Cyprus is a place where different cultures have left their mark. This is also visible when it comes to food. The three main influences are Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern, but don’t expect straight copies. Cyprus has its own defined style of food, dishes and combinations which deserve your attention. Food is available in many different price classes on Cyprus. Luckily you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy local specialities on offer.
If you decide to try this dish, make sure you come with an empty stomach. Meze is a 15-30 dish meal, the exact courses differ per restaurant. Other than Spanish Tapas or other meze around the Mediterranean, Cypriot meze isn’t ordered by the individual dishes, but comes as a set. The main idea is that you eat a wide variety of small dishes. There is a certain logic behind the sequence of the dishes. The meal usually begins with some olives, tahini, humus, taramosalata and tzatziki. This comes served with bread and a mixed salad. Depending on the sort of meze, vegetarian, grilled meats like kebabs, lamb chops and chicken. Dessert will be pieces of fresh fruit or glyka, a local sweet.
Souvlaki is grilled meat on a skewer. In different variations, this dish goes back millennia. There have been archaeological finds of BBQ sets specifically for skewers dating as far back as 1700BCE. When you order souvlaki on Cyprus, you can either get a large pita filled with the grilled meat or the meat still on the skewers served on a plate. All grilled meat comes with pieces of lemon and usually some tomatoes, cucumber and tzatziki. Most of the souvlakis are made of lamb or pork meat but other variants – even fish – are also available.
If you’re in Nicosia (Lefkosia), go to Piatsa Gourounaki, the place is always buzzing with people. It’s not so much a place for a fancy diner, but a perfect spot for a quick bite to eat. The portions are big, the standard of the food is high, the price is relatively cheap and the staff is friendly.
Most places on Cyprus are close to the sea, so it’s well worth to try some of the local fish dishes. Popular dishes include calamari’s, cuddle fish, octopus and sea bass. Fish can be found in many different dishes, as a side dish in the mezedes, a sword fish souvlaki, octopus stiffado or fried calamari’s. A popular place to get fish is Ocean Basket, this South African chain has a couple of restaurants on the island.