When you say the words ‘family-friendly hotel’ to a parent — or any adult — expect a chilled stare of despair. The thought of all-you-can-eat restaurants sluiced down at the end of a noisy, 6pm feeding time at the zoo, urine-warmed baby pools and a 4am screaming wake-up squall from every other room is enough to make anyone run for the hills. So when friends on an east London mum’s WhatsApp group (where else?) suggested we try Ammos near Chania in Crete, we were sold on a dream of a bijou, design-led spot that somehow caters for families with young kids in the most low-key, inoffensive way.
Design-obsessive Nikos Tsepetis took over the hotel from his medic parents in the 1990s as a twenty-something, first succumbing to the hedonistic Swedish and German crowd in the mood for a whole lot of ouzo for their drachma. But after a handful of British families chanced upon his increasingly chic, white-washed 33-roomer on the beach, he realised that Greece’s largest island had a gap in the market for a boutique hotel with style for couples not willing to let go of aesthetics just because they had a toddler in tow.
His instinct was correct. As all booking is made through the hotel, Nikos jokes about social engineering to how he places requests to ensure a mix of families, couples and singles, keeping the peaceful vibe alive.
With poolside rooms that comfortably fit a couple and a toddler or baby, each with a kitchenette but definitely no TV, you can literally step out of your balcony and on to a sun lounger, then immediately down to the creamy sands of Glaros Beach below. Your progeny will find a colourful assortment of floaties, buckets and spades tucked discreetly just out of view, but are equally as likely to be taken by the modern art installed throughout the gardens. There are lilac plastic rabbits to climb on, curved gloops of primary-coloured, glossy steel to hang off, and in the extraordinarily laid-back all-day restaurant, the widest assortment of design chairs and modern Greek art I’ve ever witnessed, by artists including Apostolos Georgiou, Konstantin Kakanias and Eleni Varnadaki. Tsepetis admits that his biggest investment piece was a €20,000 chair, which he’s since sequestered back in his Athens apartment for fear of crayon scribbles and clambering mishaps. But the rest remains there, drawing toddlers’ eyes, keeping them blissfully occupied while you eat a leisurely breakfast of breads baked on site (Tsepetis’ next venture is an upscale bakery in Chania town niftily called Red Jane after Jane Fonda’s revolutionary 1970s alter-ego).
Then there’s added playtime with the on-site nanny, Lina, in her fully equipped playroom that could entertain infants through to teenagers during your dip in the neat, simple pool. If you have a baby raver like ours who sticks to UK time, you can enjoy an 8pm dinner out on the terrace while your child eats their body weight in squid. The menu, packed with daily specials and delicious local fare, is so inviting that you’ll hardly feel the need to venture out — although the blush, glowing hues of Chania’s Venetian port are worth at least a day trip.
The key to it all is how easy-going it is. Simple Cretan salads and kid’s lunch boxes served by the pool, relaxed service by a chilled-out staff and faff-free but entirely attractive surrounds. It’s bliss, and we’ve already booked for next year.
Bookings for 2023 open later this month; studios from £130 a night (ammoshotel.com)