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Gourmet Islands - 7 of European pitstops for food lovers

From fish plucked out of tur quoise-blue waters to local wines matched to fr eshly picked ingredients, Europe’s islands offer a feast from land and sea. Ben McCormack selects seven pitstops for food lovers


Jersey oysters, Jersey Royal potatoes, Jersey cream: the biggest and most populous of the Channel Islands is renowned for some of the finer things in life. But if the Crown Dependency still has a reputation for gin and Jags, the view on the ground is rather different. There’s now spanking-fresh sushi at Jeju in St Helier’s Beresford Market, contemporary pan-Asian at new local favourite Awabi, a natural wine bar called Enotèca and a host of fantastic beach cafés that don’t require a tax exile’s bank balance: a good starting point is Driftwood Café at Archirondel.

Still, it would be a shame to neglect the local specialities. The former German bunker at the end of expansive St Ouen’s Bay is home to the huge lobster tanks of Faulkner Fisheries, and in summer they host barbecues (Tuesday to Saturday), with lobster, scallops and other local seafood enjoyed beachside. Seymour Oyster offer tours of the bivalve beds in Grouville Bay with a glass of champagne to wash them down. Or visit the Jersey cows at St Helier’s Woodlands Farm and pick up artisan dairy products from their Crémière Kitchen. Prefer something stronger? Try the latest vintages at La Mare Wine Estate, Jersey’s very own vineyard.

Bohemia Jersey’s lone Michelin star has been a shining light for almost 20 years. Tasting menus (also available in vegetarian and pescatarian formats) as well as a three-course lunch menu feature imaginative treatments of local produce exposed to the global larder in the likes of torched mackerel with jalapeño, cucumber and buttermilk. Seven-course tasting menu, £120. Green Street, St Helier, 01534 880588,

Ocean With sweeping views of Jersey’s west coast, this fine-dining restaurant within the Atlantic Hotel has a powerful sense of place. Executive chef Will Holland uses the island’s superlative produce in his à la carte and tasting menus, and the hotel’s afternoon tea is one of the best on the island. Six course tasting menu, £90. Le Mont de la Pulente, St Brelade, 01534 744101,

Pêtchi Pêtchi means to ‘try to catch a fish’ in local dialect, a word that Jersey native and Great British Menu chef Joe Baker is presumably familiar with. Try his signature of wood-roasted lobster rice, or whole Jersey sea bass with sea herbs foraged from the island’s shoreline. Three-course meal from £41. Unit 13C, Liberty Wharf, La Route de Liberation, St Helier, 01534 733223,

The Moorings Hotel and Restaurant
An island institution for over 170 years now being run by new owners Matthew and Iselin Jones as a family-friendly bistro with rooms. In nine sea-facing rooms and another five looking towards Mont Orgueil Castle, there are nods to Iselin’s Scandinavian heritage in the neutral furnishings. Bar snacks include an oyster happy hour and Grouville cockle popcorn, straight from the beach outside the hotel; Sunday roasts feature fresh Jersey lobster in summer. Doubles from £120. Gorey Pier, St Helier, 01534 853633,

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Water and wine have guaranteed this Adriatic island’s prosperity for over 2,000 years. The sea brought Greeks and Romans, Byzantines and Venetians, and disembarking from the ferry in Korčula town one has the impression of arriving in a mini Serenissima, complete with its own Renaissance St Mark’s Cathedral and bell tower. Stone alleyways filled with restaurants and cafés radiate from the main square, their candlelight flickering in the warm evening air.

Pebbled beaches and secluded coves are what bring the mariners to the crystal-clear waters these days (the island is a haven for yachting), but cycle inland and in among the pine woods and olive groves there are vineyards too. Sample the island’s native grape, grk – believed to have been introduced by Greek settlers in the 4th century BC and exclusively grown on the island – at family-run wineries such as Zure, where wine tastings are followed by lunches of smoked ham and local cheese in a vine-covered restaurant.

Grk wine is made in the village of Lumbarda, where a Friday evening fish festival is held throughout the summer and fishermen grill the catch of the day – snapper, sardines, squid – in the square opposite the village beach. Back in town, fuel a day lazing on the shore with fruit from the open-air Rotonda market and look out on the return journey for rustic restaurants such as Agritourism Konopica, serving homely fare like beef stew accompanied by zrnovski makaruni, a handmade pasta that is unique to Korčula.

