A cluster of colourful 16th century mansions in the old town of Rethymno, Avli is an all-suites hotel that doesn’t rest on its architectural laurels. Food is what really makes this passion project sing: the cobbled lane and flower-filled courtyard are the magical setting of a creative Cretan restaurant. Inside, you’ll find a cooking school, one of Greece’s largest wine cellars, and a deli stocked with traditional products. All this is the handiwork of Katerina Xekalou, the owner of Avli.
“I believe gastronomy is the most immediate, relaxed, and memorable way to get to know a place,” Katerina says. “For us Greeks, sharing food and gathering together around a table is a sacred ritual, which reflects the unique gifts of our country, and our personality as a people. I enjoy creating recipes that sum up the Cretan philosophy of life.”
At Avli, classic Cretan dishes are given a twist: snails are sautéed in tomato sauce, lamb pilaf flavoured with lemon and cream, and dakos, rusks traditionally topped with grated tomato and soft cheese, are piled with marinated anchovies, rocket and red pepper. “I love it when we succeed in creating unforgettable dishes from the most basic ingredients,” Katerina smiles.
On Crete, the ingredients of a perfect meal might include foraged dandelions, tangy goat’s cheese and fleur de sel. As Katerina says: “Crete is a blessed land. The biodiversity and climate create incredibly delicious and high-quality products. With very little, cooks here can create ‘poetry’.
It is this rare quality that we share with guests in our Cretan Cuisine and Culture masterclasses — the sublime wisdom and pleasure that is hidden in the simple and humble.”