By Alexander McCowan
The genius behind this operation has been cooking fish for Nicosians for nearly 50 years and in his current location since 1996. Situated at the beginning of Tseri Avenue – just up from Strovolos Theatre – in very unpretentious premises that conceal a spacious courtyard where diners sit under citrus trees and contemplate fish. What else would you do in a fish tavern?
We arrive on a quiet Thursday and are immediately greeted by the proprietor who offers us any table of our choice and explains how things work chez Phillipos: it’s not meze, it’s something different; lots of interesting traditional dishes followed by squid and octopus and if you want more then all he needs to know is whether you like your fish fried or grilled. He then sends over his nephew, the impressive Petros the hammer thrower, and our hope in the field for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. To get him on-side I mention how we Scots love the hammer which prompts him to produce a picture of his be-kilted friend in full throw.
Comfortably settled with a bottle of ouzo we apply ourselves to the dishes that Petros delivers until they cover the whole table. Every one a delight. Hot okra, spinach, gigantes, courgettes, big crunchy chips, fagi, huge bowl of salad, tarama, tahini, beetroot, potatoes, anchovies, radishes, onions, chillis, hot bread made on the premises, a plate of those huge local tomatoes with cored squashes: “try a little of everything” was the recommendation of the hammer. I warm to any establishment that remembers to put the chillis, onions and radishes on the same plate. Crack the chilli and follow it with a large helping of the local tomato – neutralised – no problem.
Surveying the assemblage I was transported to a Cyprus of 20 years ago when I used to visit Droushia on a monthly basis where time stood still. This restaurant also has the aroma of a time warp about it. Next up, the squid and octopus; perfect, can’t get enough. We are then delivered of a plate of red mullet, can we cope? Of course we can. They are spankingly fresh and yield so easily to the touch. The only way to eat these is by hand, nick out the dorsals and devour the rest along both sides of the spine; plenty of lemon and black pepper.
The grill produced the only disappointment of the night. A small compact, but slightly off-white specimen, which I suspected was perch, was identified as Pandora by the hammer. There ain’t no such fish I said. It was a little too dry for my taste and would have been improved in the pan.
Otherwise, everything about this place was just right. Good food, excellent service, nice ambience. He doesn’t need any approval from me, he’s been around as long as toast. Definitely ‘One of the ones’.
Give it a visit if you want to see what things were like when times were good.
WHERE 7, Tseri Avenue, Strovolos, Nicosia
CONTACT 22 314020
WHEN Dinners only, not open on Sunday
PRICE Very reasonable