Adio Mare
Korčula town’s oldest family-run restaurant opened in 1974, since when nothing much has changed. The upstairs terrace, shaded from the sun by high limestone walls, is the nicest spot to tuck into octopus salad, cuttlefish risotto and meat and seafood from the charcoal grill. Three-course meal from £40. Sv Roka 2, 20260, Korčula town, 00 385 20 711 253,

Filippi The waterside tables with their stunning view over the sea to the Pelješac Peninsula grab the attention here but the modern Dalmatian cooking from talented young chef Dragan Kordić is equally diverting. A short menu guarantees freshness in the likes of sea bass ceviche or tuna with fennel cream and endive. Three-course meal from £63. Šetalište Petra Kanavelića, 50260, Korčula town, 00 385 098 275 701,

Konoba Aterina This classic of the Korčula dining scene made its name with what it calls ‘Dalmatian tapas’ in which the only barrier to the creativity served up on the small plates is that all ingredients are locally farmed or caught. Lovely terrace too.
Three-course meal from £25. Trg korčulanskih klesara i kipara 2,
Korčula town, 00 385 919 861 856

Lešić Dimitri Palace
Live like a doge at this splendid Relais & Châteaux suite hotel and spa housed in a series of 15th- and 16th-century buildings in Korčula town, where rooms are named after a stage on the Silk Road and period features of flagstone floors and wood-beamed ceilings have been painstakingly preserved and styled with handcrafted furniture. LD Restaurant’s Michelin-starred meals of seasonal local ingredients are served on a panoramic terrace and paired with the local grk wines. Doubles from £330. Don Pavla Poše 1-6, Korčula town, 00 385 20 715 560,

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A melting pot of Gallic and historic Genoese culture, France’s largest island offers a strong flavour of Italy too. Ultimately, though, it remains proudly Corsican, from the rugged summits of mountain tops carpeted with wild flowers to isolated beaches lying beneath plunging cliffs.

The Genoese ruled Corsica for five centuries, almost until the birth of the island’s most famous son, Napoleon Bonaparte, in 1769. Genoese law obliged landowners to plant four trees – an olive, almond, fig and chestnut – and this quartet of ingredients still forms the basis of many Corsican dishes. There’s zuppa corsa, a hearty peasant-soup made with olive oil, charcuterie and veg; while almonds flavour canistrelli, the hard biscuits that are the island’s answer to biscotti; fig chutney partners cheeses such as the sweet, ricotta-like Brocciu and herb-scented fleur du maquis; and then there’s the island’s signature dish of civet de sanglier, a wild boar casserole with chestnuts at its heart.

Many visitors make a beeline for Calvi in the north-west, the medieval citadel whose defence cost Lord Nelson the sight of one eye in 1794, although these days it’s millionaires’ yachts besieging the harbour. Annie Traiteur on rue Georges Clemenceau offers Corsica’s most notable specialities under one roof: rosés to rival those of Provence, goats’ cheese as pungent as anything from the Loire, and charcuterie made from the island’s antique breed of black and white pigs.

Auberge du Coucou
Family run since 1934, this welcoming inn serves food far more sophisticated than its casual appearance suggests: veal sweetbreads in a frothy butter sauce or red tuna croustillant with a citrus and spice cream, served with
local wines. Three-course meal from £30. Route de Calenzana, Calvi, 00 33 6 2739 7371

I Salti Corsican chestnut flour has AOC status and at this converted mill in the remote Regino Valley it is used as the base for sourdough bread. With menus chalked up daily on a blackboard, I Salti sounds terribly rustic but the cooking is anything but: think veal rump with cheese gnocchi. Three-course meal from £60. Moulin de Salti, Speloncato, 00 33 4 9534 3559

La Cabane du Pêcheur A beach shack half an hour’s drive from Calvi, this idyllic local secret is overseen by multi-tasking fisherman-cum-chef Jérôme Poggi, who places local spiny lobster at the heart of his Slow Food approach. He doesn’t take bookings but it’s well worth the wait if it’s full. Fish dish of the day, around £20. Route de la Mer, Galeria, 00 33 4 9561 0032

