Where to eat, food and drink Cyprus
The Cypriots have a varied cuisine of an excellent standard, flavors of the eastern Mediterranean, like the situation of the island at the crossroads between Europe, Asia and Africa. Cypriot cuisine includes Mediterranean (especially Italian), oriental, Turkish, and British dishes. Many people have left their culinary habits in Cyprus: Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Lebanese, Syrians, Italians, French and, more recently, the British.
Popular cooking tools are the charcoal grill and the traditional clay oven.
Cypriot cuisine makes particular use of fresh island products : fruits and vegetables, fish and seafood, aromatic plants and regional spices, without forgetting the use ofolive oil natural. The fertility des terre gives the plates a wide range of vegetables: figs, beans, chickpeas, but also olives, dates, almonds, nuts and herbs.
If you really want to understand the food of Cyprus and get a taste of the variety of arrivals, head to the local market early.
Starters or appetizers (mezze)
Mezze are one of the essential elements of this gastronomy. These “delicious little dishes” (mézédes in Greek), equivalent to Spanish tapas, are most often offered as starters, but they are so generous that many are satisfied with them as a complete meal.
On the mezze menu: salads, tomatoes, olive oil, tahini (sesame cream), feta, tarama, talattouri (sauce made from yogurt, cucumber and mint, also with olive oil), grilled halloumi (cheese), mushrooms and other vegetables, stuffed vine leaves, moussaka, capers ...
Mezze consist of up to 30 different small dishes, combining tasty sauces and vegetables with a wide variety of fish and meat dishes. In some restaurants and taverns, you have the choice between fish mezze (psari savoro) or meat.
- The loukanika, Cypriot sausages, flavored with coriander and other spices, marinated in red wine and smoked. They are served fried or grilled.
- The koupepia, grape leaves stuffed with ground pork and rice.
- The hiromeri, marinated and spicy pork ham like loukanika.
- The lountza, smoked pork tenderloin often served in sandwiches with grilled halloumi cheese.
- The pastourma, a sausage containing a large amount of red peppers and fenugreek that gives a spicy note to the barbecue.
- The sheftalia, grilled pork crepes.
- The afelia, diced pork marinated in red wine and coriander seeds.
- The stiphado, beef or rabbit stew with wine vinegar, onions and spices.
- The very popular ofto kleftiko, large pieces of lamb cooked in a hermetically sealed clay oven and seasoned with bay leaves.
- Traditional bread is none other than cake.
Fish and seafood
Fish dishes include calamari, octopus in red wine, barbouni (red mullet), grilled swordfish and sea bass.
Lamb and beef are lean but sometimes expensive compared to pork which is very cheap and of excellent quality.
Goat meat sells for the same price as lamb. It is also very skinny and well worth tasting. Its pleasant taste is slightly similar to that of game.
Another example is keftedes, minced meatballs, and stewed meat dishes: afelia (pork in red wine), stifado (beef stew).
Typical Greek dishes
- The taramosalata, or tarama, pink and creamy sauce made from mashed lumps eggs and potatoes with parsley, lemon juice and finely chopped onions.
- Le talatouri, a fresh mint and cucumber yogurt flavored with garlic, a version of Greek tzatziki.
- The Greek salad (horiatiki salata) composed of tomatoes, lettuce and green peppers, with pieces of feta, green olives and local aromatic plants.
- Moussaka, the traditional Greek dish of minced meat and eggplant covered with a creamy bechamel sauce.
- The kebab, a common meal consisting of grilled pork, chicken or beef accompanied by potatoes and a cucumber salad.
- Souvlakia, pork, lamb and chicken skewers, served as a sandwich in pitta bread.
- The halloumi is a delicious firm cheese (often grilled) made from goat's milk with the aroma of thyme, and sometimes flavored with mint.
- The feta, soft and salty which is made with sheep's milk.
- Anari which looks like ricotta when sold fresh, but is closer to Parmesan when salted and dried.
- Kefalotiri and kaskavali are two hard cheeses, excellent for sandwiches.
The most common vegetable dishes are potatoes in olive oil and parsley, cauliflower and pickled beets, zucchini, kolokassi (root close to sweet potato) and asparagus. There are also more exotic vegetables like okra, chard perry, black-eyed beans and purple leafy artichokes.
Vegetable accompaniments often include olives, pickled cauliflower and spring zucchini sautéed in olive oil and tossed with beaten eggs.
Cyprus is renowned for the quality of its fruits, a very popular snack in hot weather. Note also the candied fruits. Huge black cherries hit the markets in June, as do plums, apricots, peaches and nectarines. July and August are the months of watermelons, sold at 10 or 15 cents per kilo, they are juicy and refreshing. The grapes Seedless sweets flood the market from July to November. Do not miss to taste the delicious figs green and purple which ripen in August and September, they are exquisite, as well as melons, strawberries and prickly pears. Winter is the season for apples and pears.
Cypriot desserts most often consist of fresh fruits, served alone or with an assortment of pastries or canned fruit in syrup. They understand the Loukoumades, kinds of Cypriot donuts dipped in honey, daktyla, almond, walnut and cinnamon fairy fingers, and shiamali, orange semolina cake cut into squares.
