Saturday, August 13, 2011

Everything you need to know about Limnian tavernas but were afraid to ask


By Tony Braun

1. Getting In...

When you approach a taverna in Limnos, there will be at least one person, and usually more, whose entire job appears to consist of attempting to usher unwary passers-by into their establishment. It does not seem to occur to them that anyone who puts up with such harassment was probably going to eat there anyway, and that most Greeks have built up a natural tolerance to these ushers, therefore the taverna will inevitably be full of people in no time, usher or no usher. Either way, they persist to grab anyone walking past, and point them to the nearest table.

2. The Menu...

Many of the uninitiated will think that once they have navigated their way through the ushers and sat down at a table, ready to dine, it is simply a matter of selecting something that sounds nice from the menu. This will of course depend on whether you have been given a Greek or an English menu, or more commonly a Greek menu with English translations underneath. It has been said that some of these translations almost describe the actual dish, or at least make a reference to something vaguely related. Pancetta can be referred to as “Streaky” (possibly a strange derivative of “steak”?) even though the waiter will need to consult with the owner when questioned as to what the actual dish is. Sometimes there are items listed on the menu that are simply inexplicable, such as “fried force-pumpkin”. And if you ever encounter something such as “lamp”, do not fear as in Greek, English spelling is highly subjective, and who are we to say what the correct way is to spell “lamp”, “coat”, “biff”, or any other meat for that matter?

But it is at this point where people make their biggest mistake, as once you have successfully identified something on the menu, that in no way implies that it is actually available (or in some cases that the waiter has even heard of the food in question).

It is usually a process of choosing something on the menu, being told that the food does not exist, or is not available, then selecting something else several times, until finally you end up choosing calamari, which is the only food that is actually available in a Limnian seaside taverna at this time of year.

3. Getting Out...

This is probably the hardest part of the whole Limnian dining experience. Once you have ordered your calamari and eaten it, you are ready to pay and be on your way ...  ah, but here is where the problem lies. As 80% of the staff are focused upon dragging people into the taverna, there are no staff left to bring you the bill when you are finished. In fact, the waiters appear to be specially trained to avoid eye contact with anyone who has already ordered something (other than at the point of delivering your compulsory bread and bottled water).

Some may attempt to call out the waiter to attract their attention, but this is where they go wrong, as it only serves to make the waiter even more determined to ignore their pleading for the bill. Usually, you will need to sit at the taverna until it closes, and then they will bring you the bill when they want to go home, and no longer require you to make their tables look full.