If you thought Greek yogurt is an important part of a healthy Mediterranean diet, well, right you are. But it’s also just the start of what could be a beautiful journey of discovery into the heart of Greek gastronomy. But that sounds like a lot of work, so why not make it easy on yourself and buy a ticket to the cradle of Greek cuisine, Crete? If you do, you may end up—like I did—at the most exciting boutique hotel to open in Europe this fall: It’s called Legacy Gastro Suites, and it’s a feast for all senses.
We’re talking about a five-star, all-suite boutique hotel in the heart of Heraklion, the largest city on the big and mysterious island of Crete. From London or Athens, fly there with award-winning Aegean (en.aegeanair.com), which has some unique Greek gastronomic offerings of its own. As for Legacy Gastro Suites, it is a bold pairing of culinary discovery and cultural touch points framed by an elegantly reimagined 1950s-era design aesthetic. Guests can immerse themselves in Greek gastronomy through dedicated, all-Greek food stations situated within each suite. Each tastefully luxurious suite is thematically linked to one of three giants of Cretan culture: author Nikos Kazantzakis, poet Vincenzo Kornaros and painter El Greco.
Each suite has an indulgent private balcony with commanding views of the modern Port of Heraklion and Mediterranean Sea. In homage to El Greco, Kornaros and Kazantzakis, each of the12 suites is imbued with distinctive references to the life and leading works of these preeminent Cretan artists. Taking stylistic inspiration from 1950s-era urban design and set in a landmark refurbished historic building, the hotel’s bright suites are sumptuously decorated with references to Crete’s cultural icons: wood accents and a spectacular bookshelf in the K Suites, poetry-accented mirrors in the V Suites, and paintings and romantic pendant lamps in the El Suites.
To meet this unique design challenge, the hotel enlisted the talents of Athens-based interior architect Achilleas Kritikos, who says that what appealed to him as an interior designer was “to avoid the obvious decorative clichés, to merge the twin axes of culture and gastronomy without delving into kitsch.” He adds that “the building had been a longtime Heraklion landmark, so another challenge was how to reimagine that, for example, in choosing a new color scheme and while respecting the façade’s decorative motifs from the 1950s. The result is something both cozy and luxurious.” The building’s exterior is an urbane shade of rose pink, while on the inside, furniture is inspired by the past but stays eminently contemporary, too.
“I had to pay close attention to details of color and fabric in order to achieve what you might call a ‘new vintage look,’” Kritikos added. This meticulousness extends to the marble-topped food stations, which with their custom woodwork showcase gourmet items in an unobtrusive manner that evokes the warmth of yesteryear in a uniquely modern way.
Some of those items include mixed dried fruits and nuts, mountain teas, Greek deli cuts and cheeses, premium Greek honey products, extra virgin olive oil from Crete, savory tapenades, pasteli (homemade honey sesame bars), vanilla ipovrichio (the traditional Greek “spoon sweets”), Cretan sultana raisins, loukoumi and more. Deli cuts and cheeses are kept in mini-refrigerators with clear glass doors, next to sophisticated wine coolers that showcase premium Greek wines. A food station price list clearly lists the items available from the food stations. A variety of uniquely selected producers have been selected to source the ingredients of the menu of My C, the hotel’s casual gourmet eatery on the ground floor.
About Heraklion little has been written but much could be said. It is ancient, it was once Arab, also Venetian, then Turkish, now Greek but always fundamentally Cretan. To get a sense of the warp and weft of this island, its sheer scale—160 miles from east to west—you need either a magic carpet or car, and for the latter I recommend as I always do a local, family-owned company. Look no further than Rental Center Crete (rental-center-crete.com). I picked up my automatic car very close to the entrance of Legacy Gastro Suites and, within moments, was cruising south to the onetime hippie beach of Matala. On the way back I could have stopped at the Minoan palace ruins of Knossos, but I figured everybody else does, and besides, I was hungry. Up in my K Suite I tried some Cretan cheese and red wine, then started to read a book about El Greco, but it was in Greek and I must have dozed off, because when I woke it was almost time for my delicious, and included, gourmet Greek breakfast, which came with a side serving of Mediterranean blue which I drank in slowly from the balcony. Now, isn’t that a deliciously Greek way to start your day?
For more information, visit legacygastrosuites.com.