Lessons in style and hospitality

As the local hospitality industry heads for its biggest test so far in view of next year’s Olympic Games, two Greek hotelier families offer valuable lessons in «small is beautiful» – requiring heavy investment and complete dedication. Think of Emelisse on Cephalonia and the Danai Beach Resort in Nikiti, Halkidiki, as the Armani and Lacroix, respectively, of Greek hotels, earthy shades versus bold color. Emelisse A clear winner when it comes to understated luxury and discreet elegance, Emelisse is a boutique resort and a new addition to the group of Tsimaras Art Hotels, joining sibling establishments Primarolia in Patras and Perantzada on Ithaca. (Its name stems from Emblisi, the nearby beach used for washing clothes in olden days.) Situated 1 kilometer away from this Ionian island’s elegant port of Fiskardo – guests have a variety of excursion options either on the island or on nearby Ithaca – Emelisse sits on the tip of a rock and its construction required special permission from local authorities. With a history of tourism – the family travel agency goes back generations – the philosophy of the Tsimaras Hotel is a combination of art and design. In Cephalonia, this translates into Vlassis Caniaris’s Arte Povera welcoming guests in the reception area – pieces by Costas Tsoklis and Nikos Papoutsidis will be joining soon – and a two-level eternity pool for swimming and lounging. The hotel was «curated» by London-based Cephalonian architect Sophocles Maravellas. Inspired by a Bali resort, Emelisse’s 63 rooms (a few have private swimming pools) feature genuine Indonesian teakwood carved by Greek hands. Four-poster beds, white linen, black-and-white photographs by Tatiana Karapanagioti and DVD players are complemented by fabulously bare bathrooms offering cool amenity kits from Korres. At Emelisse, the culinary feast begins early in the morning. In the hotel’s breakfast area – ideally, sitting on the veranda – homemade bougatsa, doughnuts with chocolate, apple pie and preserves join cereal, breads, cheese and fresh fruit. For a stunning aperitif, the ideal spot is poolside, where the season’s it-drink, the mohito, joins exuberant pina coladas – try the popular strawberry version. The same area offers the perfect setting for both lunching and dining, where salads include Cretan dakos and roquette with parmesan and tomatoes and risotto dishes with vegetables, a local ladotyri platter and Chryssa’s cheese pie. Otherwise, you may put in an order for lobster pasta (for the evening) and end the meal with feather-light ekmek, crepes with ice cream or walnut pie. Local Gentilini wine is a good choice for any meal. Clad in morning white linen (black in the evening) Emelisse’s waitstaff offers discreet and friendly service. As for its owners, they are already working to secure the establishment’s future: Coming up is a business center, possibly a spa and, hopefully, a honeymoon suite. Danai After arriving at Thessaloniki’s Makedonia Airport, it’s just a matter of 15 or 50 minutes (helicopter ride or car service) to reach the Danai Beach Resort, located on Halkidiki’s middle leg, Sithonia. This is where the Riefenstahl family – distant relatives of Leni Riefenstahl, whose prints are located in the reception area – run their exclusive resort, a member of Leading Small Hotels in the World. There are 60 villas and suites (all villas have private pools, while suites have either private pools or jacuzzis) offering, among others, Missoni fabrics, Hermes, Escada and Carven utilities, state-of-the-art B&O CD players, 44 fireplaces and white caviar. Award-winning chef Herve Pronzato (formerly of Spondi fame) offers Danai diners star treatment at the resort’s top dining Squirrel restaurant. On a cool July night, the gourmet crossover cuisine menu kicked off with a welcoming amuse bouche, followed by egg with caviar and smoked salmon; warm leeks with white asparagus flavored with summer truffles; grouper flavored with lemon-scented verbena and lemongrass; lemon sherbert with Tequila and fresh vanilla; veal with girolles and crunchy fresh pasta, ending with peach and pineapple puree in a basil and curry sauce – a Turkish chef is also part of the team, in charge of bread and Turkish pastries. With a cellar that boasts no less than 185 labels, guests are invited to join the sommelier in a wine-tasting session. A recent session included top Greek labels, such as Ktima Pavlidi Sauvignon Blanc; Idysma Dryos Chardonnay and Rapsani Private Collection, as well as a Burgundy Puilly Fuisse Louis Latour and a Leasingham from Australia’s Clara Valley. Danai’s guests are famous for not straying from the resort’s premises, enjoying the privacy and the staff’s discretion. For those willing to explore the area, however, the hotel’s skilled personnel will be happy to arrange a series of excursions, including to Mt Athos, Thessaloniki and Vergina. This year’s exciting addition to Danai’s charms, is the St Barth Spa, a jewel of a feel-good center located in the heart of the establishment. Featuring top-quality St Barth products and a highly qualified staff of three, the health center offers body and face packages. Highlights include the Trilogy treatment, ideally destined for two, including a steam cabin, Cleopatra bath, tatani beds and lather massage. In the massage section, try the APM Energy Massage, offering deep relaxation while rebalancing energy. Restless and creative, the Riefenstahl family is not about to rest on its hospitality laurels. The completion of new, grandiose villas (the White Villa, for instance, offers 1,100 sq.m. of sheer luxury) is near, while plans also include an exclusive reception area, complete with a chapel for religious ceremonies. For more information on Emelisse access For Danai Beach Resort,