Brunch! Is it breakfast? Is it lunch? The best of both? Well, whatever it is, you can be sure to find some excellent establishments here in Crete offering diners’ favourite chilled-out meal of the day.
My latest excursion to Heraklion took me to a plethora of mid-morning eateries – the kind perfect for tourists and travellers who, perhaps like me, prefer a late rise or a hearty meal after a morning walk. In all honesty, on this trip, I just refused to get out of my impossibly comfy bed at the Legacy Gastro Suites in time for an early a.m. search for porridge, toast, and other breakfast delights.
Instead of waking up early and overcoming the breakfast blues I’m so used to, back in the city, I wanted the whole breakfast shebang in my own sweet time. And it turned out there’s an abundance of local dining options perfectly catered to cater for my all-day, anytime, a.m. appetite.
I made it my goal, during my week escape, to sample a fine selection of all-day breakfast and brunch goodness, so you, like me, know you can have your morning meal when you feel like it. If you’re looking to enjoy Heraklion but need those few extra hours in bed, there’s no reason to stress – there are plenty of delicious dining rooms open so you can start your day right.
The Best Late Start to the Day
My first brunch recommendation is just a short walk from the famous Heraklion Archaeological Museum and historic Venetian Port – both perfect locations for morning wanders, if you, unlike me, manage to escape the comfort of your hotel bed.
626 All Day Lounge and City Garden is everything it says on the tin: morning till night, eat when you want, all-day dining. And what’s more, you have the choice of where to indulge in your laidback meal – inside, in a cosy and modern air-conditioned dining room, outside on a sidewalk patio with urban views, or even in the park across, full of trees and flowers. Part of the new eco-hotel Olive Green, the restaurant feels fresh, exciting, and a fantastic place to start your day – whenever that may be. I chose to sit outside in the ‘City Garden’ so I could enjoy the views of the shady square facing the restaurant, but I made sure to tour the dining room too. A place for the Instagram crowd – with hanging basket chairs, artistic ceiling graphics, rustic food presentation, and an impressively long bar table for you to dine at. The latter exudes a communal feel – getting you up close with the personable baristas and bar staff hard at work behind it, and the travellers, tourists, and locals chowing down alongside you.
The menus are comprehensive and delightful, with food services running from Breakfast and Brunch to Lunch and Dinner. They offer three complete breakfast set menus including a traditional Cretan Breakfast, a Healthy Breakfast with low-fat cheese and sourdough, and an impressive Kalimera Breakfast featuring smoked bacon in olive oil, sourdough with hazelnut praline, and mini croissants. Even the kids can start the day well with their own specialised menu, treating them to pancakes, caramelised banana and chocolate sauce, and cheese and turkey sandwiches – that actually sounds pretty good…
Each of these inexpensive breakfast packages also comes with freshly squeezed, thirst-quenching orange juice – made especially for you behind the bar. But, if you big kids want to shape your own brunch, the menu also includes a selection of pancakes, eggs, desserts, and more. These set menus seem immensely popular, with both the locals around me and the guests from the Olive Green hotel finishing off impressive and colourful plates of Cretan fare.
Without further ado, I began my easy-going breakfast with bruschetta and humus, an omelette roll filled with traditional Cretan xygalo sour cream, and Pancakes Bueno – which, I’m not ashamed to say, excited me greatly like the big kid I am. Try the local delicacies, and then feast on what you used to have as a kid – that’s always the plan. I’ll admit, I may have bitten off more than I could’ve chewed as three of these goliath pancakes arrived, topped with Bueno cream and a hazelnut crumble. Not to worry – perfect to take away to enjoy with a coffee and a view later on. If you fancy setting yourself up a picnic and dining somewhere else in the city – perhaps in one of the tranquil parks or ocean overlooks – 626‘s entire menu is also available for takeaway.
