What happens when the capital’s favourite ‘Fish and Chip’ shop – and of course a great deal more –vanishes with neither a ‘by your leave’, nor any other explanation. The answer is, go find the other one. It was not possible that an enterprise as popular and successful as the establishment in Themistoklis Dervis could disappear without trace. And this proved the case.
Ocean Basket now sits cosily at the top of Onasagorou junction with Pasikratous at the entrance to the main tourist area of Laiki Yitonia. What a clever move. Surrounded by the army of burger, beer and souvla outlets – every one of them a clone of the other – Ocean Basket offers the culinary alternative: food from the sea.
We booked a lunchtime table and when we arrived the place was already in full swing. Located in the best spot for people watching, we were offered the choice of two window side tables, well spaced and decorated. The staff were quick and attentive.
Ocean Basket is a South African franchise started by the larger than life Fats Lazarides in 1995, at the start of the Rainbow revolution. It now extends to numerous countries and prides itself on the freshness and quality of its seafood.
The Nicosia outlet is a slick operation; the manager, Fardin, ensures no-one gets left out. There is no time wasting. Our table is served by Mary, who provides the menus, wine list and a basket of bread with butter. The card contained the usual starters but includes mussels, pickled calamari, garlic and cheese prawns and scampi with tzatziki. Salads are offered with seared tuna or salmon. Ocean Basket has fully embraced the Cypriot taste for the Japanese lunch: Sushi, Sashimi and Tempura. These are served in the usual form or in rolls and on platters. Be aware that the platters are huge; the staff will advise and adjust according to appetite. Prawns are a main feature of the ‘Basket’s’ armoury. They are majestic: prince, queen and king. The diner may choose to eat as few as six or gorge on a plate of 24.
On the fishy side one may select hake, sole, cod, bream, bass and salmon, and like all the other dishes, may be grilled or fried. The menu suggests combinations of prawns, mussels, fish and calamari. All dishes can be supplemented with any others. The staff are very accommodating. Don’t like mussels? No problem, try calamari.
We chose a port platter to share with a plate of mussels in lemon garlic sauce to start. The platter came with a substantial salad, various dips and a large plate of chips – hand-cut, not re-heated; a sin practised by far too many establishments. The mussels were a little too well done for my taste, but the sauce was delicious. The platter was a real challenge: the prawns, served ‘butterfly’ style, strip very easily from the shell – this is all finger work. The calamari is so tender, you could spread it. We asked for the fish – hake – to be fried, even though the dish specified grilled. However, it proved too much for the elderly palate, we took some home. The companion suggested that with such a substantial dish it should be served over a plate warmer, because it is certainly cooling by the end. But no request bothers the staff; ‘ a finger bowl, please; more lemons, more napkins’. The sweets on offer range from Italian kisses, to Alaskan coconut – didn’t know they grew them.
The wine list contains the excellent Tall Horse brand; excellent value.
The restaurant provides a Sushi delivery service and is open seven days a week, 12-00 to 10-00pm. There are enough covers to satisfy a battalion. This was a most surprising and enjoyable luncheon venture, and we would recommend it to all busy diners.
SPECIALTY Sea Food
WHERE Ocean basket, Junction Onasagorou and Pasikratou, Nicosia, inside the walls