Hôtel La Villa
The amenities at this modern-looking property make the most of the cracking view to Calvi’s citadel and the mountains and sea beyond, whether you’re enjoying dinner at La Table restaurant, sipping at Jo’s cocktail bar or snacking between swims at the Pool Bar; if all the loungers are taken, there are three more pools to choose from, including an indoor heated one at the Dermalogica spa, as well as a private beach. Should one summon up the energy to leave the hotel, Jeeps can be hired to explore the island. Doubles from £577. Chemin Notre Dame de la Serra, Calvi, 00 33 4 9565 1010,

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Mykonos may have the nightlife and Santorini the wine, but Sifnos, a three-hour ferry from Piraeus, has a claim to being the most gastronomic destination of the Cyclades. Nikolaos Tselementes published the first Greek cookbook in 1932 and the memory of the Sifnos-born food writer is honoured each September (14-16 this year) at the three-day Cycladic Gastronomy Festival, which attracts chefs and gourmets from all over Greece.

Taverna chefs grill fish plucked out of the Aegean earlier that day, hillside terraces are lined with beehives and olive trees, and even the stone walls conceal wild capers. At Narlis Farm, near the island’s villagey capital of Apollonia, guests can learn how to make Greek specialities such as revithada, a slow-cooked chickpea stew. Those with a sweet tooth should seek out the internationally fêted Theodorou in the gastronomic village of Artemonas, a 90-year-old confectioner’s where specialities made in copper pots over wood fires include amigdalota (almond biscuits) as well as loukoumi, aka Turkish delight – many Istanbul pastry shops were traditionally run by Sifnian staff.

It isn’t only the food that makes Sifnos worth a visit, though: despite being only 24km long, the island has all the whitewashed houses and blue-domed churches you could possibly hope from the Aegean, as well as Agios Andreas, an ancient Mycenaean settlement, and Kástro, a 14th-century Venetian citadel.

Cayenne Restaurant Art Gallery
For something a little more sophisticated than a local tavern, this restaurant in Apollonia serves as a showcase for the twin passions of a chef whose art lines the walls of the gallery upstairs while his modern Greek cooking graces the tables of the courtyard outside. Three-course meal from £35. Apollonia 840 03, 00 30 2284 031080

Omega 3 Mykonos doesn’t have the monopoly on celebrities: apparently, Tom Hanks is a fan of this seafood restaurant famous for raw fish, whether sashimi or ceviche. Book a table on the terrace and watch the sun set over Platis Gialos beach. Three-course meal from £50. Platis Gialos 840 03, 00 30 2284 072014

Tsikali Swimming seems to sharpen the appetite like no other exercise, but even if you haven’t taken advantage of the clear blue waters of sheltered Vathi Beach, this waterside taverna with tables on the sand serves simple island cuisine: stews made from goats reared on the owner’s farm, falafel seasoned with fresh herbs and salads jumbled with Sifnos Manouri cheese. Three-course meal from £30. Vathi 840 03, 00 30 2284 071150,

Verina Astra
Expect endless blue views over sea and sky whether from a terrace of one of the 16 cool, stone rooms or the infinity pool at this cottagey property. Perched on a cliff amid fragrant herb gardens, nothing disturbs the atmosphere apart from the sound of cicadas and goat bells. Breakfast is a feast of local produce – yoghurts with peaches and figs, eggs from a nearby farm – while dinners at Bostani restaurant see simply grilled fish paired with Greek salads. The whitewashed village of Artemonas is an easy walk away, with its tavernas, bakery and famous Theodorou sweet shop. Doubles from £225. Poulati 840 03, 00 30 2284 031440,

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Bozcaada – the ‘c’ is soft – is better known by its Greek name of Tenedos, mentioned by Homer in The Iliad as the island where Greek warriors built the Trojan horse before shipping it over the short distance to the mainland. Over the centuries, the Greeks and Turks have each laid claim to Bozcaada, which today has a reputation for being the most beautiful Turkish island in the Aegean, where mosques sit alongside Orthodox churches.