In cafes, the most popular snacks include kolokoti, a triangle of dough filled with red pumpkin, crushed wheat and raisins, and the pastellaki, a bar with sesame, peanuts and honey syrup. There is also the galatopoureko, a puff pastry filled with cream. The loukoumia, gelatin cubes flavored with rose water and abundantly dusted with sugar, are a traditional delight. The bourekia is a sweet pastry filled with honey and cream cheese. The rizogalo, rice pudding, is typical of Cyprus.
Where to eat ?
The choice of restaurants and taverns is very consequent. Cyprus is above all a popular destination for the British, the Germans, the Scandinavians and, in recent years, the Russians, who alone represent more than 90% of tourism on the island. The service hours of "international" restaurants (those of hotels) are therefore aligned with those of northern Europe.
To discover the local cuisine, better to focus on taverns; for a more refined service, the restaurants.
Most restaurants and taverns are open for lunch from 12 noon to 14:30 p.m. and in the evening from around 19 to 23 p.m. (until late at night if it is a “musical” tavern).
A 10% surcharge is applied for the service.
Another option than the tavern: the souvlatzidiko, the most traditional of Cypriot bistros, which serves souvlakia specialties (kebabs). It also serves pitta breads filled with souvlakia and salad, to take away or to consume on site with a beer.
The tavern is a popular choice, with more flexible opening hours than restaurants.
Some taverns specialize in very hearty meat mezes. But if you prefer to eat lighter, choose the fish and seafood mezze instead.
In tourist areas, many taverns offer a "set menu" or fixed menu with starter, main course and dessert. They also offer à la carte menus with all Cypriot and Greek specialties. In the taverns, you have the choice of terraced or air-conditioned rooms.
Among the restaurants offering other specialties are Chinese, Thai, Indian and Italian.
On the small roads along the coast, there are improvised beach-restaurant trailers with tables and parasols offering hamburgers, pittas, fish & chips, and the grilled lountza and halloumi sandwich (Cypriot variant of ham and cheese). There are also many fruit sellers in their makeshift tents, which sell melons and watermelons.
In the cities, people buy their fruit in markets or from street vendors on their carts. On the salty side, you can opt for sandwiches from bakeries, small grocery stores, snacks serving souvlaki and kleftedès on the plate or on pitta bread, or even small catering chains (salads, pizzas, pasta, sandwiches, spanakopita and tiropita - turnovers filled with spinach and feta respectively) like Goody's or Everest.
Le kafeneion (village cafe) is an institution throughout the country. At all hours of the day, it is frequented by men who comment on the news, often in front of the TV set. These establishments offer snacks, drinks and ice cream.
Cyprus wines, whose production dates back almost 5 years, are among the oldest in the world. Many famous wines from around the world are made from grape varieties imported from Cyprus to Europe after the Crusades. It is even said that the champagne comes from a cutting of choice taken from Mount Olympus in Cyprus.
La Commandaria is one of the most famous Cypriot wines, kind of a must. It takes its name from the Grande Commanderie, a large property in Kolossi. It is produced in a specific region of the hills at the foot of the Troodos range. It is a sweet, sweet and intense dessert wine, aged in terracotta jars. It is, it seems, the oldest wine in the world to have received a name. It can also be drunk as an aperitif, because it looks a bit like port or even vermouth.
The coarse-grained Commandaria grapes grow on the southern high slopes of the Troodos Mountains (especially in the villages of Zoopiyi, Kalokhorio and Agios Konstantinos). They are picked late in the season and dried in the sun to increase their sugar content. The wine is produced by fermentation in open barrels.
There are many other quality wines in Cyprus, most of which are produced from different native grape varieties. More than 100 varieties of grapes are cultivated, more than half of which are in the Pafos region. Lemesos (Limassol) is the most important center of winemaking and wine export. The dry whites are Amathus, Kolossi, Bellepaïs, Aphrodite and Arsinoé. Velvety reds are called Olympus, Kikko and Salamis, while Domaine d'Ahera and Keo Claret are more full bodied. Among the rosés, try the Amorosa, the Rosella or the Rose Lady.
Cypriots also brew their own beer, the Keo.
3 other typical drinks:
- The Filfar, a bitter orange liqueur.
- The brandy sour : the national drink: a quarter of Cypriot brandy, a quarter of lemon or lime juice, a touch of bitter angostura, possibly soda and crushed ice, all mixed with sparkling water. The brandy sour is served with a lemon zest and a straw. A souvenir cocktail from the British colonial era.
- Theouzo, an anise aperitif very popular throughout the Hellenic world.
As a digestive, we consume the Zivania, a 45% distilled grape spirit.
You will be offered an espresso, or instant coffee, or glycos (sweet), metrios (semi-sweet), or sketos (without sugar), a milkshake (sweetened or not, served iced), or even a mbriki, a coffee prepared in the local fashion, in a small pot that is wide at the base and flared up.
Other non-alcoholic drinks
Mineral water, soft drinks from international brands, tea. You will also enjoy the Cypriot coffee (the grounds remain at the bottom of the cup).