By Michael Mccarthy By Michael Mccarthy | January 20, 2022 | Lifestyle
Kalesma opens on Mykonos, creating a sanctuary amid the bustle of an island that never sleeps.
Cycladic minimalism with modern touches marks the design of this breathtaking new resort on Mykonos.
Aby Saltiel asks me to ditch my sauvignon blanc and drink something Greek. “You’ll love this taste. It’s the best—and traditional,” he says. Saltiel, the co-owner of Kalesma, a new resort on Mykonos, asks a member of his mixology team to bring a few shots to our table. It’s mastiha, a clear libation extracted from Greek pines. I throw back the glass. The liquid, with hints of mint, goes down like everything else here: with generous doses of magic.
Kalesma’s light-filled indoor lounge
It’s little revelation, the first of many at the new five-star hillside resort that overlooks Ornos Bay. Another discovery is the company guests will likely keep here. At this world-class property, the owner is not only present, but also spends time with visitors. During my stay, I see Saltiel roam among dining tables, the bar and the pool lounge to chat with nearly everyone. For those lucky enough, Saltiel’s dog, Mia, no bigger than a Gucci clutch, will follow along as a canine welcoming committee of one.
Rooms feature local materials
With a full moon climbing the harbor sky, Saltiel tells me about his vision for Kalesma (translating to “inviting” in Greek), which opened last summer. “I’ve been thinking about it for years. It was so important to me to see it through, and I want everyone to feel welcomed,” says Saltiel, who spent 40 years in the fashion business—14 in New York. He returned to his home country, and the new resort resides on land that has been in a co-owner’s family for more than a century. Saltiel chose the staff wardrobe, which includes chic, tapered black cotton tops, and the lobby also holds the only Rick Owens furniture in the world.
Each room boasts views of Ornos Bay.
Kalesma, which sits on 5 acres, features 25 suites and two villas, each with its own pool and terrace with unobstructed water views. “I want this place to feel like a little sanctuary, away from the rest of the island,” says Saltiel. The 2,600-square-foot three- and four-bedroom villas, with on-demand butler service and private chefs upon request, also come with fully equipped kitchens, stocked refrigerators and wine fridges. It’s a place to get lost for a little while, but if guests would like to venture to clubs, crash on one of the superb beaches or even visit nearby islands to take in ancient ruins, Kalesma’s staff is happy to arrange any excursion.
While each room has its own pool, a jaw-dropping infinity pool, adjacent to the Aloni lounge, also graces the property.
Finding a reason to leave Kalesma, however, is difficult. Athens-based interior designer Vangelis Bonios of Studio Bonarchi and architect K-Studio created an aesthetic that holds true to Cycladic minimalism (whitewashed structures and heavy use of wood and marble—think stables of Apollo), while also introducing modern flourishes in public spaces like the infinity pool and the lounge dubbed Aloni. “It’s a return to the Mykonos of old, 50 or 60 years ago, when visitors came to the island and stayed with locals,” says Saltiel. The effect is dreamy—winter jasmine is the property’s signature scent—especially with 26,000 local plant species on the property, including bougainvillea, lemon and olive trees, and, for use in the property’s kitchen and bar, basil, mint and countless local herbs. The onsite boutique also impresses, especially with brands like Jimmy Choo, Golden Goose, Emilio Pucci, Alexander Wang and Givenchy.
Whitewashed walls serve as a foundational aesthetic.
Saltiel recruited executive chef Costas Tsingas from Athens, with the goal of creating a dining experience that rivals any on the mainland. The resort’s restaurant, Pere Ubu, serves small mezes like scallops, mussels and chickpea cream, along with sea urchin and organic avocado toast. Standout main courses are line-caught fish-filet fricassee and roasted lamb.
The biggest hosannas, however, are reserved for the menu’s dips and spreads (don’t miss the tzatziki and melitzanosalata) accompanied by warm, house-baked breads. In the evenings, house music thumps, and the restaurant and lounge transform into a large, buzzy social space.
Each suite has its own mini lounge.
One late night toward the end of my stay, I notice Saltiel at the bar laughing with guests from New York. It’s clear the prodigal son is in his element, all consumed and perfectly content sharing the beauty and joy found among these sacred hills.
Pere Ubu bar
Photography by: PHOTO BY MICHAEL MCCARTHY AND COURTESY OF KALESMA