What on earth is going on? The moment I suggest that Covid has devastated our capital’s once shabby mediocre range of national cuisine outlets, an eruption of Michelin quality establishments appear, and each subsequent maître confounding my judgement of the last feast.
This week my dependable friend JM Johnson caused me to repeat an epithet I wrote many years ago when I reviewed No Reservations: a unique dining experience that many supported. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Scale is sited only meters from the aforementioned long-lamented venue.
Stasinou Avenue embraces the city walls of Nicosia; built to protect the metropolis from the barbarians: if only it could save them from the hubris of modern architects and their egos.
Scale restaurant is housed within the newly constructed MAP boutique hotel, and there’s the rub. It took the companion and I three attempts to enter. We had parked behind the hotel but had not realised the establishment has secret entrances. The staff witnessing our desperate attempts opened one of the portcullises and in we flowed. Our delightful waitress Maria invited us to select a table for two, of which there were two. The restaurant, which seats 100, and opens from early morning, is divided into those that like watching the traffic and those that don’t; the ambiance startling, and the décor a work of art. The Italian sat with her back to the wall, and insisted I occupied one of the amazing mobile chairs facing her, to ensure I remained unaware of the constant stream of nubility occupying the vacant tables.
The menu contains three salads: Legume; Tabbouleh and Beetroot that includes coloured beets, lountza, citrus granite, redcurrant vinaigrette and yogurt. The Legume includes smoked eel, and black-eyed beans. We select the Beets to share between us; a glass of ouzo seemed appropriate. We could detect someone special was occupying the kitchen when a close examination of the starter list revealed a Veal Tartare and a Fregola Stew containing bisque, mussels, shrimps, chorizo oil and Zucchini. And from the 14 others I chose Seafood Cabbage – a dish not seen since I dined with my grandmother in law: a Piedmontese member of the Revel-Chion Grappa distillers, and married to the Pastry Chef at the Savoy. The last item on the Starters was chef made Cretan Pasta containing rabbit, shitake mushrooms, gruyere sabayon, and coffee. Beat that. The wine list is very reasonable and well chosen. We ordered a fairly priced Pinot Grigio.
The main courses started with a Bass with an anchovy crust, barley and spinach cream, and calmari in garlic sauce. A pork belly with potato terrine, in creamy butter, quince, leek and geranium sauce – what a remarkable flavour. There was a duet of lamb consisting of a fillet of lamb, crunchy trahana, carrot puree, and brioche. I have never been fond of trahana. I chose the Red Mullet served in Kumquat, Zucchini and Langustine sauce with lemongrass. The companion selected the Pork Belly, a truly remarkable dish. Did I mention the bread? Memorable.
Two incidents brightened the evening: my clumsy manner caused me to knock a full glass of ouzo and ice in my direction, which in other venues would have cause me and my trousers considerable distress but not in Scale: the chairs are on wheels. I retreated at mach speed without embarrassment. The staff were on scene, the matter dealt with by the charming Andriani without any fuss and the glass recharged without penalty.
The deserts are beyond description. My only complaint was that one needed more than one spoon to remove the last morsel of delight.
A perfect evening.
Marios, the owner, who is not beyond serving at table, must nail Dionysis the genie in the kitchen, to the floor to prevent his escape. Bravo.
SPECIALTY Superior Mediterranean
WHERE Stasinou Avenue 15, Nicosia
PRICE Surprisingly reasonable