Do you know where that is located? No. Shame on you… and on me. Did you know that you can enjoy a three course meal for €8 prepared, cooked and served – under expert supervision – by the embryonic chefs, head waiters, food and beverage and hotel managers that will secure the financial future of our hospitality industry? How often is the public invited to witness the progress our young citizens are making on their chosen passage to graduation?
In our country where every family anticipates a lawyer, doctor or an accountant among their progeny, we forget the economy runs on coffee, chef’s specials, lager and our famed hospitality.
How many of our most prominent owe their wealth and position to the pappou who broke his health in the kitchens of the great hotels and restaurants of the English speaking world?
If there was a World Cup for service, hospitality and souvla, we would reach the finals.
If you wish to dine in this immaculate establishment on a different form of Mediterranean cuisine every week, you must book. The college has 50 covers, and on the Thursday we joined them there were 23 staff on duty – how about that?
They publish the menu for the day on their website. The day we chose it was to draw from the tradition of the Maghreb: Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. The lands of the Berber and the Tuareg, the food of the mighty Rif.
Each week in the months of the Spring semester, they change the menu: February was every form of Hellenic cuisine – island and mainland; March: Byzantine; Armenian; Smyrneki, Politiki and Turkish – where do you go or that in Nicosia these days? Next month features Middle Eastern; the Best of Foreign influences on Cypriot dishes, and all the Lenten meals for those that fast.
We are met at the Institute car park and guided to the restaurant by one of the students. It is apparent that they are accustomed to seating at tables for 20 and 10. We are shown to a table for two, perfectly furnished, and if the customer has forgotten the on-line carte, the charming staff will provide a decorated single sheet of the food on offer which is gathered from a buffet in the next room – self service requiring self discipline. The buffet can destroy many an appetite by misjudging one’s capacity for that extra quail.
No quail today, but we do have appetisers that include Spicy Tomato dip; Fava Salad; Aubergines and Tomato Salad; Olives and Grapefruit Salad; Bulgar, Asparagus and Chickpeas; Moroccan Beetroot and Yoghurt and some others. One may wander past the starter area and take some of each. There are crispy breads at the end of each row. The main dish section has Couscous, Marinated Fried Fish; Tagine of Lamb and Olives – this is so dark it could be mistaken for liver – Tunisian Grilled Meatballs; Spicy Chicken; Potatoes with Olives, and Carrot and Raisin Casserole.
Two of the starters were memorable; the Bulgar and Asparagus, although the supplier forgot to include the sprouts, nevertheless it was a clever dish. Beetroot and Yoghurt? Unbeetable.
The companion and I covered most dishes and our complaints were few: I thought the asparagus, at the end of its season, was a little stringy, the lamb, bite-sized and tender was betrayed by the darkness of the olive pitch. When the two cooks, Styliana and Georgia, made their rounds to discover our level of satisfaction I suggested that ‘Chermoula’, Nile Perch, can be a very tough customer and doesn’t respond well to deep frying. All taken with the best of spirit.
The sweets included rice pudding – never knowingly overlooked – some fruit salad and pastries with fruit. This is a weak area; fruit should not be cut into slices and left exposed to the air as it oxydises.
However, Loizos the Major-Domo, Field Commander and Overseer of this empire is a man who has served his time in the great five-star kitchens of our coastal areas, and furthermore on the high seas with the ever demanding tour-line passengers.
Overall a memorable occasion, not just for the food but to see our young students totally committed to their future. Bravo to the whole team.
SPECIALTY Depends on the week
WHERE Higher Hotel Institute, Aglantzia Avenue, Nicosia
WHEN 1.30-3pm term-time, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
CONTACT 22-404800, 22-404847, www.hhic.cy Booking essential
HOW MUCH €8 for three courses