A well-preserved Ottoman castle, cobbled streets and plenty of vine-shaded alleyways in the sole town, plus unspoilt sandy beaches fringed by tavernas bring weekending Istanbulites in summer – as do the vineyards that cover a third of Bozcaada’s 65sq km of gently rolling landscape, where bicycles rather than cars are the transport of choice.

And although it’s easy to paint the island as some sort of time-warp idyll, those smart city dwellers have brought some serious money with them. Take the Corvus winery, established in 2002 by architect Resit Soley, who makes biodynamic wines in a state-of-the-art facility he built on the shell of an old state-run wine factory. You can try his wines at the cellar door or visit the tasting boutique in town.

Happily, a Turkish St Tropez this is not, and you won’t find streets lined with designer stores. There are still plenty of traces of the old Bozcaada, such as the Çiçek Pastanesi patisserie, which has been making local sweets such as the island’s kurabiye almond biscuits since 1959, as well as poğaça breakfast rolls stuffed with olives and feta: just the ticket before whiling away a morning over strong coffee in the small town square.

Asmalı Meyhane
Opened in 1960, this tavern takes its name from the copious vines outside (asmalı is Turkish for ‘hanging’). Seafood and trad Turkish dishes (fried calamari, roasted aubergine) are at the heart of the mezze-based menu. Mezze starter selection from around £3. Cumhuriyet, Gürsel Sokak No 3, 00 90 531 657 4838

Hasan Tefik
Open from May to October, with tables in a cobbled side street under a canopy of vines and illuminated by paper lanterns. Extra-virgin olive oil from a family-run farm forms the background note for much of the mezze. Open for breakfast too. Mezze-based meal around £30. Cumhuriyet, Alsancak Sokak No 2, 00 90 532 385 1652,

Yalova The first of three Yalova restaurants, this one opened in 1940 and is so popular with visiting Istanbulites it sometimes operates pop-ups in the metropolis. Fish and seafood, their speciality, are given elegant modern presentation. Meal based on small plates around £35. Cumhuriyet, Kazanlar Sokak No 51, 00 90 542 715 1045,

Kaikias Otel Owned by a pair of Greek architects, ‘boutique’ seems too grand a term for a hotel that is small but perfectly formed, but the charm lies in its simplicity. Four of the whitewashed rooms have a sea view, while others look towards the castle. The café in the small square outside is part of the business, and for lunch and dinner, the harbour and old town are a stroll away. Doubles from £135. Cumhuriyet Mahallesi, Kale Arkası Mevkii, 00 90 532 363 2697

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Almost halfway between Lisbon and New York, with virtually nothing directly to the north or south except Greenland and Antarctica, the nine islands of the Azores, 1,300km west of the coast of Portugal, are about as remote as one can get in Europe.

Little wonder that this is where the ghostly Mary Celeste washed up and its crew vanished into the dark waters of the Atlantic. That very isolation has resulted in a distinctive food scene that, while displaying a strong Portuguese accent, is just as much influenced by an extraordinary landscape of lush farmland, where tea, bananas and small, intensely flavoured pineapples grow in lava-rich soil. Fish and seafood are provided by the hardy souls who brave the churning ocean waves that crash constantly against the black basalt shore.

The central island of Pico, whose pint-sized capital, Madelena, lies along the west coast, is dominated by the volcano of Mount Pico which, at 2,350m, is not only the tallest peak in the Azores but in all of Portugal. Mountain guides will take the energetic to the top in a day – the perfect way to work up an appetite for Azorean specialities such as limpets, salt cod, stewed octopus and the wines that were a favourite tipple of the Russian tsars. What you definitely won’t see on any menus is whale. The Azores outlawed whaling in 1984 and now whale watching, not hunting, is what gets boats up close and personal with the 25 or so species of whales and dolphins who call the Azores home. They come to feast on what is known as the ‘Gulp Stream’ of krill, squid and schools of fish and, like two-legged mammals, are drawn to the islands for the bounty of natural produce.

