I have been so dog tired during the olive harvest that I have eaten our rarely. Normally supper has been a Greek salad in my hotel room. One Friday night, sensing the end of the harvest was nigh, I ventured out to my favourite restaurant here in Kalamata, the Katelanos which is about 400 yards from my hotel on the seafront.
As ever it was not exactly bustling. This is not a seasonal thing. It can often be found near deserted in summer as it is in winter. I really don't know why. On this night there was a table of eight, four men at one end talking man things and four women at the other end smoking hard and talking women things. Greece is a conservative place but this is progress. Thirty years ago the women would have been left at home. Other than that there was a lonely looking woman sipping a glass of wine in the corner, waiting, it seemed, for Godot. And there was me.
I chatted to my friend the lady who runs the place and for £15 enjoyed a plate of home made tzatziki (garlic infused yogurt with cucumbers) and grilled octopus an d, as the harvest was almost done, two ouzos. You might think that this seems like a bargain, I doubt you'd get much change out of £30 for the same meal in London. The food was good but I have grown mean in my old age now that I know the delights of Miranda's up in Kambos.
Up at Miranda's there are never any fish dishes. In the old days it would have been a three quarter day mule ride up from the sea to bring fish to the village so, even today, it is not on the menu. Instead it is locally grown vegetables and meat: goat, lamb, pork, beef or chicken. The cooking is simple but it tastes all the better for that.
As it is winter so we all sit inside. That one evening I made it 15 at dinner including me, All of us hunched up on four of five tables kept warm by a wood stove. For me it was park in a wine sauce and potatoes cooked in the oven - £5.
The faces were all familiar to me: Nicho the Communist chatted to Foti the Albanian, the rather simple assistant chap at the garage laughed away.Naturally none of the diners were women, they all sit at home or occasionally venture into the Kourounis taverna.
Despite the woes of the harvest everyone seem in good form as Fix beers and small bottles of ouzo and raki were opened one after another. I popped in again yesterday for a farewell lunch: two knuckles of stewed beef and some incredible chickpeas in a sauce, drizzled with lemon. The chickpeas really were spectacular. That, an ouzo and a Greek coffee came to just over £8. I bade my farewells to all present, explained to my Communist friend that I'd be back in the spring, and with that it was goodbye to the best little restaurant in Greece.