Taverna has been our favourite place for evening meals when we holiday there, although we also love the fresh fish at Vavilas.
Our typical evening starts with the walk to Brouklis using part of the Arillas walking trail that cuts across from the road where our apartment is situated to the main road into the village, where Brouklis is. The walk is pleasant and only takes about 20 minutes, but can be a bit longer if I want to stop to take photos along the way, or my husband sees some butterflies or other insects in the hedgerows. Halfway along the track is a small enclosure where a villager keeps his goats and around this time in the evening he is often to be seen herding his goats back into their pen from a patch of corn where they have been feeding, then it’s over a small stream, water running in the spring but dried up by autumn, gingerly negotiating the wooden planks that constitute a bridge and then past locals’ smallholdings with chickens in runs and various crops being grown, finally reaching the road with Brouklis Taverna in sight.
Brouklis is a family run taverna that has been serving authentic Greek food for well over 40 years. Since we’ve been going there Dimitris Kourkoulos has been front-of-house but since the death of his father I guess he is now the Manager/part owner. His sister used to do all the cooking but is now helped out by her son, however the recipes for the family’s dishes have stayed the same. Dimitris is charismatic, has a brilliant memory for faces, and I’m sure that if you visit every year he will remember your name. We don’t go every year but he does recognise us, remembering the time I collapsed at the taverna and he was able to make use of the first aid he’d learned at a community course, all the time waiting for the doctor to arrive from his surgery just 100 metres away. Dimitris is a polyglot – switching effortlessly from Greek to Italian to German to English to French and goodness knows what other languages – as the need arises. He and his wife (who has a job not associated with the taverna) play an important part in community life; his wife helps organise the many festivals and Dimitris set up the website www.arillas.com with its links to live webcams in the village and nearby resorts. Along with other local business people and the doctor he has also been heavily involved in creating the village recycling centre and doing everything possible to keep the village clean and welcoming, to the extent that he has been interviewed on Sky News I mention all this because if you stay in Arillas and eat at Brouklis regularly you will find he is a mine of local information (when he has time to stop and chat). There are holiday flats to let over the taverna which are a convenient base close to the beach.
We arrive at Brouklis having reserved a table (either by popping in during the day, or done on leaving the previous evening); it’s definitely essential during the height of the season but advisable even in May/June. Having been shown to our table it’s usually Dimitris who brings the menus and describes the various Specials for the evening: everything is prepared daily in a limited number of portions using local ingredients. We always find it difficult to choose our meal – there are so many things that we like but if I have too much I can’t cope with it all – so we take our time to pick some salad or vegetables to eat as a starter or with our main dish. If there are sardines as a special we might have those to share, along with zucchini balls; I also love the gigantes (giant butter beans) and the spinach and feta pie. The Greek salads are very big so we might share one for a starter. The moussaka is very good, but extremely rich, so I tend to avoid it now, although my husband still has it. Spit roast lamb, stifado or stuffed pork roll are very good and generally served with a few potatoes and possibly carrots, but don’t expect a typical British roast meal with lots of green vegetables. Orange cake with icecream is our all time favourite dessert but sells out quickly when it’s on the `specials`. There are plenty of good bottles of wine on the menu but we usually just have a carafe of the house wine: there is also a good choice of beers from the Corfu brewery, just up the road.
Once we’ve chosen we tuck into our bread (made by the nearby baker) dipping it in very green olive oil and start on our wine while we watch the world go by. The outside seating area is covered with vines, which provide welcome shade during the day. We are usually at a table that fronts the main road leading to the seafront. It’s not exactly scenic – opposite is an area of rough ground where cars are parked, a shop that has been empty for years, and cars, scooters and motorbikes negotiate their way past the pedestrians slowly making their way to their favourite bars and restaurants near the seafront. A lady sits on a chair outside her dress shop, a couple of dogs have a fight, the baker stops his van outside and calls to Dimitris to see if he needs any more bread for the evening, then stray cats turn up hoping for some dropped morsels of food: these 21st century Durrell-esque scenes suit us fine but if you want more peace ask if there’sa table further back, or even inside, which is where locals often go when they turn up much later in the evening.
At the end of our delicious meal and having heard the latest gossip from Dimitris, we stroll slowly back to our apartment along one of the two roads as by now it’s nearly dark. Generally we go via the seafront in case the sun hasn’t completely disappeared below the horizon. Passing the Malibu music bar I can’t resist a few dance steps, check to see if there’s a special Greek evening on at the Hotel Marina, then along the seafront hoping to hear frogs croaking in the stream that empties onto the beach, acknowledge the greetings from the waiters at Graziella Taverna, our lunchtime haunt when we spend a day on the beach. The road turns inland onto `our` road, where, fingers crossed, if it’s early in the year we’ll see glow-worms and further on hear the distinctive scops owls calls from the trees on the hillside and then we know we’ll have to come back and do it all again another year.
“For more information see the Brouklis website”:http://www.brouklis.com