Get your Bread Fix
Those who’ve been following my articles know I’m all about the bread, and the ‘bread and spread’ option on 626’s menu was something I was finding difficult to ignore. A selection of local bread, jams, butter, honey, and hazelnut praline, all in a basket – a veritable tasting board of bread-based goodness. This also seemed to be an easy selection for the local diners -I perhaps saw more baskets of bread delivered in 626 than anywhere else on my culinary travels.
You can dine on the breakfast and brunch menu until around 1 pm when a lunch set arrives, accompanied by a ‘comfort menu’ kitted out with pizzas, burgers, and the kind of fare that temps you to just stay in your seat and keep eating all day. There’s nothing more comforting than that, surely? Plenty of food choices for everyone at 626 All Day Lounge and City Garden, and you can experience them anytime you want.
Another Day, Another Brunch
Slightly further away than the previous day’s breakfast excursion, the aptly named Central Park is located both centrally, and next to a park. Theotokopoulos Park, to be specific – just minutes past Heraklion’s main shopping district. The cafe is a must for mid-morning atmosphere too. If you enjoy local music, urban hustle and bustle, and city ambience, this is an ideal first stop on a day out – especially if you’re exploring the city. Central Park also features an unexpectedly modern interior, despite its unassuming placement in this mythic city. Industrial metal, chic, dark-toned contemporary stylings, a unique padded texture on the ceilings, and steampunk lighting decorate the space. Like a pocket of the Industrial Age, but without the smoke.
Not only themed well, Central Park is extremely generous with its brunching options and big plates, providing you with croissants, Eggs Benny, pancakes, and assorted fresh sandwiches. I was particularly intrigued by the seldom-offered ‘open-faced sandwich’, a Bruschetta-like dish with a somewhat comedically expressive name. Also available for you to tuck into are paninis, handmade local LUBŌ jams, waffles, and a superb selection of coffees – both hot and cold.
Breakfast on the Rocks
If you fancy something stronger to kickstart your day, Central Park has it on tap. It’s often said that it’s generally more acceptable, or less frowned upon, to enjoy alcohol with your brunch than with your breakfast. Who knows why a matter of a few hours makes a difference between having a mimosa or a pint with your Eggs Florentine, but at Central Park, the cocktails and alcoholic beverages are flowing and unquestioned. I recommend washing down your brunch with two drinks: a warming coffee to your left, and a cooling Negroni on the right. A perfect complement to sourdough, eggs, and a good time.
Brunching in this stylish abode is available till 1 pm. Afterwards, you can enjoy a post-snack stroll through the park or to the nearby Morosini Fountain – a lion-guarded memento from the 1600s that should be on everyone’s Heraklion sightseeing list.
Something of a hidden gem among tourists but a favourite spot for locals, Lokal Day and Night Bar Restaurant is, perhaps, Heraklion’s most faithful all-day dining experience. It
opens between 8 am and 2 am, giving you a whole day to snack, drink, and unwind – and plenty of space to do so. The establishment boasts an enchanting outdoor courtyard, spacious and eclectically decorated indoor dining room, and a third-floor balcony up a twisting staircase.
Another restaurant within walking distance of the Archaeological Museum and Heraklion’s waters, this neoclassical manse is the perfect place to greet the day – as it was on the third day of my trip. Consistent in my lackadaisical approach to getting up on time for hotel breakfast, Lokal provided me with a brunch-based sanctuary instead. And this is the place if you’re a really late starter. You’ll find a whole variety of eggs and breakfast fare available until 3 pm, but the delectable sweet and savoury pancakes are offered till 8. Refresh with a homemade juice or cocktail, help yourself to a classic gold-standard omelette or club sandwich, or acquaint yourself with a Croque Monsieur or Madame. All served on wood and slate, these dishes are also instantly Instagramable, if that’s the sort of thing that floats your brunchtime boat.
With its comforting fare and traditional cooking, Lokal could easily be your Cretan Grandma’s kitchen. Add in some contemporary Hanging Gardens of Babylon vibes with creeping overhead vines, vegetation and bulbs of light brightening up your dining experience, and you’ve found some more paradise in Heraklion.
