Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Pelican's Nest

This is George. He's looking quite laid back isn't he. And why shouldn't he? After all, as he'd just remarked when this photo was taken, around 3.00pm on Sunday 4th March, "Onassis himself couldn't have done this could he? He'd have had 15 aides all around him and all sorts of security and stuff. But look..." he gestured to the view, newly clarified after he'd rolled up one of the polythene screens which protects his taverna from the worst of the winter's weather, "what more could I need? I look at this view almost every day of my life. I like to cook and I can do it in my own taverna."

George's taverna is The Pelican's Nest on the front at Kiotari. Here you'll find just a small clutch of tavernas, each with a distinctive character, plus one very pleasant bar which also serves snacks and basic meals. The tavernas are the Paralia, The La Strada, Stefano's and the Pelican's Nest. 

It's odd really, but it's taken us six and a half years to finally visit George's establishment. No scientific reason, just, well, that's how it is. What finally swung it for us was walking past on Friday January 27th, in bright sunshine but braving a chilly wind. Outside was an "A" board announcing to nobody, since the area was quite devoid of humans, that the Pelican's Nest was now open every day for coffees and snacks during wintertime. Since it was around 11.30am, coffee time, we ascended the steps, entered the temporary glass-panelled wooden door (which disappears during the summer season, as do the polythene screens) and mooched around looking for signs of life. Inside it was sweltering, since the bright sunshine which was pouring through the screens had created the usual greenhouse effect. Whilst we unwrapped scarves and unbuttoned coats, I called out "Kaneis etho [anybody about]"? 

No answer, came the stern reply. Just as we were beginning to think that this was going to be a coffee-deprivation moment, George entered the door, flicking a cigarette end from his fingers and called a "kali mera sas!" Aha! Now we were in business. Had we been sitting outside in the rather cooler than normal temperatures which we've been experiencing this winter, it would have been hot coffee or even hot chocolate, but here in the artificial warmth of the Pelican's Nest's terrace, gazing out across the beach below to the deep blue sea and cloudless sky, it had to be a couple of frappes, which we ordered. George nipped behind the bar to oblige and was soon sitting with us and having a chat.

Since we didn't really know him, apart from having talked over our garden gate some time back when he was touring the lanes in his car looking for an errant dog which had run off, we apologised that we'd lived here all this time and so far not been in to try his fare. He wasn't bothered at all. "You're here now," he said, "and I'm sure you'll drop in one day and try my cooking, eh?" Of course, we assured him, we certainly would, especially as he told us that every Sunday afternoon the place was usually packed to capacity for Sunday lunch, whilst he also hired two musicians to provide some ethnic accompaniment to their meals.

"You mean I might be able to dance?" asked my now eager wife.

"If it takes your fancy, sure!" replied our host. The conversation continued and we covered a lot of topics. Turns out that George is an Asklipiot and so we talked about the history of the village where we collect our mail. There are many villages all throughout the country with this name, apparently. It comes from the god Asclepius who, as the Greek legends would have it, was the son of the Olympian god Apollo and the beautiful mortal Coronis and one of the youngest gods in Greek Mythology. According to the ancient Greek belief, Asclepius was the personification of the ideal physician, alleviating mortals from their pains. Interestingly, I remarked that I'd read somewhere that the villagers there were noted for their longevity when compared to the rest of the island. 

"There's a good reason for that," replied George, "Due to it's position on the high hillside it gets the sun all day long, which is better for recuperating invalids, plus plant growth. I'm a firm believer in the use of plants to help heal maladies." Now he really had Yvonne-Maria's attention, since she also is a devoted fan of herbalism as, I ought to add, am I. He continued: "In fact, many years ago there was a woman herbalist in Asklipio who was the village doctor. She used to treat all the villagers and people from miles around, using her knowledge of plants and their healing properties.
God didn't waste his efforts making the plants, every one has its purpose; that's what I believe,"
he said. We nodded our agreement.
We went on to the related subject of the prevailing wind direction, which also creates ideal air conditions up at the village, due to its aspect. George continued with his lesson, "You know," he said, "The wind here is always in west or north-west. Only about fifteen days a year does it blow from the south, which is usually when it brings the rains. The village is famous for the quality of its fruit and vegetables as the conditions up there are ideal." 

