Cyprus Mail
Cyprus

Mountain dream come true

Stou Kir Yiannis in Omodos

By Bejay Browne

WHEN 48-year-old Stavros Zenonos took the momentous decision ten years ago to change career he did it in style.

He gave up his safe job as area manager for an insurance company in Limassol, and, fired by a vision but no formal training, he sank his savings and took out huge loans to develop an agro-tourism project par excellence in the picturesque mountain village of Omodos.

Ten years later, the family-run guest house, restaurant and ouzo-wine bar that is Stou Kir Yianni is firmly established on the Omodos ‘must-see’ list.

“No one believed in my dream, none of the family except my wife and the bank. They all thought it was a bit mad,” Zenonos recalled.

“I’m a good eater and I appreciate food. I initially wanted to get back to my village and take over my father’s vineyards and make good wines.”

Stavros Zenonos in his kitchen
Stavros Zenonos in his kitchen

The restaurateur’s family own 150 acres of land in Omodos, the centre of the wine growing industry in the mountains. They also maintain fruit orchards and market gardens and have been involved with vines and wine for many years.

They also owned a small ramshackle building previously used to house donkeys and found down one of the quaint narrow side streets of the village. His parents had converted it into a wine and souvenir shop, but after the purchase of an old, derelict building next door, Zenonos had enough space to develop his project.

“This building now forms part of the complex which is made up of different areas. The restaurant consists of three separate rooms and we can sit 140 people at one time,” he said.

Short or long term accommodation is also available in the old hay loft and vegetable storage areas on the upper floor which have been turned into self contained apartments. Separate stone houses are also available.

His main aim was to create something unique and eclectic which would help to provide some financial stability for his wife Moropi and their three daughters.

“I knew that when I returned, I had to do something to help the family, something fast and unique,” he said.

The project took four years to complete with the total cost of restoration, including the cost of buying the land, coming to 1.3 million Cyprus pounds.

“When Cyprus entered the EU, I placed the project under the agro tourism umbrella, which protects it.”

The EU gave him 70,000 Cyprus pounds towards the project and he raised the remainder through bank loans and his own money.

The nucleus of the project is the restaurant. He says that he tried all sorts of dishes out before settling on his current menu. The Stou Kir Yiannis meze in particular stands out from the crowd.

“I wanted the experience here to be something completely different. People are doing the same thing, the same meze wherever you go. I wanted us to stand out. You can’t please everyone though, but most of our customers are happy,” said Zenonos modestly.

So much so, that booking at the hidden away restaurant is essential, especially on Saturday evenings and Sunday lunches. Live music of all sorts is on offer most lunchtimes and evenings. Passing trade is often turned away during peak times as the place is fully booked in advance.

He said: “We are open all year (except for a small break) for breakfast, lunch and dinner and our customers are mainly locals, a visit to us is a cultural experience.”

Zenonos’ heart belongs to his vines and wines. He has been producing his own wine, which is highly drinkable, for the past two years. He aims to take the product to a new level and hopes to open a winery inside the vineyards, in line with new EU regulations, in the near future. He is also on track to start exporting the family product overseas.

“We have 150 acres of land in Omodos and grow all different sorts of grapes which I use for my wines and some are used as table grapes which we serve in the restaurant. We have a small winery, and we use a friend’s equipment to make the wine. Two wine experts, who are also friends, oversee everything from the vine to the production.”

The family has built up a steady clientele over the last six years and Zenonos’ mother is often in the kitchen overseeing all of the dishes.

The courtyard of Stou Kir Yiannis
The courtyard of Stou Kir Yiannis

“We are all involved now and although we’re working, it’s like our family nights out as well. One of the reasons we called it Yianni – my father’s name – is that I have girls and he didn’t have a grandson – so now he has his ‘baby’ named after him.”

The workaholic says that he can’t imagine retiring for many years to come. “It’s very hard work but I love it so much. I want to be there to welcome the guests, sit them down and pass by a few times to check everything is alright.”

Zenonos is a hugely likeable character who enjoys the company of his customers and says he puts some of the business’ success down to his family’s hospitality and his personal touch.

“Eighty per cent of establishments in Cyprus are now lacking in real hospitality, we have somehow lost our way. Many businesses don’t respect the customers as humans. They are giving you hard earned money and you must always show the best of yourself.”

 

Stou Kir Yianni will be closed for a short break from February 1-13 and re-open again on Feb onwards. Stou Kir Yianni, 15, Linou, Omodos, 25422100/ 99308555. Website: www.omodosvillagecottagecom, email: [email protected]

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