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Restaurant Review: Pralina Experience, Nicosia

Rest1

Many years ago, I was asked to review Pralina, where the management claimed they were departing from their burger/pizza cuisine and introducing an international menu. Obviously one expected English to appear somewhere on the carte – alas no. The waiter was disappointed that I had not mastered Greek and when I suggested it was not unusual to expect the English language on an international menu he shook his head in the manner of a bowler refused a wicket, when the batsman was plumb. Unsurprisingly, it was among the worst meals I have experienced since dining at Wandsworth prison, and even then the trustees cleared the plates away before they served the next course. Dining at HMP could be hazardous, but the kitchen staff were well trained, which couldn’t be said for Pralina. I shall never forget the question when I settled the bill: ‘What was it like?’ ‘It was awful’, I responded. ‘Better luck next time’, he smiled.

How right he was.

Pralina has passed to the highly professional Zorbas group and the difference is spectacular – the décor, lighting, service, ambience, spacing, observance of hygiene laws, and most importantly the kitchen. Even though the municipality is doing a splendid job of making every venture into the heartland of Nicosia a complete nightmare. Two circuits of the city before arriving at Stasikratous is average. One might suggest stout footwear and a staff to negotiate the surrounding debris.

Rest2We arrive early Tuesday night and are shown to our table by the charming Katerina, who provides the English language menu, and mentions that the chef has two special dishes not on the carte: a rib-eye steak on the bone, to be shared; and a grouper. Interesting. The main menu consists of six salads, a group of appetizers containing fish and beef carpaccio, ceviche, tartar and others. There is a choice of Sushi and Tacos. Risotto and Pasta; Fish: Bass, Tuna and Salmon. Pralina is very strong on meat dishes, which they claim are cooked in a ‘josper oven’. No, nor do I. In this appliance you discover Cockerels, Corn-fed Chickens, Iberico Pork; Black Angus from America and Australia, in fillets and Rib-Eyes; they can be served with mushroom, pepper, Bearnaise or Chimichurri sauces. Side dishes of every kind of vegetables.

I need a glass of Plomari to help me decide. The wine list resembles a Christies catalogue – the binding must have cost a fortune. We always order good value Cypriot wines regardless of the financial state of continental Europe.

Two items, the Quinoa salad with creamy aubergine, for the companion, and, glory be, a barbequed smoked eel with all the trimmings, teriyaki, wasabi, avocado and sesame for me. We selected fish for the main course: Seabass, with prawns, salad, asparagus, fennel and crawfish bisque, for madam the Italian – and the Grouper for me. We selected a Vasilicon – perfect with white fish.

The Quinoa was a revelation; served in the form of loaf with the aubergine atop, it retained its integrity until the first cut, then collapsed. My eel came in eight pieces; it was superb. However, the fish disappointed. Seabass has trouble with roulade and asparagus and leeks do not make good companions. Much as I adore Grouper, this specimen would have benefited from five minutes less in the pan, and the vegetables were a little anaemic.

The sweets alone were worth the visit; Pavlova for the companion and Pistachio Dream for me. The best we have consumed in Cyprus.

This is a special venue, and yet another in the small, but growing list of restaurants in our capital that could rival our European colleagues.

 

VITAL STATISTICS

SPECIALTY International

WHERE Pralina Experience, Stasikratous 31, Nicosia

WHEN 7 days from 9an to 11pm

CONTACT 22-665588

HOW MUCH Not cheap

 

 

 

 

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