Something else which we talked about was the Greek "diaspora", or dispersion of Greeks away from their homeland. Having covered the topic of every major city worldwide having its Greek contingent, he told us that Asklipio has a population of around 700, but that 700 people from Asklipio also live in Brisbane, Australia, the same number as in the village itself! There are TWO Asklipios! We commented on the fact there are probably also more Greeks worldwide than actually live in Greece too, which he agreed was probably quite true.

So, how did George come to have his taverna-ouzerie here in Kiotari. It's a long story, but 38 year-old George told us that he'd been born in Montreal of Asklipian parents, who'd moved back here when he was 5 years old.  He now said he wouldn't want to be anywhere else. "You can keep your cities and fast lifestyles and all the gadgets," he remarked, before making the reference to Aristotle Onassis which I opened with above. Time had moved on and so we arose and began wrapping ourselves up for the 20 minute walk home. Promising that we'd return one Sunday soon to sample the food and atmosphere, we offered to pay for our coffees.

"They're on me." He replied, and wouldn't be persuaded otherwise.

And so, eventually, on Sunday March 4th, we found the time in our busy schedule to walk down to the Pelican's Nest for a spot of lunch. This was more like it. The sky was once again cloudless and the thermometer was showing 18ºC when we left the house at around 12.30pm. Arriving at the taverna, we were somewhat disconcerted to find it as empty as it had been on that Friday morning some weeks before. Appearing once again as he had the last time, but this time accompanied by a couple of mates, he apologised and told us that now and again they go camping in a group up in the hills near Laerma and that we'd chosen the wrong weekend to come. They'd just that minute arrived back from such a two-night sojourn under canvas. "Never mind," we said, "can you do us some lunch anyway? A vegetarian Meze would suit us fine." Once he'd taken our order for aubergines, chick pea fritters (revitho'keftethes) and a lettuce salad, maybe some baked cheese and some patates tiganites, an Amstel for me and a tonic for the better half (she's sooo virtuous sometimes, that girl) he retreated to the nearby kitchen to conjure up the meal. Returning shortly with the drinks he apologised again. This time for the fact that he'd had a spot of freezer trouble and that some of the vegetables weren't going to be "serviceable." Would it be all right, he asked, if he just knocked up whatever he could and we go with that? Knowing from the tripadvisor website that his cuisine ought to be good, we were happy to agree.

Sitting there taking in the view, albeit still through the polythene screens, we soon lapsed into "where else would we want to be? mode...

Once various plates started arriving he asked us how we'd like the bread prepared. It was delicious village bread, which comes in those fairly flat, round loaves. He suggested he lightly toast it on one side, which he did using the log fire, which was burning somewhat unnecessarily, since it was a warm day. All the same, it lent a very cozy feel to the place. It's quite ingenious too, since the flue is removable for the summer and the log basket is on wheels. So he just rolls it out of the way when it's not needed. Here's our bread being prepared below...

Since lettuce was off, we ended up with a fairly traditional Horiatiki (Greek salad), which was a hit anyway because it also contained sliced fresh carrots and spring onions. Note the fried potatoes (below) too. These were simply sliced, fried in olive oil and then herbs and grated Parmesan sprinkled liberally on top. It would have been criminal to call them chips!! George asked if there was anything else we wanted, so I asked if he had any Kalamari, which he replied that he did. Did I want it fried or barbecued? I plumped for the barbecue option, and so the fresh pieces of squid were soon cooking in the same location where the toasted bread had been moments earlier.

By the time we were wiping our plates clean and loosening our belts, he asked us if we were warm, to which we replied that we were. So he rolled up the central polythene screen to let some air through the place. That was when he chose to sit down beside us and have another chat. He's still single at 38; a not unusual situation for a Greek bloke, least not in the more rural areas. The tendency still is for the guys to do everything that they want to do, play the field, see the world, perform their National Service (which may be either military or civil nowadays) before reaching their mid thirties, then finding a cute young twenty-something girl, marrying her and starting a family. We know many couples where the husband is fifteen years older than his wife, it's common. In some ways it makes a bit of sense, since by that time of life he stands a better chance of having established his way of earning a crust and therefore is better able to support his wife and the kids which will certainly come along in short order.

