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âIn 2016, I had my first vegan travel experience. After years of traveling as a vegetarian, I was curious how much more difficult it would be to find vegan food, or if there was not going to be much of a difference.
âUpdate: I recently traveled back to Corfu. I don't have much new to report except one vegetarian place that opened in the capital.
Greece is not a particularly vegan-friendly country. âBut there are so many Greek vegan dishes,â I hear you exclaim. While that may be true with regards to side dishes, Greeks love their meat, dairy, and eggs. While you can definitely find vegan Greek recipes youâll be hard-pressed to find vegan main courses at Greek restaurants, and, letâs be honest, living off of salads isnât exactly satisfying. Add to that the fact that veganism is fairly new here, and people are not familiar with the idea of not eating animal products. If your Greek friends tell you that during Greek Lent you will find an abundance of âveganâ dishes, please be aware that fasting food may contain seafood and honey, and is, therefore, not always vegan. You should always check the exact ingredients in a dish in order to avoid unpleasant surprises. Even Athens, the capital of Greece, and a fairly multicultural city with a population of several million people got its first strictly vegan restaurant only two years ago, a few months after I originally published this post. With this in mind, I was curious about how it would be in a much more isolated place like the island of Corfu.
I had looked up vegan-friendly places on HappyCow before leaving for Corfu. The list was small enough check out all the listing within the ten days that we spent in Corfu. However, as we had planned on cooking at home as well we only went to some of the places listed.
As luck would have it, the first place we went to was also the most impressive. Rosyâs Bakery is a small pastry shop in the old Jewish quarter of Corfu Town. Rosy is a sweet Jewish lady who has been offering vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, but also regular pastries for many years. She knows exactly what veganism is and can tell you which sweets are vegan. I have to make it clear right away that she has the best baklava I have had in more than four years of living in Greece. Having Bulgarian-Turkish roots, I take my baklava quite seriously and have been hugely disappointed by the baklava in Greece. It is often dry, and there seems to be no interest in trying something new and exciting. Even Germany offers more diversity in baklava than Greece. But then I tried Rosyâs vegan baklava â and it was heavenly.
Some of the sweets contain the local citrus fruit kumquat, which I have to say is not my thing. It has an odd combination of sweet and sour flavors, but for an authentic experience you should try it at least once.
We went back several times, because everything was so good, and we took a huge amount back home to Athens with us. Her pastries are honestly so good, that I recently flew back to Corfu for a long weekend just to have this amazing baklava again. In fact, it is so good, that if you are vegan and unsure of where in Greece to travel I would suggest Corfu simply for a piece of Rosy's baklava.
There have been some comments on HappyCow regarding the prices, and the first thing Rosy said to us was that things would be a bit expensive. While the prices are not the same as in the baked goods section at the supermarket, the supreme quality, by all means, justifies the prices. This is part of a much bigger discussion about what we are willing to pay for good quality, and why some companies can keep their prices extremely low. Rosyâs Bakery is a small family-run business which is open more than twelve hours, seven days a week. Consider that when you ask about the prices.
There are two locations within a few meters from each other, and you will find either Rosy or her equally lovely daughter Oretta behind the counter. They speak Greek, English, German, and Italian (and maybe more?) so communication will be easy.
Palaiologou 37 & 71, Corfu Town. Open Monday to Sunday, 10am-10:30pm. https://www.facebook.com/Rosys-Bakery-913742852054570/
âNow that Iâm done raving about Rosyâs Bakery, let me assure you that vegans will not have to live off of sweets alone. Not far from the bakery, at the town hall square, there is a tiny place called Pane e Souvlaki. Donât be misled by the name, there is nothing Italian about this place; itâs just that Corfu was under Venetian rule for centuries, so there is a strong Italian influence on the island. The few times we went here, I chose the tabbouleh and the falafel. They were decent and filling enough, but having lived in Montreal which has a large Lebanese community, my standards regarding both dishes have never been met in Europe. Of course, you can find good falafel in Europe, but it will not be extraordinary. The best thing about Pane e Souvlaki is definitely the location. The town hall square is beautiful, especially at night. The interior of the place is very pretty but small, and because of the wonderful weather we always sat outside. Due to the tiny size, the place is usually packed, and we have seen a pretty impressive amount of people waiting for a table, many of whom were locals.
