Lear House, Corfu: villa review and where to eat and drink
Stay in a villa on the second largest (and, perhaps, greenest) island in the Ionian sea and discover tangles of tentacles in octopus stifado, cured lard aromatic with orange peel and local herbs, and moreish bowls of baked feta
Check out our guide to Corfu an island off Greece’s northwest coast, perhaps one of the greenest islands in the Ionian sea. Here you will discover beautiful beaches, picturesque landscapes, and traditional greek cuisine. Want to find out more about Greek cuisine? Check out our best ever Greek recipes here.
Wind your way up Lear House’s steep, crunchy drive, in northern Corfu, and you’ll find a secluded villa with a herb-lined pool overlooking the bay below. Inside, the vibe is more New England than traditionally Greek – with whitewashed walls, tartan armchairs, blue velvet foot stools, a flat-screen TV and log burner – but you’ll soon remember where you are as you raid the well-stocked kitchen.
There’s grassy olive oil, refreshing Greek wine, bread, feta and honey to get you started, and a host of cookbooks on the shelf. If you fancy a barbecue outside you can pre-order fresh meat from the local supermarket, and the villa team can organise cookery lessons, car hire, and boat trips while you’re there, too.
The north of the island might have the reputation of being Kensington on the sea – a far cry from the party capital of Kávos in the south – but that means peaceful villas, secluded pebble beaches, candy-coloured sunsets and good food to explore. (No bad thing in our book.) A short walk (some 20 minutes) to the harbour of San Stefanos, skipping past colourful beehives and gnarly olive groves, will bring you to a collection of traditional restaurants.
At Eucalyptus (00 30 2663 082007), at the end of the cove, order octopus stifado – rusty with sweet, fiery paprika – with a tangle of slow-cooked tentacles, sticky and soft shallots and waxy potatoes, and a heady aroma of bay leaves.
Hang around long enough and you’ll be able to watch fishermen drag their catch from the boats and pick through the nets just outside the kitchen door. Another, Kochili Taverna - which has perhaps the best, twinkly-lighted, terrace overlooking the water - serves bowls piled high with oregano-flecked Greek salads and local, wild mushrooms plump with garlic butter.
If you’ve got a car (and if you’re staying more than a few days and want to explore, it’s worth it) from here you’re close to fashionable Agni, good for snorkeling, thanks to clear turquoise waters lapping Corfu’s lush green edges, and spicy coral prawns at Toula’s taverna.
We wouldn’t blame you, though, if the lure of hot rosemary wafting from around the villa pool, as you drink a cool bottle of Mythos, were too much. Stay put at your home for the week and have the charming Barbara Griva of The Old School Catering Company cook (and clean up) for you. Start with colourful plates of thick, garlicky tzatziki and platters of noúmboulo salami – cured pork and lard and flavoured with orange peel and oregano and thyme, similar to prosciutto but spicier.
Move onto a family one-pot of sofrito (a rich, veal stew) with white and wild rice and soft salad leaves, and funky wine from young Greek winemakers, followed by sticky triangles of filo-wrapped honeyed-nuts, in Barbara’s homemade baklava.
Further north on the island, you can tuck into more Corfu classics from her family’s restaurant, The Old School Taverna, in nearby Kassiopi. Here bowls of wibbly warmed feta, baked with rainbow peppers, red onion moons, paprika and fragrant dried herbs, pastitsáda (bucatini pasta with diced veal in a tomato sauce), and grilled whole fish stuffed with fragrant fresh herbs and lemon win over locals and tourists.
The nearest bay from the villa is a steep five-minute walk down the hill, with another taverna at its foot, should a cool beer be calling your name. Get a sea taxi from here to more great restaurants around the island, otherwise cool down in the sea, before demolishing the leftovers from Barbara’s feast (they are inevitable – the Greek don’t skimp!).
Words | Laura Rowe
Photographs | Scott Williams & Laura Rowe