For many people, ‘all-inclusive’ means a week of the same buffet food, warm wine in plastic cups from 11am and a regrettable number of guests who see ‘free alcohol’ as a challenge. But the Ikos hotel group is doing much to dissipate this image, instead offering a luxurious experience that is also remarkably affordable. After launching their award-winning concept with two hotels in Halkidiki in 2014 (Ikos Oceania and Ikos Olivia) the hotelier has now opened a new branch in Corfu (Ikos Dassia), with more resorts imminently planned for Greece and Spain.
So, what is the secret to their success? On arriving at Ikos Dassia, the class of the place is immediately palpable. Staff are waiting to greet you with a cheerful ‘Kalimera’ and a warm cloth to freshen up, while glasses of Tattinger are sipped as you check in. The reception leads through to the terrace bar, which overlooks several of the resort’s seven swimming pools, seven restaurants and the private beach, allowing you to orient yourself quickly in the sprawling complex (it’s so big it has two reception buildings – aptly dubbed ‘Sea’ and ‘Sky’ due to their proximity to the beach or the heavens – which both feature the same Flavours restaurants and separate spas), with the décor a long way from the blah beige of so many mass-market hotel chains (think marble floors, elegant lighting installations, Scandi-esque coffee tables and cushions you’ll want to steal).
The truly genius aspect of Ikos though is the decision to have à la carte restaurants and a dining out option, which sees the hotel partnering with local restaurants – meaning you’re not tied to the resort but you’re still getting the benefits of being all-inclusive. Vido Island Restaurant is on a nearby island, which you sail to, while another, Rex, offers traditional taverna-esque food in the picturesque environs of the Old Town. There are plans to expand their offering to also include one free museum entry, sunset cruises and a drive around the island in a Mini Cooper in coming months, meaning you’ll get even more bang for your buck. Deluxe guests get yet more extras thrown in, from private pools and a free 25-minute neck and shoulder massage to a bottle of champagne in their room and dinner on the beach. There’s no need to ensure you get your monies worth by filling up on monotonous buffet food – you’ve gotten yours before you’ve even turned in for bed on the first night.
Speaking of the bed, it’s a huge one, with the kind of firm king-sized mattress you only get when it’s a newly-opened hotel and therefore barely slept in. There’s a Nespresso machine and - you’ve guessed it – inclusive mini-bar, as well as large outdoor terrace area with al fresco dining area and sun loungers, and also a private pool, depending on your room category. The bathroom has a large waterfall shower, Anne Semonin toiletries and his and her sinks, and the wardrobes have fluffy robes and slippers. Basically, it’s got everything you need, and a few extras thrown in, too.
The beach is wonderful, the pools are the perfect temperature and there’s watersports galore, but the resort’s real piece de la resistance is its gastronomical offering. From traditional Greek to Asian and French, all your bases are covered by the seven in-house restaurants, with the option to go further afield to Corfu town if you fancy it. We started our culinary odyssey appropriately enough at Ouzo, a white-washed al fresco establishment serving small plates of local Corfiot dishes. We’re still dreaming of the melt-in-your-mouth zucchini fritters served with creamy freshly-made tzatziki, while the traditional cheese pie was just the beginning of a four-day dairy binge. Which brings us neatly to Ergon Deli, the purveyor of the finest fried cheese in Greece. We had it mashed up with beef in pastirma pastries, doused in honey and bird’s nest pastry for the gruyere ‘Kadaifi’ rolls, and grilled and served on a bed of aubergine in the halloumi salad. Elsewhere in the resort, we enjoyed duck rillettes, grilled octopus and sea bream ceviche at French restaurant Provence, while by the pool we dined on pork skewers, spicy tuna wraps and The Best Greek Salad Ever. Each restaurant has its own accompanying wine list, as well as cocktails like the gin-based Silky (with passionfruit and apple juice) or the vodka-based Celebrity’s Choice (with lavender and bergamot), but that said, the staff really will go above and beyond to give you whatever you want, whether it is on the menu or not.
Not that much of a sun-worshipper? Then take thee to the spa. With treatments including massages, facials and manicures, as well as more in-depth experiences, like full-body wraps and scrubs, there’s something for every kind of spa-frequenter. We opted for the Pure Rejuvenation massage – an invigorating session which used Anne Semonin oils rich in Omegas 3 and 6 and vitamins A and E – but at just 25 minutes was far too short considering how blissful it was, so do go for the 55-minute or 1 hour 20-minute options for the ultimate indulgence. The spa itself also boasts a swimming pool with more sun loungers exclusively for spa guests, steam room, sauna and hammam, as well as a gym. Not that we would ever suggest working out on holiday, but the hotel does do morning yoga and Pilates classes, too. We mostly exercised our taste buds.
Sovereign Luxury Travel (01293 832 459, www.sovereign.com) has a seven night holiday to the five star Ikos Dassia, on an All Inclusive basis, from £902 per person. The package also includes a 20% room discount, UK airport security fast passes and access to N°1 Lounges, private resort transfers and return flights from London Gatwick with easyJet. Based on departures 15 October 2018. Book via sovereign.com.