The Blue Eye, Albania 09-2019

One of the essential daytrips in the Sarande area is the Blue Eye. Although we drove from Dhermi, we basically passed through the outskirts of Sarande to get there, firstly along highway, then dirt road, and then slow moving rocks, sand and gravel. Luckily everyone else was in the same boat, either grinding their rental cars through or parking higher and walking down while dust rose around them. The weather forecast for the day was a little ominous for rain and cloud, but to our luck none of that ever surfaced.

The Blue Eye is a stunning place. There is an area you can dive into the freezing water, which I would recommend just to see the clearest of waters disappearing below.

From a food point of view, the restaurant is surrounded by peaceful water (away from the jumping hole), greenery and mountains. A grill ensures you can smell what they are cooking there, and for a touristy middle-of-nowhere spot, the prices are not much above usual.

- Grilled goat 900lek for 500g - heavily grilled and tasty, although with a lot of salt;
- Grilled trout 800lek - grilled until the top was a bit too burnt and that flavour dominated the skin;
- Country salad 400lek - standard with lots of raw onions and a large slab of feta.

The food was far from the best we had but adequate enough. I would eat there again if I visited. I think I would prefer that to bringing my own food.

Bar Taverna Hibraj, Llogara National Park 09-2019

We took a daytip to Llogara National Park. We left quite late and the windy roads went all the way up until the mist covered the pass and the view unfortunately. Still there were people there and locals selling fruit. Llogara NP has quite a few restaurants, an unusual amount of highly rated ones actually, but it's easy to see why in that setting and if they all make similar food based on charcoal meats.

After a 2.5h walk just in the local loop, it was time for lunch. Under the beautiful sun, it was interesting to find quite a few restaurants closed, particularly the one I wanted to go to - the farm Dukan (from memory the name isn't quite correct on Google, it's slightly different). Uji i Panijes was another on my list, but in the end I watched past and selected Hibraj because it was the only place which had a glorious spit visible.

We were the only 2 eating at the unusual time of 3pm and they had just taken the spit down and chopped it up. Luckily there was enough still to order, although only lamb in the off season, not goat which I wanted. Some average bread but livened up with some butter and dried herbs.

- Fergese (tomatoes, cottage cheese, peppers, onion) 250lek - a tasty creamy homemade dip that wen well on the bread;
- Roasted lamb 600lek for 300g - small but delicious portion of lamb, salty, crisp skin, tender meat;
- Grilled beef steak 1000lek for 300g - although cooked a little heavier than I wanted, a beautiful salty and spiced char coated the beautiful meat.

A wonderful meal in an exceptional setting in the perfect September weather.

Barba Niko Bakery, Dhermi 09-2019

After picking up our first ever hitchhiker, a young Chinese girl who was travelling for a year and was currently hitchhiking her way through Albania (respect), we dropped her off and went to the bakery. Barba Niko is located up the top of the hill along the main road and was a pitstop for some small supplies before the steep drive down toward the hotel and the beach.

It has some ok byrek and some very good flat bread rolls. These were perfect with cheese and smoked ham. They also have some good dessert. Tre leche (3 milks) was like a sponge soaked in milk with jelly. Baklava was quite sweet with some crunch and pistachios.

They are also open 24h a day and have some basics like milk and yoghurt.

Genti, Dhermi 09-2019

I was looking for a nice restaurant with good food and a fancy sunset view. The choices I found on Google were between Fevan and Genti. In the end I chose Genti because a picture of prawns looked good and I thought it might be more Albanian, whereas Fevan was Greek. After eating a lot of meat generally, it was nice to see seafood featuring on the grill menu.

In the end it was a terrible mistake. The sunset was fiery and beautiful, but unfortunately on their balcony they have a very large curtain shade that blocks most of the view. We asked them to raise it and they said they would but didn't.

It seems like primarily a sports bar. A football/soccer game was showing and as a result there were lots of men sitting around watching, and almost wondering why two tourists were there. Maybe because they knew the food wasn't good and would never eat it themselves.

- Big shrimp 1200lek for 300g - these were tiny prawns with ok texture and decent flavour, but I can't imagine how they can be big. There's no way 9 of those could be 300g either;
- Octopus 1000lek for 300g - seriously terrible. Not crisp not tender and flavourless. They were the ends of leftover skinny tentacles;
- Grilled vegetables 400lek - very good with eggplant, light zucchini and peppers;
- Village salad 300lek - standard and fine. Lots of onions, some feta and olives.

Maybe the meat grills would be better. I'd probably prefer to avoid the place altogether actually.

For a comparison of what 300g of prawns should be, look at Ftelea in Ksamil (

Taverna Lefteri, Himare 09-2019

After arriving in Albania from the Corfu ferry, we hired a car (from a slightly dodgy operation) but safely drove off. After a little while, we passed through Himare in perfect time to eat lunch. Actually it was early for lunch because I didn't realise Albania is 1h behind Greece.

I actually wanted to eat at Merluc, but they weren't open. In hindsight maybe it was because it was too early, or maybe it was simply because peak season had ended and so a lot of places had shut up shop. Given the past few days in Corfu, I wanted to eat more Albanian than Greek food, but it seemed alright to go Greek just once more.

As the first guests to Lefteri, the staff were almost shocked to see us there. In fact it took a bit more time for them to finish their lunch, realise they should be doing something work-related, and get us menus. After this it was all pleasant and decent service.

A trio of starters to eat with some decent grilled crusty bread kicked things off.