Feeling well sated and slightly soporific, we gazed out at the beautiful vista which the terrace affords its occupants and agreed that he had a persuasive point about not wanting anything else in life. Of all the places we've visited in this country, and it's many, we can think of nowhere else which has a better stretch of coastline near which one could wish to settle and live. We remarked on the fact that this is our favourite time of year. The temperatures resemble those of a high summer day in the UK and the light is wonderfully clear. "These are like the Halcyon days," he replied; which denoted a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful. It was hard to disagree.

As a fisherman sorted his nets (he's in the picture below), before setting out to a point a few hundred metres from the shore, where he began playing them out from the stern of his little launch, in expectancy of a later catch, we reluctantly asked George for his bill.

"What did you have?" He asked. It was quite like the old days, when the taverna owner would always do it this way, before scribbling a few notes on the paper table cloth and rounding it down. We listed from memory all the dishes and drinks which we'd enjoyed and he furrowed his brow as he totted up the damage.

"Oh, I don't know. How does €29 sound?" He asked. No problems, we threw a few notes his way and rose to begin our short walk home, where a cup of Earl Grey and a nap was not in any serious doubt.
Just before we finally said our goodbyes, he promised that the next time we came we'd surely find the musicians in full swing and a few more clients in attendance. Next time, he promised, he'd have the usual range of fare on offer. 

I for one hadn't really noticed anything lacking anyway.


  1. It looks like we have yet another hostelry to add to the growing list of ones to visit, John. How often have we looked at the Pelicans Nest and then plumped for La Strada.......again. I guess we'll have to sneak past the lady from Baltimore at La Strada, which has become a favourite, next time we are in Kiotari. So lovely that when you visit a taverna in Rhodes you get interesting conversation along with your meal.And some of us are lucky enough to read about YOUR interesting conversations also.Thanks for another excellent blog


  2. Yea, it's a perpetual headache sneaking past one taverna to go into another, not wanting to upset someone we know, isn't it? Mind you, suppose there are worse dilemmas, like should Greece stay in the Euro?, should they bring back hanging etc!!

  3. Another superb read John!
    What an idyllic place! Another which we will also add to our list of "to do's" when we next visit Rhodes. You got my mouth watering at the mention of the Kalamari!
    Good wishes
    Steve (Hull)

  4. Erm!!!! Do You Think John and Wendy might want a house sitter??

    Blow the chickpea fritters , i'll have George!!!!


    "Porridge Oats"

    1. Went there a couple of weeks ago 'Porridge oats' and i have to report that he is shorter than you were probably hoping!!

    2. Yea, but good things come in small packages!

  5. Ooh err a man who can cook and be very entertaining - very unusual!!

    Must get down that way this year to sample the ambience!!


  6. My wife and I recently spent a very pleasant week (June 10-17, 2012) at the Al Mare Villas in Kiotari Beach. By chance we wandered into the Pelican’s Nest. After a thoroughly enjoyable evening meal, we ended up having almost all our meals (save for breakfasts) at the Pelican’s Nest. Not only were the meals outstanding and authentically Greek, we were overwhelmed by the friendly, funny, hospitable, and generous owner, cook, host, and server George Pelekanos. In fact, our meals at the Pelican’s Nest and the hospitality and generosity of George Pelekanos will remain one of the highlights of our 3 week visit to Greece. My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed dining at Pelican’s Nest and unhesitatingly recommend it to anyone seeking a genuine traditional Greek taverna.

    1. Nice comments, which I'm pleased to see bear out my assertion that you can find the "real" Greece here in Kiotari.

  7. Well hello there!! Kiotari has become a Jule for everyone who visits.. I've been to almost all the taverna's in Kiotari and they all have that genuine greek traditional taste. Each of them mark there own cuisine... like Pelecano's has his Tapas and grills, Stefano has a variety of Seafood and fish, La Strada has a blend of fish and meat. All of them are fabulous!

    1. Couldn't agree more.
      Glad you like it here. See you later this year maybe?

  8. In case you're tempted to visit George at the Pelican's Nest, as of the summer season 2015, he's converted the place into a souvenir shop now. He does have some rather nice and slightly more select stuff on offer, together with the more obvious tourist fare as well, of course.