By Alexander McCowan
There have been four different restaurants on this site in the past ten years: the last being the ill-fated Cayenne, a South American attempt; before that a Lebanese, and then Mignon serving French cuisine to the political elite. Now we have a very up-market arena serving Cypriot meze at €18 a head. The alternative is a vegetarian meze.
We arrive at 8pm and are greeted by Elia, who along with his colleague Simona, is the epitome of care and attention, which isn’t surprising as the restaurant is completely empty. Settling on the veranda, where there is pleasant breeze, we are invited to try the house wines, which are from a Greek vineyard and on offer at €9 a litre. The establishment is very well appointed: the furniture and furnishings first rate, all settings well spaced, no sense of overcrowding. Our friends are delayed so we tell the attentive Elia to prepare, bearing mind that there is no choice other than the meze.
When the friends are seated we order the house red and invite the staff to bring forth the meal at ten minute intervals, a simple request, but necessary, as some establishments I know drop the full monty on the table so that customers can watch it cool down: cold snails are not to everyone’s taste.
Two large plates of toast drizzled with olive oil arrive with the tzatziki, tahini etc. It is noticeable that the advertised pitta and the salads are missing. There are 14 entries on the main section starting with grilled haloumi followed by the usual suspects until it arrives at snails, with a heavy emphasis on pork in between. The first dishes to hit our table were the fried potatoes and the snails. Sorry to go on about the gastropods but these were first rate, cooked to perfection and easy to extract. The rest was average apart from the meatballs that were the size of a small hand grenade and very satisfying and I can’t swear that I saw beef liver in evidence but by then we had consumed two litres of the house red, which I hasten to add was very good value and half the price of the nearest Cypriot equivalent.
For such a classy establishment there is an incongruity in the food on offer. This type of meze is replicated a hundred times a night across the capital in tavernas that could double as a wood shed. If the proprietor wants to attract the upper crust he needs to look carefully at his menu. The premises are within walking distance of the biggest embassies in Cyprus and a few years ago the parliamentarians would walk there for lunch but Ousies doesn’t do lunch; why not? I won’t mention the Secret Service headquarters next door because it’s a secret.
Not a bad evening, good company, excellent service, average meal – coffee and liqueurs on the house.
SPECIALTY Cypriot meze
WHERE 38 Metochiou, Engomi, Nicosia. Opposite the Altius Hotel
CONTACT 22 777787
WHEN Dinner only except Sundays (lunchtime offers), not open Mondays
PRICE €18 for meat meze