A guide to savouring the food of Cyprus

With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, endless coastlines with stretches of beautiful beach, crystal clear waters and picturesque mountains, Cyprus is a dream destination. And when it comes to the island’s culinary scene, you’ll never want to wake up. When you’re considering what to do in Cyprus, a good bet is to start with eating and see where the day takes you from there.

Aphrodite's Rock Photo: tomasz.cc of Flickr

Aphrodite’s Rock on Cyprus

The food of Cyprus

As with most Mediterranean countries, in Cyprus, food plays a pivotal role and is often at the centre of gatherings with friends and family. Meals are a social event and meant to be savoured and enjoyed at a slow and leisurely pace. “Siga, siga” meaning “slowly, slowly” is a popular Greek phrase and mantra that you should adopt immediately upon arriving. Remember the mantra at every meal—even over a cup of coffee.

There are two ways of making the most of the island’s culinary scene: eating out, or staying in and preparing a meal yourself. Depending on your accommodation, the latter isn’t always possible but in that case, try to make friends with locals and you might just get lucky and score an invite for dinner.

Meze lunch Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Traditional Meze lunch

First, the Meze

The best way to experience Cypriot food is by sharing a traditional meze, a selection of small dishes served at every meal. A mix-and-match of flavours and foods, the meze is considered a meal in itself but allows you to sample all of the island’s traditional dishes at once. Although a meze will often reflect seasonal offerings, popular dishes include halloumi cheese, moussaka, sheftalia (homemade sausages), afelia (marinated diced pork), tahini and olives.

Grilled Halloumi cheese Photo: Monarch

Grilled Halloumi cheese

Eating Out in Cyprus

Do as most locals do: avoid flashy tourist haunts—they tend to be expensive anyway—and look for charming hidden places where they serve “proper Cypriot food,” as my Cyprian friend calls it. She also let me in on another dining secret; there are only two types of restaurants in Cyprus: those that cater to tourists and those that do not.

The best and most authentic meals (a.k.a. “proper Cypriot food”) are the ones you’ll come across at the local tavern in the village. The tavern’s host will take your order and then, most likely head out to the family’s backyard to pick fresh herbs for your meal. For the full experience, forget a menu exists (sometimes it doesn’t) and ask the host for recommendations.

You can’t go wrong with most local taverns but some of the best ones include Melitzia Taverna in the village of Tala just outside of Paphos that does an excellent meze; Militzis restaurant in Larnaca where you must have the slow-roasted lamb and bougouri (Cypriot bulgur) and potatoes; and Pyxida Fish Tavern in Nicosia.

Because many taverns don’t have addresses posted, researching ahead will be tough. Your best bet is to rent a car and drive around until you come across a tavern in a village.

Stop for a meal in a local Taverna Photo: Monarch

Stop for a meal in a local Taverna

Try the food of Cyprus at home

If there’s anywhere to indulge in a home-cooked meal, it’s in Cyprus. Fresh produce, fish and seafood from the morning catch are all delivered to the markets daily so if you have the means to cook, you won’t regret spending a little time making a meal (little being the key word as Cyprians keep things simple). Create your own meze with halloumi, olives and dolmades (grapevine leaves stuffed with minced lamb, rice and herbs and spices) from the market, throw fresh fish on the grill, sprinkle it with some spices, add freshly squeezed lemon juice and enjoy!

My thanks for this article written by Malwina Gudowska and brought to you by Monarch Airlines. If her tales of fresh-off-the-grill fish and slow-roasted lamb made you hungry, book one of Monarch’s package holidays and savour Cyprus for yourself.

Photo credits: Aphrodite’s Rock by tomasz.cc, Halloumi cheese and taverna by Monarch, others to Heatheronhertravels.com.

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

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  • Reply
    Greg Prohl
    January 9, 2013 at 2:35 am

    It’s a good thing I just finished dinner a short while ago or I’d probably have to go out and find the nearest Cypriot restaurant, or better still book a flight and get myself over there! Sounds and looks delicious.
    Greg Prohl´s last blog post ..The Pacific Northwest Coast of Washington and Oregon

  • Reply
    January 15, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    this is a good one. I should say, when I go for a travel..the first thing that I would see about the place, is the food! that makes me feel energized!:)

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    February 9, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    @Greg @Mike Food is one of the great pleasures of travel and also a great way in to the culture of each place you visit

  • Reply
    A guide to savouring the food of Cyprus | Heather on her travelsiWannaGo.co Cyprus Hotels, Car Rental, Flights and Travel Insurance
    February 19, 2013 at 12:09 pm

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