By Nan Mackenzie
At a rough count and over my 18-year residency in Cyprus, I must have ploughed my way through 17,000 meze dishes ranging from saganaki, braised squid, and every hue and tone of taramosalata, not forgetting the memorable evening when a plate of tasty sheep testicles accompanied by a grey glutinous mushroom sauce was served up, a dish which then gave me sleepless nights for over a fortnight.
From this myriad of mezes I will happily return to only a handful of establishments because they offer a consistent standard of culinary excellence. That said, one can always be surprised and this is exactly what happened when a friend suggested I test drive the food served at the Melania Restaurant on the Tomb of the Kings road.
Expecting a somewhat lacklustre tourist venue I must have driven past the place hundreds of times but never felt the urge to venture inside. My mistake, for this is probably one place you should go to experience a jolly good quality meze. It’s a family run business which has been feeding with love their family friends and tourists since 1988 and the Kannavias family who run it are as passionate about their mini market garden at the back of the restaurant as they are about the dishes they serve.
The chips you eat come from their own organically grown potatoes, all vegetables are grown a few metres away and if sitting outside in the rather lovely, cool, vine draped pergola area, and you spot a woman in white suddenly emerge from the bushes clutching tomatoes to her bosom don’t be alarmed, it’s the cook Ellie Kannavias confirming to all that the veggies and fruits used in her kitchen really are fresh and organically nurtured by her fair hand.
It’s a hand that has also won rave accolades for her mousakka, and her stuffed vine leaves are among the best I have tasted as she uses the vine leaves from their own grapes to secure these mini parcels of deliciousness. The green and black olives served come from their own trees, as does the olive paste and everything is cooked using their own organic olive oil. Even the Feta cheese is coated with wild oregano nurtured on site.
The common elements of a classic meze such as stifado, sheftalia and salad are rendered that little bit different and ‘better’ by Ellie as she and husband Mattheos believe firmly in quality and value for money without any loss of flavour or indeed euros. There is also great praise for their steaks on Trip Advisor and for the grilled fish dishes. We plumped for the meze, which at €18 per head turned out to be the bargain of the month considering the quality, volume and sheer unadulterated pleasure one received at being in an establishment which aimed to make you a repeat visitor and didn’t rip you off in any shape or form.
Even the homemade wine was palatable and sitting there under the vines with a small vase of freshly cut roses on each table, the looming presence of the always alert Mattheos tending to one’s needs, you honestly could not get better service.
For those not into meze, the family offers pork in red wine, beef stifado and mixed kebabs, which also came as part of the meze and were voted by all at the table as being delicious. So where to go next time for a good meal is sorted. Just don’t be like me and wait 18 years to discover this gem of a taverna.