By Jill Campbell Mackay
The Hamam cafe has to be one of the more intriguing venues I have eaten at in a long while, and it is an encouraging example of what can happen when the town’s historic past meets the café society. That said, one doesn’t actually eat within this historic monument – it acts purely as a rather stunning backdrop for the café, and until recently was a crumbling almost forgotten example of the multi cultural life that was once Paphos.
Money from the EU allowed a full restoration and the state then showed great foresight in allowing a cafe to be set up within the grounds of the Hamam. No easy task considering the owners of the café are not allowed to even drive one single nail into any of the surrounding structures and so the entire area is what one could describe as a movable feast, with a bar on wheels for example and no cabling or distraction ever allowed to interfere with the ethical structure of the Hamam.
The beauty of the place is clear to see, a genuine calming oasis that nestles just below the bustling market area of the Old Town, where one just has to park the car and walk a few steps to enter the courtyard eating area, then, come nightfall, the place transforms into a lively bar and food venue perfect for those who relish the cool vibes this rather lovely venue has to offer.
Now, no one is going to go all Michelin star about this place – you really don’t go there for four star dishes, but, you do get very nice, fresh, food all perfectly prepared and served by jolly pleasant and obviously happy staff.
The menu is simple but shows a good deal of thought considering the owners cater for customers from morning till late at night and throughout the day you can order a very tasty toasted cheese sandwich, or choose from a selection of other light dishes including smoked salmon and cream cheese on a crusty baguette, Tuna sandwich or the special Gourmet sandwich platter which offers salmon and cream cheese, ham, brie, Italian salami tomato, baby rocket, prosciutto and local cherry tomatoes.
Then if you fancy a hot savoury the selection includes Chicken fillet pesto, grilled lounza and halloumi or bacon, onion, and cheddar combo and all are again served in sesame bread or baguettes. There is a choice of six salads with Chicken Caesar, or a walnut and spinach, and here it’s all about using excellent, fresh, local ingredients, as chef just needs to walk three minutes away to buy his daily ingredients at the old town fruit and vegetable market.
Friends who have gone there in the evening reported back the success of the platters, so a group of chums can order a couple of these along with a bottle of good quality local wine be it the cheese platter, or one with a selection of marinated fish, or the charcuterie and cheese platter special, and unusually there is the now very popular sausage selection on a plate which delights those with a craving for a plate of bangers and mash served with caramelised onions.
Much more important is the way this public cultural space manages to wed the life of the town to eating well. Okay you may occasionally eat something that misses the mark, but I sense that even so, a visit to the Hamam Cafe will never ever feel like an opportunity wasted.
WHERE Hamam (Paphos Old Turkish Baths), Old Town close to the municipal car park, Paphos
CONTACT 99 774171
PRICE €5 to €13