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Restaurant Review: Valtou Rigani, Nicosia

By Alexander McCowan

It is a chilly Wednesday night in Nicosia, the screen has dropped on the outside dining area at Valtou Rigani (Throw oregano at it); ‘inside or out’ asked the charming waiter; all staff clad in classic black and white striped aprons. Definitely inside. The interior is redolent of the Richmond bistro scene in the 60s: eclectic furniture, blackboard wall, open kitchen and a general air of jolliness. We are shown to a generously proportioned table, given the menu and discover the first of the reasons why this place is so popular: a carafe of Cretan house wine from the barrel is an outrageous €5: look no further. By the time we scan the card the restaurant is filling and within half an hour is full.

Valtou Rigani claims that all is freshly prepared from local produce supplied by carefully chosen growers. From the dips section, which contains spicy feta, hummus, tahini with coriander, yogurt with beetroot and yogurt with mint pesto, the companion selects the freshly made hummus which comes with a small basket of hot thin slices of pitta. My choice is from the starter list that holds six items including vegetables with halloumi; mushrooms; sausage; cheese, but my eye is taken by courgette fritters, don’t see those too often. There is the obligatory salad section but how different from the usual fare; try these for size: ntakos with fresh oregano; rocket with dried figs and manouri; lemony potato salad with capers and our selection, cabbage, carrot, pimento and green apple salad all finely shredded and dressed.

The charcoal grill offers meat by the piece, the regular herbivores and fowl, all priced under €2. From this we chose a grilled Greek sausage, then from the more substantial section two grilled kebabs – pork and beef – on a naan base with an onion and yogurt sauce, and a plate of delicately sliced lamb cutlets.
Everything about this establishment was just right; the ambience, the service – which came with a smile – and most particularly, the food, which was excellent. Rarely have we enjoyed such a pleasant evening. My only concern was the speed of delivery; the management obviously worry that famine may break out sometime soon and the customers may starve. When the lamb arrived before I finished the kebabs it was sent back to sit on the hotplate for a while, but not for long.

There are only three sweets on offer and we chose to share the sokola, a melange of biscuit base, cream, chocolate and crushed toasted peanuts; we could have eaten three; absolutely delicious.

One would have supposed that the proprietors, Laura and Marios, had been years in the business, but not so. After years in Greece, they decided to return to the island and open a restaurant that provided good food at reasonable prices in surroundings that would encourage the patrons to return and bring their friends. On the evidence so far they have more than succeeded. This is definitely a repeat venue.
Valtou is child friendly, open for lunch and dinner six days, closed on Sundays, except for December. Booking is essential even on Wednesday.

SPECIALTY Hellenic cuisine
WHERE 15 Prevezis, Nicosia. Road beside the Cleopatra Hotel.
CONTACT 22 255545
PRICE Very reasonable

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