Gilford 77, Corfu Town. Opens Monday to Sunday at 12pm. http://panesouvlaki.com/en/
On the last day that we visited Rosy, we realized that we should simply ask her for suggestions on vegan food rather than going back to Pane e Souvlaki every time we were in town. Rosy recommended a small family-owned taverna called To Diporto. We had a look at all the options, and they told us exactly which ones were vegan. I chose a dish with black-eyed peas which was good and quite filling.
Palaiologou, Corfu Town. https://www.facebook.com/DiportoCorfu/
For our everyday cooking needs and breakfast, we went to the local supermarket, Dimitra, which had several vegan and organic options. In fact, considering its size it had more options than many supermarkets here in Athens. We were able to get vegan muesli and plant milk, so we were covered for breakfast. They also had soy mince which meant we were able to make pasta with a bolognese sauce.
âTaking a stroll through Corfu Town, we walked past an ice cream place that offered vegan options. Needless to say, I had to try it out and was pleasantly surprised. It was not too sweet and tasted really good, actually. Unfortunately, I donât remember which flavors I had, nor, and this is much worse, the name of the place. If anyone knows, please leave a comment.
Another place that I donât remember the name of was at the gorgeous beach of Prasoudi. There are only two restaurants/bars there. Itâs quite a difficult beach to get to but well worth it. When we were hungry we went for the place with the better view. The owner was very helpful in letting me know what vegan options they had. The food was decent but totally overshadowed by the incredible view.
My last vegan tip for Corfu is unrelated to food. The olive soap factory of Patounis has been around since 1850 and is still owned by the Patounis family. They manufacture four different types of olive soap: pure olive oil soap, green olive soap (you can also buy this in flake form for your convenience), olive palm soap, and laundry soap. Before my Corfu trip, my sister had seen a documentary on some of the Greek islands, and the Patounis soap factory was mentioned, so she had asked me to get her the green olive soap.
The factory still looks like one would imagine it to have looked in 1850. It is a very charming place with a friendly owner. They offer daily visits through the production facility. The first time we went to Corfu we missed the tour, and when I went back last month the tour changed a little bit due to some rescheduling at the factory. I did manage to observe some of the process though. It was very interesting to see the traditional production of such a pure soap. You can also buy Patounis soaps and other items at the factory, such as local olive oil, which I got for my dad.
All soaps are vegan, and the owner even explained to me that for the marks that are used as a guideline when cutting the soap, they consciously decided not to use carmine in order for the soap to be vegan.
Ioannou Theotoki 9, Corfu Town. Open Monday to Saturday 9:30am-2pm, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday also 6pm-8:30pm. http://www.patounis.gr/index.html
Update: The only new place I went to on my second trip to Corfu is a vegetarian cafe called Aubergine Cafe. I had to go there for breakfast the morning I arrived. Unfortunately, the only vegan breakfast option was a "fruit salad" which ended up just being some slices of fruit which were definitely not worth the price of 5 euros. I didn't go back as I cooked at home for the next days, but it's entirely possible that their lunch and dinner options are better.
Kapodistriou 110, Corfu Town. Open Monday to Sunday 8am to 11:30pm. âhttps://www.facebook.com/Aubergine-Cafe-194123601296914/
âIn conclusion, while Corfu is by no means a vegan paradise, it has some lovely gems to offer the vegan traveler, most of all Rosyâs fabulous pastries. Itâs definitely worth a visit, with its beautiful old town and stunning beaches, and vegans will not have problems, as there are restaurants in which people understand what veganism is and will try to accommodate you.
Half Bulgarian Turk, half German living life as an expat in Greece.
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