I have always wanted to own a house in the famous district Vaporia in the island of Syros. One of those imposing mansions, with high ceilings, large windows with wooden shutters, small balconies with iron carved railings and wooden stairs that creak at every step, once only afforded by seamen of the highest ranks. A lot of them were left at the mercy of the wind and the island’s briny climate, some were renovated and some still remain as they were originally built.


And so, I enjoy getting lost in the narrow alleys of Vaporia, gazing at these beautiful old houses. Yet, a little more uphill, this neighbourhood has also a more modern side, the so-called area of Doxa, where more or less tasteful modern buildings alternate somewhat haphazardly. Somewhere in this modern part of Vaporia, in February 2020, Chef Alexandros Karakatsanis and his wife Fani Panagopoulou found a delightful space and decided to relocate their restaurant, San Michali Food & Culture, from San Michalis village in Syros’ Ano Meria.

I first visited San Michali for a drink. I remember sitting at the open bar at the rear of the restaurant’s large terrace, sipping my Negroni and gazing in astonishment at the distant hazy lights of Mykonos, while occasionally glancing at the elegant dishes passing by. “We definitely need to dine here before we leave the island”, I had solemnly commanded my friends. And so my command was carried out.

Just a few days later, we returned to San Michali and we were seated at a nice table near the ledge. I will never forget the mouth-watering grilled meatballs, as well as our silly little squabble over who would eat the last one. Of course, we ordered a second round, along with the acid-sweet amberjack ceviche, subtly garnished with delicate basil mayonnaise dots, and the scrumptious soy glazed smoked turkey that still linger on my taste buds. Nor will I ever forget the delightful citrusy flavour of that lemon sorbet, made by Alexandros’ brother, Constantinos, who is a professional gelatiere, or the delicious knafeh Fani makes using a recipe passed down to her from her grandmother.

This winter Alexander and Fani decided to stay on the island. They spent their time researching, testing and collecting all of Syros’ goodies. They gathered capers, common and sea fennel, sow thistles, chicory and wild rocket. They also experimented with fermentation. They made their own kariki (a special, blue cheese originally made in the island of Tinos) from scratch and put it in pumpkin flasks to ripen; they also made their own kopanisti and gruyere cheese, louza (oh that louza!), prosciutto and salami. They even made black garlic, their own version of the ancient Greek salt-fish souse, mead, vinegar, liqueurs and their own soy. In other words, they made the most out of lockdown.

So this year, the menu they have prepared, as I have been told, is divided into five categories: garden, dough, sea, land and premium steaks (matured for over 35 days in dry curing chambers). Besides, Alexandros experiments a lot with unusual combinations and couplings of local ingredients with modern techniques.

San Michali Restaurant

Agiou Dimitriou 16, Vaporia, Ermoupolis, Syros. For reservations : : 2281088750, 6976581656, 6945330074