What happens when a 21 year old girl from Karditsa moves to Corfu as a love refugee (as she herself puts it) after falling madly in love with a Corfiot from Acharavi, learns to cook at his side, has two children with him and sometime in the year 2004 decides to open her own restaurant in a magical garden full of lemon trees?
And if this girl should turn into Athanasia Plotsika, an indefatigable, hard working woman with a passion for cooking, the result is a fabulous combination of taste, warmth and an unforgettable welcome. As you approach Lemon Garden on the main road to Acharavi, one of northern Corfu’s best known summer resorts, there is very little to alert you that when you walk down a few steps you will land in a beautiful garden full of lemon trees and perfumed herbs and little wooden tables for those who want to be initiated into Athanasia’s cuisine.
You will have a difficult time choosing from the extensive menu, which includes such eclectic dishes as handmade hilopittes (noodles) with fresh tomatoes, xynomizithra and smoked pancetta, caramelized nectarines with anthotyro and kumquat sauce, pork fillet with prunes, rose geranium and kumquat on a puree of celeriac; Corfiot classic dishes like pastitsada, sofrito, and bourdeto; and local delicacies such as noumboulo, salami, smoked pancetta, sykomaida, roasted local goat’s cheese and prickly pears, not to mention more common Mediterranean dishes given her inimitable creative twist. No matter what she makes, all her recipes are executed with the same attention and respect for fresh local produce.
The lemon has the place of honour here, starting with the homemade lemon juice welcome drink, lemon-based sauces and cocktails, using just-picked lemons. But you could say that Athanasia most excels when she mixes her herbs and ingredients into original mouthwatering combinations that delight the palate. Sometimes she creates the cocktails with her friend Spyros Kaloudis’ excellent local beer from his small brewery in Arilla. And of course it’s often these beers that accompany her food.
I guarantee that you will be captivated by Athanasia’s Lemon Garden.