By Alexander McCowan
My daughter suggested we try the restaurant at the new Leventis Art Gallery in central Nicosia, on what is essentially the continuation of Makarios Avenue. It is housed in a great glowing glassy leviathan of a building that is such a contrast to the decaying dross surrounding it. Is this the first example of the new Nicosia Phoenix rising? I hope so. The style is northern Italian: steel, glass, stone, and white, white, white: everywhere. The furniture suggests high Scandinavia.
We are greeted at the door by Michalis, the waiter, who remains with us all night. The companion and my granddaughter, Charlotte, who is visiting from Guildhall, select a mid room table so that we may better observe the activity in the gallery.
The menu contains a page and a half of hot and cold drinks before we can attack the dinner card. There are three starters: smoked salmon and prawns on an avocado terrine; duck breast wrapped in pancakes dressed with an Oriental sauce and a carpaccio of tuna with a rucola salad with balsamic dressing. We chose the first two to be shared between us with an accompanying glass of Prosecco.
The menu offers an interesting choice of salads which seem to be straight out of the thin woman’s luncheon guide, such as: ‘baby rocket with goat’s cheese, caramelised hazelnuts and balsamic vinaigrette’ and ‘green salad with kaskali cheese, pears with orange-walnut vinaigrette’. Most refreshing; and there are another four just like it.
The main course card offers six entries including oven-baked burger, chicken fillet, two fishy dishes, salmon, and milokopi, a type of bream, pork chops, fillet steak and a vegetarian lasagna. On being assured by Michalis that the beef hailed from the Pampas, the ladies ordered one rare and the other medium. I selected the cannelloni with mascarpone, spinach and roasted pine nuts. The wine list is sensibly constructed and complements the kitchen; there are some good Zambartas and Kyperounda choices at reasonable prices. I think Kyperounda’s Cabernet Sauvignon will do the trick.
The two starters are first rate and divide perfectly between three.
The main courses need some attention; I can’t distinguish between rare and medium. It is a common fault in many well meaning establishments that they cannot comprehend that the elegant woman in white really wants an engorged cut from the fillet on the plate. The companion accepts the order without complaint; it becomes tedious, and verges on the pretentious to keep sending back the offender.
However, both ladies are smiling once engaged with Argentina’s finest, but I would suggest that chunky sliced carrots, on the wrong side of al dente, do not go with the steak, nor the cuplet contained baked potatoes as they tend to become leathery by compression. Otherwise all is splendid; my Cannelloni is spot-on, although a little on the large size, which can never be a serious complaint in Nicosia.
There are three sweets on offer and the granddaughter had the warm chocolate cake and the companion, the lemon parfait.
Gradually the late diners arrive and the place is beginning to fill as we leave.
In all, an excellent evening: good food, brilliant ambiance, first rate service.
This will become the venue, and is just what the capital needs. Park at the end of Makarios avenue.
SPECIALTY International cuisine
WHERE AG Leventis Art Gallery, AG Leventis street (previously Leonidou Street), Nicosia
WHEN Lunch and dinner except Tuesday
CONTACT 22 664477, Booking necessary
PRICE salads from €6.50, mains from €8.50