|Project Name||Maiami||Posted in||Restaurants, Design, Industrial / Product Design, Interior Design||Location||
731 32 ChaniaGreece
|Telephone||+30 28210 20000||Completed||Dec 2021|
Ask anyone who has visited Crete and they’ll tell you that gastronomy plays an oversized role in both the island’s culture and lifestyle. So it makes sense that when artist Alexandra Manousakis was looking for a new creative space in Chania a few years ago she ended up opening a brasserie that also functions as an artist studio. Alexandra herself is no stranger to bold moves—born and raised in Washington, D.C., she left a successful marketing career in Manhattan in 2007 to take over the family winery in the village of Vatolakkos, her ancestral home in Crete. A winemaker as well as a painter and ceramist, her diverse interests converge in Maiami, a hybrid space where guests can eat, drink and be merry as well browse her latest ceramic works and, if they’re lucky, see the artist at work.
Taking over a 1950s building in Koum Kapi, a charming, less touristy neighbourhood near Chania’s Venetian Harbor, the all-day venue is awash in vibrant pops of colour in reflection of the artist’s colourful, abstract art, serving an unpretentious, soulful menu with Persian, Greek, Italian and Jamaican influences that embody Alexandra’s experience of growing up in an international world. With an emphasis on local ingredients, plus wines from the family’s winery, the art-filled brasserie is as much a paean to the Cretan way of life as a portrait of the artist’s inner life.
Alexandra recalls being enticed by the one-storey building on Koum Kapi’s coastal promenade from the moment she laid eyes on it when she moved to Chania sixteen years ago. “Its facade always drew me in, I can’t really explain why”, she says. Built in the 1950s in an Art Deco-inspired style, it operated as a family restaurant called Maiami (the Greek spelling of “Miami”), a name that Alexandra decided to retain along with the pink-painted doors and windows and other key features in respect for both the property’s previous owners and storied history. Having moved here from the US to reclaim her Greek roots, the name is also a serendipitous symbol of her unique circumstances.
White-washed stone walls and original terrazzo floors attest to the artist-cum-restaurateur’s desire to preserve the building’s heritage while an emerald-green fireplace plastered in thick, textured strokes, a colourful mural, and lots of vibrant blue chairs imbue the space with Alexandra’s artistic verve, as do the artist’s joyful tableware and ceramic collections on display. Industrial-style glass doors offering views into Alexandra’s studio further immerse guests into the artist’s universe, an effervescent mix of abstract figuration, punchy colours and bold lines that brings to mind Picasso, Miro, Basquiat and Keith Haring.
Open all day long, serving breakfast and brunch until 6 p.m. and then switching to dinner until midnight, Maiami’s menu is small and unfussy, inspired by what Alexandra would cook in her own kitchen. Informed by her cosmopolitan outlook, what appears at first glance as a random combination of dishes from around the world, reveals itself as an intimately connected set of recipes and flavours close to Alexandra’s heart, from Mama Sharma’s Shrimp, a classic Jamaican dish originating from an endearing childhood memory, to the Indian black lentil dahl, the ultimate comfort food in Alexandra’s mind, to Gizela’s Watermelon Salad, a Greek summer staple that takes its name from a dear friend.
With almost all the vegetables and produce sourced from Alexandra and her husband’s two gardens, the restaurant’s international vibes belie a farm-to-table philosophy that celebrates the richness of the Cretan land. Paired with Manousakis Winery’s Nostos Wines—a series created partly by Alexandra herself with her own drawings decorating two of the labels—and a range of refreshing signature cocktails made with seasonal ingredients, dining at Maiami effortlessly marries the local with the global in confirmation of the old adage, home is where the heart is.