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Restaurant review: Paragadi Sea Food Restaurant, Nicosia

By Alexander McCowan

This restaurant is on the first floor of a converted house in Niovis Street off Nikis Avenue. It has been in existence since 1963 and ranks ministers, ambassadors, deputies and what passes for Cypriot aristocracy among its clientele. It is not a fish taverna but a Sea Food Restaurant in the way that Pruniers, Sheekeys and English’s would claim to be.

We arrive early on a Wednesday evening. The car park is full, CD plates in abundance, climb the stairs – passing the assemblage of photographs of the notables that have graced the tables – and are greeted by the friendly waiter and shown to our table for two. Within my view there are two tables holding nine players, two with six, assorted fours, twos and a singleton: at just after 7-30pm, an impressive array for mid-week. Our waiter approaches and pours the water without asking if we want it and takes our order for the fish meze. I had visited earlier in the day and was advised that the meze was the way to go. However, this was not to be. ‘Come and choose your fish,’ said another waiter. ‘We have already ordered,’ I replied. It appears the other waiter was unaware that the meze was off. This is obviously the difference between a taverna and a restaurant: in a taverna there is nothing but meze, but in a restaurant, not always the case.

We are escorted to the landing and shown a series of ice-boxes which contain three legs from a spider crab snuggling up to a side of farmed salmon; a shoal of bream next to sardines and red mullet; some soft shelled crabs wrapped in cloth; two types of clams, some cuttlefish and some shelled prawns. It seems all are sold by the kilo price; fifty euros is frequently mentioned. My companion asked if there was anything else; apparently not. Perhaps the diplomats had eaten it all.

The waiter suggests fish soup, a good idea. I settle for this with cuttlefish and half a dozen clams. The companion selects the soup and the red mullet; the waiter suggests some salad and some dips to carry on with. We select a Petritis Kyperounda, generally a good choice with fish and not too extravagantly priced. The soup is served at the table and has clearly been away from the heat for a while but is otherwise quite good. The clams were a severe disappointment, meagre and stringy, the accompanying dressings helped but not much. The bread was excellent; the dips consisted of tarama and tahini.

Before I had finished my second course, my cuttlefish arrived which led to a little table crowding as the companion’s mullet arrived at the same time. The tables are quite large but so are the plates.

Paragadi seems to have a problem with keeping the meals hot. They claim that all the vegetables are produced organically, which is admirable but why can’t they be hot as well? Is the kitchen located in another building? My grilled cuttlefish is served with two miniscule brussels, some broccoli sprouts, half a carrot and a very small potato that have been steamed and are now cold.

The other half of the dish is charred and one knows that charcoal is good for the digestion, but this is a step too far. Madam, the companion, has the same problem with her vegetables – so it’s not a case of discrimination – her plate contains three small fried mullet that are on the dry side, and although the waitress brought some tartar sauce most was left. It was clear to the staff that most of both main courses were left yet no query was raised as they cleared away.

The next course was the best part of the evening; the sweets are on the house and consist of a wide range of glycos with a portion of semolina in syrup cake. All very enjoyable, which is just as well because the bill was a stunner. To my knowledge red mullet retails at just under twenty euros a kilo and fish of the size served would run at ten or twelve to the kilo, so a charge of twenty euros for three small fish seemed excessive. I could go on about price values but that would be boring. When I paid and made my complaint about the absence of choice, Andreas, the charming manager insisted on giving me a discount on my next meal there and claimed that they had been so busy the night before and the customers had eaten so much. Doesn’t a fish restaurant order on a daily basis?

We must have called on one of those off nights that are bound to occur in a business that has been running for over fifty years. After all, so many of the pillars of our society can’t be wrong. It must be me.

VITAL STATISTICS
SPECIALTY Fish
WHERE 3, Niovis Street, Ayio Omologites, Nicosia
WHEN Open seven days lunch and dinner
CONTACT 22-311694. Booking essential
PRICE Expensive

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