Best places to eat in Cyprus, including classy cafés, family-friendly restaurants, and the best fish specialist on the island.
Happily, city centers and inland villages both have excellent restaurants where locals tuck into homestyle recipes or the mezé, a medley of up to 20 platters, from appetizers to main dishes, meant to show off the kitchen’s finesse.
There’s plenty of foreign cooking too. Middle Eastern, Italian, and Indian have certainly made their way into Cypriot cuisine. Moreover, seafood specialists doing wonders with Cyprus’s somewhat limited repertoire of fish.
The economic crisis, and the local proliferation of all-inclusive resorts, have forced the closure of many restaurants, and the deterioration of others. However, the best have survived intact and we are presenting 10 of them to you:
Gevseis en Lefko: The new Pialé Pashá walkway has culled a few of the former tavernas along this shoreline; this is one of the best survivors. Although the management is Cypriot, the menu tends toward metropolitan Greek in flavours, with such as eggplant salad (ace), tyrokafterí (spicy cheese dip) and seafood starters in rich sauces. Octopus was over-boiled prior to grilling, or perhaps carelessly defrosted, but the portion – two entire tentacles – was considerable. Proprietor Panikos can be gruff initially but softens up a bit when he understands that you care about, and know about, food. Avoid the bulk wine – stick to beer or ouzo instead. The sound system plays old Greek movie songs, complementing the retro film-poster decor. The terrace tables are just a stone’s throw from the sea.
Stou Rushia: Since the economic crisis hit, the market lanes of old Larnaca have been sprouting reasonably priced mageireía (cook-houses, mayérka in dialect) at a rate of knots. Stou Roushia was one of the first and still among the best; Lia is your hostess. Their menu takes in pulse-based soups, a few starters like Cypriot ravióli stuffed with haloúmi cheese, a cooked dish or two of the day, and quality grilled dishes like sheftaliá, liver and pork souvláki and carafe wine. It’s not dirt-cheap but portions are generous. Choose between the pleasant wood-and-stone interior or shaded outdoor tables on the adjacent lane.
Glykolemono: This durable, classy one in central Larnaca is the town’s favorite, and always busy. Salvaged Belle Epoque floor tiles underfoot offset mock-grocery shelving behind the bar. Besides meticulously brewed coffees, the fare is specialty pastries like peïnirlí and sweet or savory bougátsa (custard pie), an ideal breakfast. The sit-down menu is expensive for what it is, but to order takeaway is to rather miss the point of the place.
Pyxida: Recognised as the best fish specialist in central Nicosia, Pyxida is handy for lunch after visiting the Cyprus Museum. Fair-priced, non-farmed-or-frozen scaly fish such as sea bass (or a seafood mezé) is served on proper napery, in a converted 1930s house. Excellent, mostly foreign wine-list. Always crowded, despite the economic climate and fairly hefty prices. Success has prompted the opening of a branch in the Limassol marina.
Pandopoleio: Opened in 2010, this converted former grocer’s (pandopoleio in Greek) – some say an ex-florists – is a firm a firm favorite for quiet sidewalk seating (the interior can reverberate a bit), an ideal location near the Cyprus Museum, and its contemporary renditions of mainland Greek and Cypriot favorites. The proprietors hail from Greece and the menu is all the better for that. Tuck into stuffed breaded mushrooms, ospriáda (bean salad), melitzanosaláta (eggplant dip) and keftédes (meatballs) laced with Híos mastíha, accompanied by excellent bulk wine. Leave room for mousse garnished with orange zest, díkhromo (chocolate and raspberry cold dessert) or rose-petal jelly in a crumble crust, and a mastíha digestif on the house.
Dyosmos ke Kanella: Since about 2012, pedestrianised Onasagórou, a calmer parallel street to main drag Lídras in the capital’s old quarter, has seen one restaurant opening after another, at all budget levels. This is one of the most accomplished, a Med-fusion diner purveying such delights as red-mullet fillets on a bed of quinoa, stuffed portobello mushrooms, duck-fillet chunks with papparadele, and creative desserts. There’s a full wine list, and beer either in small bottles or on draught. Service can lag or be otherwise erratic, a consistent complaint. Next door is an affiliated tea-and-cake shop.
Syrian Arab Friendship Club: Never mind the bizarre name (and the kitsch gateway), this – the sister outlet of a long-running Nicosia Middle Eastern eatery – offers some of the best Middle Eastern food on Cyprus. The 15-platter mezéencompasses all the standards such as baba ganouj, moutabal and kibbeh (it’s possible to go strictly vegetarian); dessert comprises baklava or, more exotically, muhallebi (cherry-pit flour and rosewater pudding). For tipple, opt for wine, Cypriot zivanía (clear spirit) or Arabic arak in little vials; afterward, you might order a hubble-bubble with scented tobacco to round off the experience (though there’s non-smoking seating well away from these). The interior’s a bit plain; the summer garden is the place’s glory. Success means they opened a slightly more touristy branch in Káto Paphos in 2012, with belly-dancing at weekends.
Nicos Tyrimos: Despite a less-than-romantic inland position, long a local institution for seafood. Squid and octopus are melt-in-mouth consistency, scaly fish is fairly priced per kilo. In spring, the appetizers may include agrélia me avgá (wild asparagus with scrambled eggs). Delightfully old-fashioned with its naïve wall murals and smartly liveried waiters.
Seven St. Georges: The premier Paphos-district mezé house, with larger-than-life George Demetriades and his sons Ben and Damian at the helm. The platters change constantly – they are avid believers in sourcing locally and seasonally – and may include wild fennel mushrooms, bladder campion sautéed with eggs, pickled cauliflower, tsamarélla (goat salami), flash-fried agrélia (wild asparagus) and a host of other delicacies you’ll never see in other Cypriot eateries. Meatless mezé available; they grow all their vegetables organically on a small farm nearby.
Ariadne: After a winery tour in the Limassol foothills, there’s no better place for a meal than this welcoming, family-run spot purveying stuffed vine leaves topped with farm-fresh sheep’s yoghurt, black-eyed peas with celery, turnovers stuffed with soft anarí cheese and a couple of daily-changing dishes, all washed down by carafe wine or bottled products of said wineries. The original, upper enclosed patio is nicer than the lower seating area, used mostly in winter.
Credits: Marc Dubin, destination expert