Frankly, My Dear
Unlike Clark Gable’s character in the oft-quoted Gone with the Wind, you, frankly, should give a damn about Frankly Cafe. Influenced by the 1939 film, with images of Gable’s Rhett Butler emblazoned on the walls, windows, and menus, this film noir-cum-cafe is a must-go site for foodies, coffee aficionados, and fans of the classics. If a pulp detective suddenly called it quits and opened up a coffee house, this would be it.
Initially, I felt like I was back in London when I came across this cosmopolitan kitchen. Minimally designed with a retro twist – floor-to-ceiling glass, armchairs, typewriters, and wooden bureaus – you can see my confusion. With these classy stylings and old-world edge, Frankly wouldn’t seem out of place in hip Covent Garden. But, the Church of Agios Minas on the street outside and the unwavering Cretan hospitality from the second you step over the threshold firmly places this bodacious bistro in Heraklion.
Printed in a typewriter font is the small, perfectly proposed, and mouth-watering brunch menu – scrambled eggs and salmon on toast, breakfast paninis, bagels, pancakes, and – of course – coffee. Of the four mid-morning eateries I dined in, this is the go-to for a killer cup of Joe. Order up, bring it with you to enjoy the city coming to life, or slow your day down and take in the drama and characters in the cafe around you. Local students also frequent this slice of Hollywood cool – the laidback urban atmosphere and flowing coffee lend to a perfect working environment. If you need to get some work done on your excursion, catch up on your studies or a good book, or even write the next great screenplay, Frankly, my dear, is the best place for you.
My final stop of the week, fittingly, was closest to my bed. Just downstairs from it, to be precise. Papi Osteria Caffeteria, the Legacy Gastro Suites’ very own, recently opened Italian restaurant was the perfect place to round out my dining trip. Having been invited to the restaurant’s opening recently and thoroughly enjoying it, as I mentioned in one of my previous articles, I knew my final morning’s brunch would be a treat.
I rolled out of bed at my usual 11 am and descended to the hotel restaurant, but if you don’t have the luxury of staying above this ideal brunch location, you can find it in Eleftherias Square in Heraklion’s city centre. Inside, you’ll find a grandiose dining room with sparkling chandeliers, classical vibes, and electric hospitality. You’ll find the same if you choose to dine on the outside terrace, but you’ll also be treated with picturesque city views.
I know what I like, and I liked them last time I ate at Papi – the cayenne eggs. Accompanied by a side of Cretan sausage, a tall glass of OJ, and a rewarding beer for my last day, this was exactly the way to end my week in sleepy style. You’ll also find a host of sandwiches, super bowls (the yogurt kind, not the American), and enticing desserts on the brunch menu, meaning you can decide if your morning meal is going to be sweet or savoury.
Never a disappointment, Papi will be a restaurant I keep coming back to in Heraklion, regardless of whether I’m staying at the Legacy Gastro Suites or not. You won’t find eggs cooked so well in all of Heraklion, nor will you find a more endearing staff to take care of your brunching needs. If you get the chance, swing by Papi for dinner too – illuminated by idyllic lanterns on the terrace, there’s no better way to enjoy a Mediterranean sunrise, a romantic meal, or some much-needed winding-down time.
Don’t Grab and Go, Sit and Eat
After a week of mid-morning culinary exploration, it was time to depart from Heraklion and return to the boring regiment of 8 am meals, pre-work pastries, and the dreaded grab-and-go during the morning commute. It was a nice change to have a lie-in, eat breakfast when I felt like it, and enjoy the experience. Crete is the perfect place to fall back in love with my favourite meal… at my favourite pace.
Perhaps we all need to rethink how we start our days. We’re always rushing around, breezing past great service and the magical morning hours trying to get from point A to point B. Breakfast is a beautiful time, home to the best coffees, the finest eggs and bread, sitting back, and coming to. I think it’s time we learn from the Cretans and just slow down, take it easy, forget about the rules and regiments, spend another few hours in bed… and eat and drink when we want. And in Heraklion, you really can.