By Alexander McCowan
Three years ago I tried to book a table at this establishment on a Wednesday evening in May only to be told that it was fully booked. Since then its cuisine has been recommended by many friends, not least Philip the bean specialist, who described the ‘Ospriada’ with genuine affection; so here we are on a Thursday night, sitting outside with a hundred other diners with a sense of anticipation, because the chef has a reputation for delivering the goods.
The furniture is well appointed and positioned with no sense of crowding. The waiting staff alert and professional: the companion didn’t like the table for two offered ‘no problem’ said Michaelis and moved us onto a table set for four. For a restaurant positioned between two huge car parks it has an electric ambience: everyone seems to know each other.
Drinks are delivered with a basket of some of the best bread I have been offered in a long time accompanied by a bowl of pickles and olives. The menu is in English and divided into salads, starters, pasta and main courses. For anyone that believes salads are incomplete without wedges of tomato and cucumber hiding in a bed of tired lettuce and strips of cabbage I suggest they give this a miss. Example: ‘Ospriada’ –chick peas, white beans, lentils, spring onions, parsley, dill, virgin olive oil and lemon juice; Spinach with Anari – spinach, green beans, artichokes, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, anari, walnuts, olive oil and vinegar.
The companion suggests we order a salad between us which proves to be sensible as Michaelis informs me the salads are enough for four people; ‘salad for two please’.
There are ten starters on offer ranging through fava beans to stuffed zucchini flowers passing such exotics as Rolls Trachana – sheet baklava stuffed with trachana, haloumi and leeks; of course you could try the Sausage Trilogy – three types of sausages with leeks, feta and tomato served with a mustard dressing. We choose the zucchini.
Salad and starter arrive and off we go; the salad is excellent but the zucchini a disappointment; they are served cold and not in the first flush of youth, leaving a cloying taste on the palate. Of the main courses I select Brisolakia tou Kampou, grilled belly of pork served with a baked potato where the flesh has been mashed and mixed with feta and herbs – simply delicious. The companion decides on the mini burgers made from lamb, pork, onions and cumin served with fried potatoes. While this establishment doesn’t pander to the popularly held belief that our fellow countrymen will leave the table hungry unless they have consumed a kilo of souvla, the portions are substantial, so bring a good appetite. The wine list is local and Greek and very sensibly priced.
There is a limited sweet menu with some of the usual suspects but we were tempted by an orange cream dish that we ate between us. This was followed by coffees and an ice bucket containing a flip-top flask of mastic liqueur and two shot glasses, courtesy of the house; nice touch.
Pantopolion needs no help from me as it rightly holds an elevated position in the opinions of the discerning Hellenic diner, but if you want to try Mediterranean cuisine at its very best make sure you book.
English is limited but Isabella and Michaelis will put you right.
SPECIALTY Hellenic Mediterranean
WHERE 7 Baz. Paulou, Nicosia. Behind the new theatre and round the corner from the Mouflon bookshop
CONTACT 22 675151
WHEN Open for lunch and dinner. Closed on Sunday
PRICE Very reasonable