Many moons ago whenever visitors came to lap up our sunshine for a week or two, the holiday was incomplete if we didn’t have an opportunity to visit our then favourite Lebanese restaurant. Those of you who have been here for a while will probably have guessed I am referring to Abu Faisal, and its convivial, eccentric, all welcoming host, Gazi. Sadly, the restaurant has long gone.
The good news is that a brand new Lebanese restaurant, Cave de Roi, has come to Nicosia, centrally situated a glance away from the Hilton Park on Agamemnonos street. Though it has only been open a month, it has the potential of becoming another of our favourites.
The interior is sparkling white with uniform comfortable seating for about eighty diners. A huge seascape of a Levantine barque on one wall is the only reference to the type of cuisine. There is an upper floor and a small open courtyard, dominated by a very large television screen, that might have been temporary as we visited during the Euro 2016 championships. It did not encroach or dominate our field of vision, as we were seated inside.
Our Romanian waitress, Dina, settled us down with the menus. My grand-daughter ordered a glass of chilled Pino Grigio and I had an Arak. The wine list is more than adequate, there is a choice of Italian, French, Greek, Chilean and New Zealand, all most reasonably priced from 16 euros to 39 euros. For a serious celebration there is a Deutz Classic Brut or Rose at 80 and 95 euros.
The menu consists of cold and hot meze both containing a choice of eighteen familiar dishes. This is followed by Nayyeh, a Lebanese style steak tartare, which is prepared in four ways, using different herbs and spices; the Habra with spices and the Kebbeh with fresh chopped mint leaves. Next comes the Charcoal Grill with Kebab Halabi, lamb fillets and cutlets, chicken Shish Taouk with garlic, grilled chicken wings, traditional grilled sausages, and a mixed grill of chicken, lamb and traditional sausages, with individual prices ranging from six to eighteen euros. With such a large range of choices, we decide to order the preset mezza at 25 euros which includes a taste of almost everything on the menu. And this included to our surprise, ‘frogs’.
We did enquire whether it was just legs and were told no. This was a first for me in a restaurant in Cyprus, unless of course it was a French restaurant, though I do recall being told by a relative from my village that it was common to find crayfish, crabs and frogs in the river that once flowed through the village. Sadly, this is now a rare occurrence. Curious, we requested the frogs to be included in our meze. First up a very prettily presented quartered plate of pickles appeared on our table, with sticks of purple kholrabbi , green olives and peppers. Then came the dishes, all of uniform size and shape that filled the table.
Each dish had its own signature, familiar but different. This was traditional Lebanese cuisine with classic flavours, the chicken livers with pomegranate marinade, the labneh with garlic, thick yogurt with cream cheese and mint. The cheese rolls were tiny with melt-in-the-mouth pastry, the kebbeh with tender minced spiced lamb. All the dishes served at the right temperature.
Also included was a dessert, a combination of anari, a creamy yogurt, pistacio and raisins followed by a choice of coffee.
Altogether, we had a very pleasant evening enjoying the best Levantine cooking with a hint of Paris.
WHERE 6. Agamemnonos, Engomi.
CONTACT 22 359359