- Sardines marinated 430lek - really delicious with salt and olive oil;
- Mousaka 580lek - a very good size and tasted rich with vegetables and some meat;
- Okra with meat 480lek - I wanted hochpotch with meat (whatever that is) but they didn't have it. Instead I settled for this one. Although the veal was not that tender, the okra was soft and a bit slimy in a good way, and the sauce was rich with flavour and tomato spices.

The meal was excellent. I would happily come back here.

Stazei Meli, Corfu 09-2019

Other than searching out gelato, there was only one dessert place in Corfu Town I wanted to try - the local place for loukoumades. These little fried donut balls can be so delicious sometimes, hot and soft, with a sweetness to bring in the night. Stazei Meli is also a place for breakfast, so I suppose it is an any time of day type food here.

After a walk through the barmy evening night-lit streets up and away from the port area, we joined other happy people for a sweet end (or maybe beginning even) to the day.

There are many different combinations to try and the smell of fried dough is in the air.

We did just have a big dinner, but I don't know still how others can eat 6 of these to themselves. It's much better value (not that it is anywhere near expensive anyway) but we chose variety over quantity.

Vegan (fig jam & pistachio) €2.6 for 3 and Chocolate & Fruits (dark chocolate, banana) €2.8 for 3 were our choice. The balls were warm and soft, although I admit I did expect more flavour from the dough itself. The fig jam was ok but not my favourite, which is unusual because figs are so local here and pistachios were my choice too. The banana and dark chocolate was a more standard combination and I preferred this.

I was very stuffed by the end, and a little disappointed if I'm being honest. Maybe I just had too high expectations. I'd still come back again when less full.

To Alatopipero, Corfu 09-2019

During this relatively quite weekend in September, one of the few restaurants that seemed to be flowing with guests was To Alatopipero. It had been recommended by my Airbnb host as somewhere for local food, so either was that good or had somehow similarly made it to everyone else's list. We walked in off the alley and I thought it looked quite empty. Then out the front entrance to the pedestrian courtyard seating area and it clicked - that's where everyone was, enjoying the warm autumn evening with a few street singers passing through also.

It was the last chance to try some local Corfiot cuisine.

- Handmade cheese pie €4 - cheese pies were actually deepfried pastries with very tasty feta inside. There were an unexpectedly high number of these for the price and almost difficult to finish them all. But I persevered;
- Sofrito €8.5 - quite plain in flavour with the meat not very tender and thin. Fries well seasoned with oregano;
- Pastisada (cockerel) €8.5 - chicken a bit dry but better than the sofrito. Nice flavour. Penne was ok but not al dente. I think the veal version at Bakalogatos was better.

A complimentary dessert was brought out too as a nice touch to finish. But I wanted to go for the loukoumades (at Stazei Meli) anyway.

Overall I thought the food was a little disappointing. It did have a good atmosphere to try to make up for it.

Bakalogatos, Corfu 09-2019

I was wandering through the streets looking for some lunch inspiration. I walked past the incessantly closed Soflaki, and also O Berdes (which was on my list) and To Alatopipero (recommended by my Airbnb host). But this didn't seem open just yet either. Around the corner just before the exit to the harbour side, I found a nice menu with a pleasant outdoor seating area here. The Greek name is Μπακαλόγατος.

So far I was yet to try and of the traditional Corfiot dishes - pastitsada, sofrito, stifado.

Pastitsada €9.5 was essentially spaghetti with a red sauce. Pasta was cooked through and not al dente. The sauce had an excellent earthy flavour, although the meat itself was not the most tender. But it certainly looked and tasted delicious, and such an excellent comfort food.


Taverna Ninos, Corfu 09-2019

Ask anyone and read any food guide for Corfu Town, and Ninos will feature. Even when I checked in and asked for recommendations, the Airbnb host suggested it for traditional dishes and for gyros also. It seemed a good place to start my food return to Greece.

It's a very popular place with people queueing for takeaway. The meat on the spit actually looks remarkably good, and a far cry from the uniform meat paste that is common (moreso in Turkish places). I had also read the red sauce was a local Corfu thing and elevated it to the next level.

With enthusiasm I ordered the ridiculously cheap €2.5 gyros with pitta. After it arrived I had to ask for the red sauce; "oh you want the red sauce" - yeah, of course. I'm not sure what the red sauce is - tomato and maybe meat juice. I expected a bit of chilli from what I thought I had read, but there wasn't any. Pork meat was ok. I thought it was decent, but can't be the best. Unfortunately it was difficult to find another well rated place in town for it. I did go back again one more time for lunch a couple of days later (because Gia was closed) and thought the meat flavour was better that time. It's good overall, I have to admit.

Also on the first night I had saganaki €4, which was a deliciously salty and squeaky cheese perfectly grilled. It was tough having that all to myself, but someone had to do it.

Gia Souvlaki, Corfu 09-2019

After trying Nino and wanting another to compare, finding a good gyro was actually much more difficult than expected in Greece. I tried to go to Pitta Pappou but the staff pretended I didn't exist when I stood in the door trying to speak to someone. There was also Soflaki in an alleyway but it was closed every single time I went past (which was quite often).

Although not really a gyro place, gia has skewers and rotisserie chicken. I didn't have the stomach space to eat everything, but they were kind enough to cut off a piece of the chicken for me to try. Really delicious. I would go for that (kontosouvli) next time there.

Instead of this occasion I tried the Mix souvlaki €7. Chicken kebab was very tender but less flavour than the spit version. Pork skewer was nicely charred and had decent flavour. Sausage pork was quite salty but alright.

Cheap prices and friendly people. I would definitely have gone back if they weren't closed on the Sunday that I tried.