Cypriot food is generally unfairly lumped in with Greek food. This is not entirely very wrong. Just a little bit wrong. There are lovely ‘Greek’ Salads and meatballs and olives and battery acid wine. But there are other totally different things that are an absolute treat; Houmous, grilled squeaky Haloumi cheese, some weirdy sesame seed dip thing called Tahini, a lovely bulgar wheat risotto, and a blissful pannacotta-style pudding.
The thing seems to be ordering a set meal of these Meze – it’s brilliant value and is the bestest way to have a little taste of everything.
I stumbled across a lovely basic restaurant in the ‘Laiki Yeitonia’ of Nicosia after a lugubrious and lonely wander round. It was called Xefotos and proudly claimed to be the ‘Only municipal restaurant in Nicosia’. I wasn’t sure what this meant but it was a great back to basics place with an open fire inside and shisha outside. And the food was brilliant – what looked like charred meat was actually succulently seasoned cuts, and dubious dips zinged up toasted pitta. Their ‘Full Meze’ (still too much for one – they don’t really know what to do with solo diners) was a bargain at €15. They were perfect – not overbearing and great value. Top marks! (Aeschilou 6, Laiki Yeitonia, 22 666 567)
The second place, Zanettos, was a real treat and again I’d never have found it if I’d been looking. A kindly taxi man took me there after an unsuccessful trip to an unlit building site and two closed restaurants. This place was immense – all washed wood and smiley staff. The woman freaked me out by insisting on washing my hands with rose-water as a welcome but it’s part of their ‘friendly philosophy’ that is talked about at great length in their funky menu. And it really was.. they were lovely to me and there photos of their friendly customers all over the walls (including loads of Greek and Cypriot celebs). But the best bit was the food.. they only have one thing on the menu and that is the set meze. And more and more keeps on coming and you think you can’t take any more but it’s actually amazing and so you just keep on eating. I was feeling very friendly with all the food and smiles at the end so these guys get my thumbs up major up. Still brilliant value at €20. (Trikoupi 65, 22765501 www.zanettos.com)