1. Nicosia: Home-cooked food like your grandma’s
I feel that one of the things we know how to do best in Cyprus is to prepare local authentic food. Grandma’s food, as we call it, is reminiscent of our childhood flavors. At Siantris, at Nicosia’s Old Town, you can taste wonderful homemade casseroles. Apart from well-cooked legumes (bean soup, louvia –black eyed beans– broad beans and lentils), food that on any given weekday I wouldn’t change for the world, it’s certainly worth to also taste some of their meat in tomato sauce dishes. Their slowly roasted lamb with potatoes as well as the veal in tomato sauce with spaghetti would put many gourmet dishes to shame. Do not expect luxury, enjoy the simplicity, tradition and hospitality and, if you’re lucky enough to find a table on the pedestrian street you should thank your lucky stars!
2. Limassol: meatballs to die for or scent of the Mediterranean sea?
In one of the most rapidly developing cities of the island, the definition of timeless value is none other than, Palia Geitonia, located on Agkyras street in the Old Town. Mister Nikos wakes up at 5 each morning to handpick every single tomato and fish that he will serve his customers during the day. Don’t ask for a printed menu, he will come at your table to recite it himself: salads with dips, traditional pie, grilled calamari, octopus that tastes like the Mediterranean, fried red mullets and probably the best grilled fish in Cyprus. The hand-peeled and hand-cut fried potatoes from the village embody the meticulous attention he pays to all the dishes. When it comes to casseroles in Limassol, Sikaminia wins 1st prize! Miss Dimitra prepares food reminiscent of grandma’s cooking; only she is not one herself! Admittedly, chicken is not my favorite meat but her chicken with potatoes in the oven is succulent and the same goes for her giant beans, while her keftedes (meatballs) are to die for.
3. Larnaka: At Lazaris’ in the morning and Kyriakos’ in the evening
The Larnaca culinary scene moves at light speed. Two of the most recent arrivals made me pay frequent visits to the city of Zenon over a short period of time. Even though I have often said that some people should leave gourmet dishes to more experienced chefs and focus on what they do best, Kyriakos at To Patrikon has pleasantly shocked me. Young and ambitious, he comes from the village called Tersefanou, where his restaurant is located; he serves creative dishes based on Cypriot traditional cuisine. The broad beans with louvana (fava) and extra virgin olive oil dish is the definition of fresh salad, while zucchini with poached eggs and paidakia (ribs) with Commandaria are just some of Kyriakos’ stellar dishes.
Another new arrival –this time in the cafe-bakery world– is Lazaris, proving that the new generation is more than capable of honoring tradition and adapting it to fit our daily habits. Sandwiches with Cypriot bread, lountza (traditional cured pork loin) and haloumi, simit with anari cheese and honey, as well as a Cypriot breakfast, all handmade in this lovely, small kafeneio (coffee shop). It is really worth a visit!
4. Famagusta: “My beloved haloumi…”
The city that comes alive every summer boasts many wonderful taverns appreciated by Cypriots as well as foodie tourists. At Mousikos both fresh haloumi and stewed stifado rabbit are a must. Tip: Visit it on a weekday instead of a Friday or Saturday in order to avoid the crowds.
5. Agrotourism: From our mountains to your plate!
The mountains are one of Cyprus’ strong points. Since I was little, we used to go on excursions and eat at countryside taverns, a tradition I cherish and continue to this day. This last year I fell in love with Eleni’s taverna in Troodos. Situated a few meters away from the village square, hidden across the camping site, Eleni cooks homemade food for her lucky visitors. Spaghetti in the oven, stuffed zucchini flowers, meat on the spit, koupepia... all served under the pine trees. In this homely environment, do not hesitate to grab your drinks from her fridge yourselves. The Mpakaliko tou Hapsi in Agros is one of a kind. Run by Marios, he serves Cypriot breakfast with fried eggs on simit with a variety of local cheeses and charcuterie, to be relished with Cypriot wine. Try the preserves made with goji berries grown by Marios himself.
6. Pafos: It’s neither a restaurant, nor a kafeneio…
Kika’s Garden is precisely that: Kika’s garden. Hospitable Miss Kika is preparing a homemade breakfast with the help of her family, using the products freshly handpicked from her garden and serves it... in her garden. Bread, jam, cheese, heavenly pumpkin cake and a tigania (traditional meat stir-fry) at the end, might not seem like much to you, but it was all it took to make her famous in the short space of one summer. And for those who feel like locals, iced mahalepi with rose petal syrup.