On the 22nd August, Christos and I flew over to sunny sunny Cyprus for a Holiday.
I’ve been to Cyprus once before (last year) and we had an incredible time then and an incredible time this time round. With Christos being half Cypriot, he visits habitually every year as a get away and knowing this is my 2nd year in a row where I’ve visited, I guess I have the same habit starting too. The first time, I visited, I didn’t really note anything down because I lacked my now-blogging mindset. This time round I thought I’d give it a go.
Disclaimer: The places we stopped off at during this trip are located on the Greek side of Cyprus, and unfortunately do not feature any in the Pathos and Limassol Areas (only because we didn’t stop off in those places during this trip, maybe next year).
As much as I’d love to write about our entire trip in all it’s tourist guide detailing, I’m going to keep my content true to itself and only talking about what I want to talk about.
AND I WANNA TALK ABOUT THE FOOD, GOD DAMMIT!
While we were in visiting we stopped by some of Cyprus’ notable Best Restaurants, Classic Local / Village Taverns and just places where we found foods that just tickled our fancy (because unfortunately, as much as I tried to, you can’t live of pork Souvlaki for 14 days straight).
Restaurant No. 6: Efthimis Souvlakia, Larnaca (What is Souvlaki?)
Efthimis Souvlakia is a Souvlaki restaurant located in the heart of Larnaca, with a stones-throw walk away from the Ancient Kition Ruin.
It common that a lot of local Tavernas don’t really focus on their styling and situ at all. They all have similarities, such as being so close to a roadside that if you rock back on your chair, there is potential of becoming roadkill, but that’s what these little places are all about. They’re accessible, They’re perfect for a quick to grab a take-away or quickly munch and go. Another similarity is being able to see the kitchen from your seat. Interior design wise they always keep it simple with plastic garden chairs and foldable plastic tables with paper-linens, inside the restaurant you will always find religious icons, relics of an old village community, antiques on shelves and photos of villages on the walls… sometimes a dauntingly large framed photo of the founding owner of the establishment or a “lost” family member. But they keep it simple and homely, and as silly as it sounds it gives the place the feel of a barbecue in a cypriot household, with separated tables, where you pay for the food, as opposed to a restaurant-restaurant. Which to you might sound negative, but to me it means the food and community is their focus, and that’s what I want. Good Local Cypriot Food.
Not being used to the dinner-time in Cyprus, Christos and I got there for 7pm, which to us, sounded like an appropriate time. We naively discovered that 7pm is ‘setting up time’ for most restaurants. On arrival, the crew were still pulling out tables for the outside dining area and laying paper-linens.
In all honesty when we arrived I thought they weren’t ready to serve customers as we were the only ones there, but they were open and welcoming, and served us. Before you say “but you said it was busy and now you’re saying it’s empty” I will correct you; getting there at the start of their dinner service worked in our favour as come finishing our meal; The place was absolutely RAMMED and there were no tables.
Handy travelling tip, if you want a good place to eat, disregard the decor, target the locals and where they like to eat. Community speaks on behalf of food and an establishment.
We ordered a ‘Mix Souvlaki’ Kebab each, halloumi and chips to share between us. Souvlaki (which you’ll note over this holiday, I ate this numerous times because “When in Rome…”- that and I love pork when I’m not a devote pescatarian) Is essentially a Greek take on the shish kebab. Succulent chunks of pork shoulder, seasoned with common Greek herbs like garlic, oregano, rosemary, and sweet paprika, marinated in extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and dry white wine, skewered and barbecued over hot coals, to a perfect char. Sounds incredibly luxurious for something that, is essentially a Cypriot street food. When we say we got a ‘Mix Kebab’ It means they added Sheftalia which is a type of greek / cypriot sausage to the pitta parcel of joy, like the pork (and most things that end up on a grill in cyprus) the sausage is stuffed with greek flavours and spices. Inside the kebab they give you a common salad of Onion, Tomato, Cucumber and Parsley. AND DAMN SON WAS IT GOOD.
In most places you’ll find that they serve the salty god of goats cheese aka Halloumi, the same way. It’s sliced into rectangular pattys, about a cm thick and grilled to charred (I hope you know, it’s not grilled halloumi if it doesn’t have those black grill lines down it).
We washed it down with a bottle of Keo. A totally lush dinner on our first night in Cyprus!
Another recommended Souvlaki Shop, similar to this (lets just say it’s busy or whatever) is called Vokolida, Larnaca… which is within a 10 minute drive of this one.
Restaurant No. 5 – Lambros Fish and Chips, Dhekelia
Okay, before you start judging, saying “you flew 4 hours to eat English Food” You are wrong! SO TOTALLY WRONG. But that’s not to say that Fish and Chips isn’t a British Classic, because it is. This place, owned and staffed in all its Cypriots pride, does Fish and Chips better than most chippy’s I’ve gone to in the UK (yes, I said it) and is an ABSOLUTE PLEASURE to visit. Located in a well suited British army base, Cessac beach side in Dhekelia, It’s noted popularity amongst Tourists and Cypriots alike (I say that as Christos’ has family and friends in Cyprus who genuinely travel cross-country just to go to Lambros and it’s noticably locals) landed it the #8 spot as best restaurant in Larnaca on Trip Advisor.
