06 June 2019

An interview with Nikos, Chromata Restaurant.

Chromata is our flagship restaurant tucked inside Taygetos moutain. We talk to Nikos, the owner of this 1936 establishment about Laconia, Greek cuisine and ofcourse the mountain.

Chromata is located in a small village at a “pocket” of Taygetos mountain and is the flagship restaurant of Pedal Greece. It is not only the location and our friendship with owner Nikos that makes Chromata a special place. The food that can be found here represents a new approach apparent in Greece, a trend that revisits seasonality and the cultural process of preparing produce and eventually food. Nikos runs also a farm of poultry and he is notoriously known for his creative methods. We talked with him about the mountain behind his restaurant, and all things food.

What would you say are the characteristics of Laconian cuisine?

Laconia is a land of great culinary depth. The local food culture here is based on exceptional raw material and smell: laurel, rosewood, thyme, lemon, orange, oregano and of course olive oil. Dont forget that it is one of the most fertile areas of the country. Fine meat and dairy products from small local farms, olives, pasta, frumenty soup (trachanas), rusks and a glass of wine make up for a dream menu. The food cycle is centered around Taygetus mountain and the seasons are celebrated with great offerings. Smoked trout and smoked salmon from the springs high up the Taygetus have been a staple of Laconian cuisine ever since 1969 for example, something that many people are not aware of.

Which is your favorite dish on this summer’s menu at Chromata?

I would have to say wild greens cooked with fresh tomato, feta cheese and poached quail eggs, straight off our farm. It’s equally nutritious and delicious. Greens is not very common in other countries and it is a surprise for most since they have never tasted it. We give it a little twist with our quial eggs. It hits a spot every time, people dont expect something like that.

If Taygetus was food what would it be?

In Greece we say that Taygetus is a “masculine” mountain, rising high and strong above the Laconian plain. In its’ steep slopes wild oregano grows, one of the best in the world. Most people dont really know fresh oregano but only the dried one. In Sparta we use fresh oregano to make roast lamp. If Taygetus was food then it would have to be a roast lamp cooked in the wood oven together with potatoes, wild artichokes and oregano.

What do you think should be the future of Greek cuisine?

The protection and certification of local produce is very important on large scale nationwide. The promotion of the local food culture and produce as well as the restless quest for high quality raw material by independent farmers and breeders is something that need to be intensified. Food festivals focusing on local food culture and incorporating food on the tourist market is vital. More and more visitors consider food a decisive factor when choosing a holiday destination.

What would be the best way to highlight Greece’s rich food culture?

I believe in the idea of creating culinary networks between different countries, focusing on local as well as transnational initiatives that offer an integrated selection of places and events of high culinary quality. Greece on the forefront of such an initiative could emerge as an international culinary destination. We have been very stubborn and fortunate in this country and have sustained small scale farming almost everywhere in the country. We have extremely strong infrastructures as the “laiki” in every neighborhood and we still live more or less in seasonal food supply. These things should be retained and protected for the future generations.

A winter salad from our November tour
Meat from the mountains around Sparta – this was particularly excellent quality.
Leave nothing! Greek-style.
Carb-loading for the next day

All photographs by Nassos Triantafyllou for Pedal Greece.

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