Cella Bar
As much restaurant as bar, this groovy wooden building has moody sea views from its curving dining room inside and an open-air roof terrace. Hearty local fare includes baked octopus with veg and potatoes and there are decent
vegetarian options too. Three-course meal from £25. Rua Da Barca, Madalena, 00 351 292 623 654

O Ancoradouro Expect simple treatments of Azorean ingredients that show off the quality of the local produce: spicy sausage with yam, tuna steak with sweet potatoes, parrotfish with bread and tomato stew, say. Three-course meal from £30. Rua Rodrigo Guerra, 7, Madalena, 00 351 292 623 490

O Petisca Tapas
Azores-style fare is on offer at this traditional, casual spot in pretty Madalena, offering a taste of the islands with limpet rice, breaded octopus, chicken gizzards and stewed fava beans. Tapas-based meal from £20. Av. Padre Nunes da Rosa 9950, Madalena, 00 351 292 622 357

Azores Wine Company
Few wineries can lay claim to as dramatic a location as the Azores Wine Company, where guests are lulled to sleep by the sound of waves crashing on the shore and wake to see Mount Pico through floor-to-ceiling windows. Six understated studio apartments, complete with kitchenette and terrace plus a one-bedroom apartment, make an excellent base to explore the island or simply to lounge
around in until it’s time for a wine-pairing dinner in the in-house restaurant (limpets with seaweed, perhaps). The two-level property, clad in volcanic stone, features a central courtyard and everything else leads off from here; guest rooms are on the ground floor, with the restaurant, tasting room and winery upstairs. Doubles from £172, including breakfast. Rua do Poço Velho 34, Cais do Mourato, Bandeiras,
00 351 912 530 237,

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The more sedate sibling of Mallorca and Ibiza has long been known for its tempting white-sand beaches and neolithic remains, but Menorca’s crowning as 2022’s European Region of Gastronomy has underlined the serious food credentials of the Balearics’ second-largest island.

Fish markets are the best place to feel Menorca’s food pulse, whether that’s the pastel-coloured 19th-century market at Ciutadella or the wrought-iron Twenties structure in the capital, Mahón. Look out for spiny scorpionfish and twitching crabs delivered from small boats that cast their nets in the managed fishing grounds off Menorca’s north coast. The local lobster, only available from April to August, is turned into caldereta de langosta, a seafood stew of tomatoes and herbs.

The growing interest in the island’s food culture means more formal food tours are an option too. Cómete Menorca offers courses, workshops, culinary demonstrations and a ‘Gourmet Tour’ of the island that includes a trip to an olive oil farm that reveals the story behind a Menorcan dispute with the French over who invented mayonnaise – or ‘Mahón-naise’ – which goes back to the 18th century.

The Brits also fought over Menorca. The recipe for local Xoriguer gin was created in 1736 and bottles still feature a ring around the neck designed to be looped around the bellbottoms of sailors; try it in a pomada, a cooling sundowner of gin and fresh lemonade.

Ca na Pilar
Chef Víctor Lidón used to cook at the three-Michelin-starred Barcelona restaurant Racó de Can Fabes; now he has his own restaurant in a 200-year-old building serving Menorcan suckling pig with date and apple purée and red onion, cucumber and celery crudités. Three-course meal from £45. Avenida de la Mar 1, Es Migjorn Gran, 00 34 971 370212,

Restaurant Es Tast de na Sílvia
Sílvia Anglada is one of the Balearics’ foremost chefs and her elegant restaurant acts both as a showcase for her talent and native Menorcan ingredients produced according to Slow Food principles. Three-course meal from £40. Carrer de Santa Clara 14, Ciutadella, 00 34 971 387895,

Ulisses Bar This tiny restaurant offers an odyssey of ingredients sourced from Ciutadella market next door and turned into dishes both traditional and contemporary by chef and owner Joan Canales. Expect rare-breed Menorcan red beef and fish supplied by Joan’s dad, who sets off each morning in the family boat from the port down the road. Three-course meal from £40. Plaça de la Llibertat 22, 07760 Ciutadella, 00 34 971 380031,

Torralbenc This agriturismo venture-meets-country house hotel allows guests to unwind with an impressive pool and spa plus a restaurant where local ingredients such as the pimentón-spiked sobrasada sausage are best enjoyed with viognier, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc from the vineyard. Doubles from £426. Carretera
Mao-Cala’n Porter Km 10, Alaior, 00 34 971 377211,

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