Within the Paphos region our all-inclusive hotels may fill the views but certainly not the spirit. These days few investors are brave enough to take the gamble and create smaller boutique-style hotels where big tour operators do not have to be wooed to get their beds filled every season, and where guests are actually encouraged to explore outside the perimeter walls, instead of being trapped ‘full board’ and treated to dubious ‘folkloric’ nights and ‘tribute’ acts as the highlight of their week’s entertainment.
If you move out from the town, one can discover some truly unique accommodation run as independent family businesses offering non-residents some excellent home style cooking. The Paradisos Hills hotel is one such delight for several reasons. The first is the actual pleasure of the 45-minute drive from Paphos to the village of Lysos, passing through delightful countryside and unspoilt tiny villages, with thoughts of good, confident country cooking at the end of your journey.
The Demitriou family have worked incredibly hard to create a paradise of peace and tranquillity, building out of local stone and wood a lovely hotel which boasts delightful gardens. Since they opened 12 years ago, the trees they planted have flourished and offer shady corners where diners can contemplate the meaning of life and enjoy an almost 365-degree panorama that takes in Polis, the Argaka and the clear crystal blue sea beyond.
Sunday lunch is a very relaxed buffet which starts bang on one o’clock and booking is essential as both locals and resident expats from the area have already discovered the place. Regular replenishment of the food is constant so no one ever leaves wishing they had also tried the Keftedes (meatballs) the delicious homemade Moussaka (also a vegetarian option) the mouth-watering Stifado or indeed the rabbit and potato casserole in wine. Then there are local mushrooms stuffed with tomato, onion and feta sauce and not forgetting cook Niki’s special spicy prawns, with all these dishes also available on the daily menu.
I mentioned Niki, who is the boss in the kitchen. Such is her modesty that she refuses to be called a ‘chef,’ preferring instead what she sees as the less pretentious title of ‘family cook’. Regardless of titles, this woman certainly does treat her guests to some excellent traditional dishes.
One can of course go down the souvla route which is not the usual cremated sheep’s knees, but a crispy sweet flavour redolent of careful meat cookery. Then of course there is a good selection of dips, crisp fresh salads, bowls of homemade pickles, mounds of potato salad, grilled chicken dishes, very good stuffed vine leaves and loads of veggies. When in season you can thrill the taste buds with roasted pumpkin, or relish the combination of stuffed zucchini flowers.
The buffet is a movable feast in that Niki uses as often as possible seasonal ingredients so there are always new dishes to try, depending on what goodies are on offer that particular month. The meat side of the buffet always remains constant, along with dishes which rarely ever get removed from the menu, such as the highly popular and comforting homemade creamy Pastichio.
I mention this because one lady I encountered at the buffet was ladling what could be described as a veritable mountain of pastichio onto her plate. She turned to me and remarked, as if fearful of any condemnation at her apparent adoration for the dish: ‘I do so love this and come regularly to enjoy it. I have told Niki she must never ever remove it from the menu.’
With that she lifted her overflowing plate and toddled off to her table looking every inch a very happy camper!
Then of course there are the homemade desserts. The most popular seemed to be the homemade apple pie, also the filo dough with custard pudding covered in syrup and the delectable homemade crème caramel.
I watched as folk with a serious mission look in their gait strode confidently towards the dessert table and all had a twinkle of delight in their eyes. And as for me?
Well, as I never set out to eat badly because I am too greedy for that, I was more than happy to have visited this genuine traditional foodie paradise.
SPECIALTY: Traditional Cypriot
WHERE: Paradisos Hills Hotel Lysos village Paphos
CONTACT: 26 322287 email [email protected]
PRICE: From €15