Our man about town enquired if I had eaten Bouillabaisse in Nicosia, an interesting question when one considers the Marseillaise who claim to have invented the dish state that it cannot exist beyond their harbour, because the ingredients must be dredged from their environs; although the Channel Islanders strongly disagree.
Which led me to the strangely named Qboo bakery and restaurant on Prodromou Street for lunch; an establishment previously known for its delicious cream cheese and smoked salmon and poppy seed coated bagels, reminiscent of cheery nights in Brick Lane. The bakery is a popular venue for the discerning and health conscience bread makers and consumers that would purchase the basic materials from Cornelius, the owner. Initially, one might purchase a coffee, cake or bagel and sit in the limited space available, and wonder why such an enterprising baker didn’t provide a larger venue for his products and willing patrons. It didn’t take long for that to happen.
He acquired the adjoining premises, designed and built everything himself and now opens for breakfast, lunch and evening meals. Seating inside and out, tables for two to ten. Lots of bustling staff, eager to serve.
The menu starts with the traditional kettle boiled bagels, plain and savoury. Organic scrambled eggs on organic toast, with sausages and bacon or smoked salmon. There are steak sandwiches and bread of your choice accompanied by pickles and mustard. Buffalo mozzarella in a pretzel; homemade Liver pate with Commandaria aspic, Duck Rillettes served with onion confit and gherkins, among other delights.
Of the main courses we are offered pork schnitzels, German sausages served with sauerkraut, tagliatelle with mushrooms, shrimps, langoustine bisque and Chestnut ravioli that is homemade, filled with truffle puree and served in celery sauce.
There is a huge Qboo salad to which one can add beef, smoked salmon, shrimps and honey mustard vinaigrette. Among the soups we are offered French onion, Pumpkin, Cream of Porcini; the afore mentioned Bouillabaisse, and Hungarian Goulash. Quite a selection for a bakery.
Our company selected a Goats cheese Bagel; Salad with smoked salmon; Organic scrambled eggs with bacon; the Uruguayan medium rare steak sandwich using ciabatta, caramelised onions with pickled mayo and mustard. The Duck Rillette was certain to be tested; not a common feature on Nicosian menus.
The drinks menu is more appropriate to the café than a restaurant. A great many healthy juices, two German beers, enough coffees and teas to satisfy the heartiest teetotaler, and a sparkling wine. The service was an interesting combination of saucy but slow. The seating gave rise to complaint from the ladies as they found it difficult to move freely.
The ambience is one of earnest healthy eating, the odours of baking bread are stimulating. I have ordered the Bouillabaisse and am anxious to get a spoon into it. Imagine my surprise when Marina, our waitress, delivers a soup bowl of what appears to be cream of sweet potato with a few slices of baguette, grated cheese and a chutney on the side. It appears to have taken Holy Orders.
Bouillabaisse is the Marciano of soups. One these two are essential ingredients: rascasse or gurnard; then choose four from the following: bass, bream, cod, conger, haddock, hake, monkfish, snapper or turbot. Mussels, scallops, shrimps, crab; welcome but not essential. Onions, carrots, leeks, garlic, peeled tomatoes, parsley, pepper, saffron, orange zest, fennel, thyme, splash of Pernod. Cut fish into small portions, use the heads, bones, tails and trimmings fried in olive oil to make stock: you get the idea? This is a dish that is served in deep bowls, and not thought worth making unless you have ten people to eat it. I am disappointed.
However, as previously mentioned each department claims its own. While discussing the matter later, Cornelius revealed this is how they make it in Monte Carlo. Bravo Grimaldi.
We finished with excellent coffees, chocolate pate and almond biscuit.
Everything we had was fresh, wholesome and nourishing. Madam, the Italian, thought her salad was too large to be manageable for tidy eating, and the steak sandwich was excellent but would have benefited from thinner slices of bread; the older folk sometimes have delicate gums. No butter was served with so much bread. No complaints about the bagels or scrambled eggs; both delicious.
WHERE Qboo, 51 Prodromou, Nicosia
WHEN 07.30am to 8pm Monday to Friday and halfday Saturday
CONTACT 22 270477
PRICE Not cheap