Some shops steal your heart the moment you set eyes on them. The Versallies ‘mageirio’ (cookshop, slow food cookery), on the beach of Kalamata, didn’t need more than two. It’s located in a former refugee settlement behind the city’s sophisticated marina.
An old stone building, its rather pretentious name, Versailles, was chosen by its owners, Yiannis Koumanis and his wife, Maria, for a curious reason: like the grand French palace, it had its toilet outside! It has an open kitchen and a folksy atmosphere like the old-fashioned cook shops, and lots of people, many of them labourers, dropping in to pick up food for home – from roasting pans and casseroles with rare treats – as well as to chat.
Maria explained the philosophy behind the place in a few words; she couldn’t say more as the shop filled up with customers.
‘This is an honest shop, with honest cooking for honest people’.
Yiannis Koumanis may have worked as a cook in various gourmet establishments in Kalamata, not to mention Australia, and left his mark on dishes that are still remembered, such as lasagna with courgette flowers and canelloni with Maniot scrambled eggs.
But this time Yiannis has succeeded in imposing his personal style on his own shop. And this style represents a trend towards a return to small, easy-to-run places far from the frenetic, consumer-orientated ‘in scene’, with foods that delight the soul. Large portions, clean tastes, reasonable prices!
Versallies is open every day for lunch until late afternoon, like a classical ‘mageriko’.
I feasted on some wonderful dishes like mullet savoro (with vinegar, rosemary and currants), aubergines with cracked wheat, delicious sardines, cumin-flavoured meatballs (soutzoukakia) in tomato sauce, baked cod, roast piglet, but to me the most divine was his trahana (rustic pasta). Exquisite trahana with shrimp and croutons, which used to be an old Kalamata custom. But there was also the bean soup, little fish with leeks, and lots more, such as a baklava I had no room for but which looked delectable.
- AddressKalamata beach, Kalamata 24100