Along the ramshackle boardwalk that edges the beach at Agios are a haphazard collection of bars and restaurants. It is two in the afternoon at the peak of high-season and yet they are nearly all deserted. Unlike Spain, there are no waiters/hustlers prowling the apron of the eateries, cradling menus in the crook of their arm like new borns, casually trying to drag you in to chomp through their roast beef dinners in ninety degrees of heat.
Instead, the waiters of Agios stand serenely on their raised mezzanines and stare out to sea, as though permanently entranced by the white flecks of surf dancing just off the shore. If they catch your eye, they smile, nod and glance around at their covers, as if to say, “Hey, why not come up and have a drink ?”
Their countenance unchanged if you walk on by or climb their steps, my patronage not altering the fact that these people are in paradise. Me choosing to eat there or walking on by wont make the vista any more or less beautiful.
Yes, the natives want you to spend money but so do the waitresses in the multi national chains of mush we have to endure back in Blighty. The difference is that service staff in Britain are paid to be nice. They go on customer service courses. In Corfu you aren’t served by a waitress, you re served by the owner’s son, daughter, mother, or sister.
In Agios, you don’t walk into a restaurant, you walk into someone’s front room. The only difference just happens to be they have more tables than yours. And no roof.
Randomly, we climbed the stairs of a place called Thalassas. A wide patio of marble covered by a wooden gambrel so expansive the tables seem lost amongst the expanse of polished stone flooring.
A young man with a line of Roman numerals disappearing up his sleeve invited us to sit at one of the front tables that faced the sea.
After distributing the menus, with pen poised he asked us what we would like to drink.
What beer have you?
Our waiter without any trace of an attitude, ran through approximately twenty five brands. As though jamming a stick into a spinning wheel, I raised my finger at the word Mythos. He nodded. “Good choice.”
In short order, he returned with two schooners of yellow frosted beer. The froth was perfect, the first icy slug an almost spiritual experience. I glanced at the menu, then craned my neck for a blackboard.
“What is your speciality?”
He pointed at my menu with the end of his biro.
“Everything my friend, everything is special.”
With that endorsement, we plumped for the meze for two.
He nodded and disappeared. Eventually, we were joined by some other diners, a couple I think from Birmingham. I couldn’t be sure of the accent, because, apart from ordering they never spoke one word to each other. I reasoned this was the case because either they were struck dumb by the gorgeousness of the vista spread before them, or after however many number of decades together, they had run out of things to say.
Eventually, our plate arrived. On a long oval platter, a delicious variety of greek starters arrived. A cornucopia of delights was before us. Apart from the usual tomatoes, olives and cucumbers we enjoyed gyros chicken, chilli cheese dip, and my favourite, a courgette croquette.
After a few hours of idle chit chat and deep sighs, it was time to pay and wander off down the boardwalk. At twelve Euros a head, you wondered how they could make it pay. Maybe they can’t, but carry on anyway. There was a haze over the beach of oaky flumes as the wood ovens started to fire up for the evening.
Just as we were leaving, I saw the man from yesterday, the one pushing the wheel barrow. His barrow was full of logs. He pulled the barrow backwards up a slope to a restaurant where at the top, met the owner. They stood together and discussed the load of wood between them.
We walked up the beach a little further, stopped for a coffee, then after a half hour or so, decided to make our way back.
I passed the man with the wheelbarrow. The load was still in his barrow. The two men were still chatting. As I write this I’m sure by now the logs are in the ovens. Or maybe not….