GARDEN OF IOS
If walking through the impressive entrance gate to Ios’ latest gastronomic venue makes you feel like a star on an epic movie production it is hardly surprising, given that German born owner and creator Anina Diener has years of experience as production designer for both
films and events.
But, whereas up until now all her extravagant creations were of an ephemeral nature, turning this former private property into a bar/restaurant has offered her an opportunity to pour her creativity into something more lasting. And, more importantly, to give back to her beloved island of Ios and its inhabitants. Because Anina, whose parents fell in love with the small Cycladic Island in the early sixties, has had a lifelong connection to it and feels like she has roots there. She is firmly convinced that if you spend such a lot of time in one place
“you can’t just take, you also have to give back”.
Beyond the landmark gate in the style of classical Cycladic architecture built by masterful local craftsmen a magical place awaits you. A huge cluster of mirror balls glistening in the last rays of sunshine looks like casually strewn between the carob trees. Did the wind blow them here straight from Studio 54 or did they just fall from the incredible night sky over Ios? Either explanation seems plausible, but in actual fact they are a typical “Anina touch” embellishing the DJ booth, meant to look “like a baroque dress”. Just like the handmade neon sign above the bar area is another recurring design element of Anina’s. Its Greek letters were blown in Berlin in a traditional technique, not industrially made. Craft matters to her.
Atmospheric music lures you deep into the garden, where among the pines and prickly pears a variety of seating areas invite you to rest from the hustle and bustle in town. Cozy, intimate spots make single travelers and couples feel just as welcome as larger groups.
Luckily the charming staff serves you fresh water as soon as you have settled in, so you can take your time choosing the perfect drink to enjoy whilst admiring the breathtaking sunset. Maybe one of the signature cocktails Athens’ “Kolokotroni 9” bar created for “Garden of Ios”, drawing inspiration from the four elements? Or how about a natural wine from Jerôme Binda’s “Domaine de Kalathas”? Or a “Garden of Ios” herbal tea? Whichever your choice, it will certainly be the perfect prelude to a delicious and healthy dinner in the restaurant.
Chef Constantinos Kardaras rose to the challenge to not only prepare food with seasonal, local and organic Greek ingredients, but also to do so without the use of plastic. The dishes, served on beautiful minimalist dinnerware created by Tinos based ceramicist Sabrina Binda, are gluten-free and free from refined sugar, preservatives and additives. “What we do is the opposite of convenience food” says Anina, for whom sustainability is key.
Wherever possible the ingredients come from her own fields or straight from the garden itself, newly planted by Anina in large parts. Olives, figs, pomegranates, lemons, apricots, grapes and herbs can now be harvested on top of the almonds and prickly pears that the garden already had to offer. Anina, whose parents created an impressive private garden on the island, knows about the challenges faced when planting trees in an environment where there is little water.