For starters, which they give complimentary when you eat in, we had bread, salad and tashi (tahini), and ordered fried halloumi (I failed to previously mention that we ordered halloumi quite literally, everywhere we ate). I ordered the traditional fish (cod) and chips and Christos ordered the calamari and chips. We ended up spliting it half and half to save arguements. To be honest, I don’t even want to think about how big the squid was that they had to chop up to make the squid rings because they were HUGE *Shudder*. They could’ve been worn as bracelets. The fish was flakey and tender. The batter, bubbly and crispy (fried to absolute perfection) with not an oil slick or soggy patch in sight. The chips… I have to say that Cypriot potatoes have a ‘thing’ about them… they crispen up on the outside and stay fluffy without pre-boiling and they also have a ‘buttery’ taste without being buttered and it totally baffles me! Nothing beats a home-cut chip. Served with a undoubtedly home made tangy and creamy tartare sauce.
As you can see they are very generous with their portions and we both couldn’t even finish it (quelle surprise) but the quality of the food is just incredible. This is an example of doing a small menu but doing it well. Lambros i well worth a visit if you’re ever hitting up Larnaca. (Also, we may aswell be sponsored by Keo by the amount we’re drinking.)
Restaurant No.4 – Militzis Restaurant, Finikoudes (More Traditional Cypriot dishes I’m going to describe in depth!)
We met up with some of Christos’ family for a proper family meal at Militzis Restaurant which specialise in Traditional ‘Home’ Greek / Cypriot cooking, situated on the old-side of Finikoudes beach.
The establishment stays true to traditional Cypriot fine-dining with its outdoor setting (and indoor overflow dining area), stone architecture and gorgeous Mediterranean foliage, towering metal windmill placed at the entrance and MASSIVE outdoor Kleftiko ovens. You can smell the wonderful aromas as you walk past the restaurant. It’s almost expected at a place like this that the tables are covered in white linens and the waiters are in formal uniform with a dishcloth draped over their arm. There is a pleasant contrast of environment. I say that as it’s very village-esque but directly facing the coastal front.
For starters we received their complimentary bread and tashi (Cypriot restaurants have such good hospitality) and we ordered Greek Salad, Halloumi (Ofcourse!), Buguri (which is Bulgur wheat and vermicelli cooked in chopped tomatoes and onions) and Fresh Greek Yoghurt. You will know if a place makes their own Greek yoghurt by the fact that they serve it in a little clay dish which it’s filled to fit. It’s really makes you see value and effort in a restaurant when you find places that has a focus’ on the little details like that.
As our mains, we ordered a hell of a lot of food… Lamb Kleftiko which is a Slow Roasted Leg of Lamb, when I say slow roasted, I mean roasted all day and it’s so tender you can literally pull the bone out clean and the meat just melts in your mouth. We also ordered the Beef Kleftiko but they had, due to understandable popularity, ran out. It’s such an experience eating Kleftiko here because you can see the chefs tending to the Kleftico in their massive outside clay ovens from your seat. At traditional restaurants like this, because they cook their food in massive clay ovens throughout the day, you need to know that once they’ve ran out of something, they’ve ran out. I mean it’s common sense that something slow-roasted isn’t going to be ‘cooked to order’. If it was, i’d genuinely worry about the state of the restaurant. So if you have your heart set on a dish that you think proves popular amongst many, you need to get there early in order to avoid disappointment.
As a replacement for the Beef Kleftiko, we ordered the Beef Stifado (which is not Kleftico, but very close compared, being Slow Stewed Beef with Onions in a Fragrant Red Wine Sauce). I’m not one for ofal at all (never have been, and probably never will be) but Christos’ mum and his cousins were happy to share Lambs Liver. As if it wasn’t enough food to share between five people, adding to our massive order was the Spit-Roasted (Souvla) Pork and Chicken Souvla. All of the dishes were served with Roasted Cypriot Potatoes. It was wholesome, heart-warming and, ofcourse, absolutely delicious. A meal as filling as this, should be, and was followed by a well deserved lie-down back at the flat.
I would recommend anyone in Larnaca who wants a real traditional cypriot family dining experience to come to Militzis.
Restaurant No. 3 – Vlachos Tavern, Dhekelia Road
Restaurant No. 2 – The Mill, Troodos
After one hell of a drive into the Mountains of Troodos, we had little bit of a finer-dining experience (Okay, so it might not be totally fine dining / gourmet for some, but the way I see it; if there’s more than one knife and fork on the table, it’s dead posh. Haha!), looking over an entire village, mountains, bridges and waterfalls. Absolutely Incredible.
Kakopetria (which means “bad rock” apparently) is where you can find the ‘famous’ Mill Restaurant and Hotel. The last time we came here (August 2017) we were left disappointed as we chanced the hour and a half journey to the restaurant unaware that they only took bookings and didn’t have any unreserved seats left spare (unreserved ‘walk in’ seats are for cancellations only so chances are they won’t have any if you don’t book!)
This time round, to avoid disappointment like the last time we visited, we booked 3 weeks in advance. We booked and arrived at the start of the lunch-to-dinner service, with a balcony seat (Honestly, if you can book a balcony seating for your first time there, I’D RECOMMEND YOU DO IT).
The original structure of the building dates back to the 17th century, having previously been used as a Mill (wouldn’t have guessed) for a Monastery. On the brink of becoming a ruin in the 1950’s having not been able to mill wheat any longer, it was bought and refurbished and converted into a hotel and restaurant in 1976, serving a range of Cypriot and internationally loved classic dishes.
I ordered the filet steak (with a red wine peppercorn sauce, medium rare, obviously) and it was to die for. It was succulent, it melted in your mouth and came with home-cut Cypriot potato fries. A steak lunch with a breath-taking mountain view. I’d definitely go again given the chance!
Restaurant No. 1 – Mousikos Taverna, Sotira