Often overlooked in favour of Greece’s island outposts, Halkidiki, in northern Greece, is having a bit of a moment – not only is it a treasure trove of ancient sites and untapped museums – but it is also the destination of choice for a duo of family-focused resorts by innovative brand Ikos.
Redefining the all-inclusive concept for a modern-day traveller, Ikos is leading the way with its ‘pre-paid-luxury’ approach to holidaying seen across two resorts in the destination (with another two new openings on the horizon for 2018). Taking the practical benefits of the all-inclusive and marrying it with all the elements of a luxury holiday (fine dining being a real focus), the group is making huge strides in sewing up the top-end of this sector.
Following on from the launch of Ikos Olivia in 2015, it has now turned its sights to its pre-existing property, also in Halkidiki. Overhauling it to the tune of €27 million, Ikos Oceania now fits into the same ‘boutique style’ as Olivia and has already won a glut of awards (it dominated the luxury all-inclusive category at the 2016 TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice® Awards – being awarded second place in Europe and the Mediterranean’s Top 25 All Inclusive Resorts and sixth place in the World’s Top 25 All Inclusive Resorts).
The scene is set in the vast lobby area, which also houses the chic Indigo Bar. Low-hanging copper pendants reside over the long marble bar, while cornflower-blue egg-shaped chairs and coffee tables give an urban feel to the space. Opening out to a terrace area – with views over the ocean – this is just the place for an early-morning coffee before a dip in the infinity pool – actually there are three infinity pools – so you’ll be spoilt for choice.
With its interconnecting rooms and spacious one-bedroom suites, with private gardens, balconies or terraces – the hotel is particularly focused on family holidays. That doesn’t mean that style has been skimped on: décor is crisp and elegant with pretty bedside chandeliers, smart velvet headboards and luxurious bedlinens – all tied together with a subtle Aegean blue and white palette throughout (echoing the classic colours of Greece). Bathrooms, meanwhile, are luxurious with double sinks, rain showers and Anne Semonin toiletries. While adults will appreciate the attention to detail in design, and the fact that this feels like a sophisticated offering (there’s even an adults-only pool area), the children are not forgotten. There are daily activities on offer at the Kids’ Club, water-sports on tap and child-friendly menus across all the restaurants.
Talking of which, dining is the true highlight of the resort. As well as the Mediterranean all-day concept found at Flavors, there are four signature dining rooms – all overseen by Michelin-starred chefs. The sleek, all-white Ouzo restaurant, with potted lemon and olive trees, for instance, has traditional Greek dishes designed by Lefteris Lazarou. With a focus on freshly-caught fish and classic Greek recipes – the standout dishes here include ‘Shrimps Saganaki cooked with Limnio Wine, Baked Tomato and Estragon’, ‘Octopus cooked with Onions Confit and Fava’, and the signature dish ‘Lamb Kleftiko with Potato Puree’ – the latter is cooked for 48 hours and is the most popular dish in the whole resort.
Anaya, meanwhile, has an imaginative Asian-inspired menu and has the most atmospheric dining room, with slate-grey and burnt-orange colours, low lighting and banquette seating. Balmy evenings can also mean al fresco meals out on the balcony overlooking the ocean. Starters here are the star of the show, with a choice of ‘Spicy Tom Yum Soup’, ‘Gyoza’, ‘Tuna Poki Salad’ and ‘Deep Fried Chiu Yim Squid’ making it difficult to select just one dish to kick-start your meal (you’ll want it all). Chef Katsuhiko Hanamure’s menu takes inspiration from Chinese, Thai and Indian cuisine so expect ‘Pad Thai Noodles’, ‘Miso Marinated Salmon Lentil Dhal’ and ‘Thai Yellow Curries’ for mains and refreshing ‘Matcha Green Tea and White Chocolate Mousse’ and ‘Mango Semi Fredo’ to finish the meal.
Provence is probably the most sophisticated of the bunch – with the renowned Jacques & Laurent Pourcel, overseeing a Med-inspired menu bursting with flavour: think steamed mussels, pea gazpacho, ‘Sea Bass with Bean Puree and Bouillabaise’, ‘Creamy Orzo Pasta with Pumpkin and Ricotta’ and ‘Fig Tart with Yoghurt Ice Cream’.
Lastly, comes Fusco – the eponymous restaurant headed up by Roman chef Andrea Fusco. Twists on Italian classics include ‘Pizza Carbonara’ and ‘Champignons Consommé with Black Truffle’ (the latter is a culinary dream), followed by a choice of light, summery pastas such as ‘Seafood Linguini’ and ‘Prawn Ravioli with Peas and Lemon’. To further tempt you, there’s ‘Chicken Saltimbocca’ and ‘Parmesan Risotto’ ‘Arancini’ and ‘Beef Tenderloing with Saffron Potato’.
Even more inspired, is the Dine Out option where guests can go to a local eaterie like the charming local tavern Erodios, at no extra cost and for those evenings when you just want to stay put, there’s 24-hour room service also included.
The resort is spacious and rambling, so guests can hire bikes to roam around on. Being built into the hillside, it has a topsy-turvy layout with the lobby on the highest floor, giving panoramic views of the Halkidiki peninsula (many of the rooms have the same view) and – on a clear day – you’ll see Mount Olympus simmering in the background.
Much thought has gone into making this a 360° offering, so there are tons of things to get stuck into – from the tennis and squash courts to the beach club with watersports, volleyball, sailing and pedalos. There’s also a spa with a heated pool, steam and sauna and a comprehensive range of Anne Semonin treatments. The hotel also offers day trips to local towns and markets so you can also get a feel for the destination at large.
Book into the Deluxe Collection and you can access even more of a premium experience: suites with their own pools, Champagne on arrival and a concierge service that fast tracks your arrival and check-out.
It all adds up to be a seductive offering and so it’s no surprise that the group is already planning two further resorts. Next up is Ikos Dassia, opening in Corfu in May 2018, this time with seven restaurants and a more immersive approach to the island – with plenty of side trips and activities away from the resort on offer. Following, that is another property on Cos – slated to open in 2019. Watch this space.
Rates at Ikos Oceania start from £180/€215 per night based on two people sharing a double room on an all-inclusive basis.
This article is also published on The Arbuturian