Text: Romina Xyda
Photos: Panayiotis Mina
For a half-century, Matthaios has remained true to his culinary philosophy, and that is why his faithful clientele keep coming back for more!
A plate of radishes, fresh spring onions, tomatoes and cucumbers, along with crushed green olives and a side of sourdough bread: that’s how Matthaios Georgiou welcomes his customers to his taverna beside the Faneromeni, a church in Nicosia’s Οld Τown. Simple, authentic and faithful to his culinary roots: “I come from a big family: eleven brothers and sisters. Hard times... I was raised by someone who used to cook for the Archbishop. That’s where I started. When I opened my place, I wanted to treat people to the tastes of my youth: pure, simple flavours unadorned and timeless. Simplicity makes a dish unique, and that can be hard to come by these days. Modern cuisine is a mix of old and new jumbled up with too many ingredients – way too many. My flavours are straightforward like they used to be, back when I was a kid.” That is where his flavours will take you – back to a past of pure, traditional Cypriot cuisine.
At first, you may be overwhelmed by the options. Fear not, Matthaios will happily offer his assistance: “ Lamb Tava (Cypriot style) with onions and tomatoes, Hostes (wild greens) with egg-lemon sauce served with spicy lamb, Koupepia (spicy-stuffed grape leaves), Kolokassi Yiahni (taro root ragout), Moussaka with or without béchamel and, to round it off, a syrupy almond confection paired with oriental coffee on the house. From four in the morning, I start cooking in my taverna, which means I have plenty of time to prepare everything by hand.”
Many have sat down at his tables (ten inside, ten out): prime ministers, movie stars, businessmen, and friends. From photo-covered walls pose known and unknown characters, all with smiling faces and full stomachs; in every picture in abundance, Matthaios’ cuisine steals the show!