The laws on lockdown might have been written with Ocean Basket in mind. They not only run the most successful fish restaurant in Nicosia, they present their dishes in a form that naturally suggests take-away: platters. The operation was started by two South African Greek entrepreneurs: Peter Lazarides, better known as ‘Fats’ – wonder why – and his brother George in 1995. This was an interesting date in South Africa as you may recall. Originally, The Basket was designed as an up-market establishment but very rapidly became renowned for its diversity. They now give their name to over 200 outlets, in over 19 countries. Cyprus has six on the franchise circuit. The owners franchise demands a high level of quality and service; they have been voted the best sea food operation in existence for the last twelve years.
It is no surprise that the first Basket opened in that comfortable enclave of Springboks in Cyprus: Paphos. The returning expats didn’t travel far for their favourite marine dwellers. The establishment started in 2020 and expanded to six premises throughout our fair land in a very short time.
The Nicosia Basket was based in Themostoclis Dervis right on the doorstep of Pixida and WagaMama. But come our little financial crisis, some landlords were not as helpful as others, so relocation to the densest tourist area in our proud capital; top of Laiki Yitonia, which has more foot traffic than the Guards Depot. It is set over two floors and they are never short of custom when the Laws of Hygiene permit, but are perfectly structured for the ‘take-away’ market. I would not be surprised if a large percentage of the clientele before lockdown was home delivery. And this was one of those nights. Prawns and fish and calamari with something baked and battered were going to be introduced to a Chablis that was getting impatient, and who could blame it; we thought it deserved better than the smoked trout.
The Basket’s menu is visual and straight-forward. You get what you see, and in some dishes may alternate if you are not in the mood for chips or rice and prefer a side salad, no trouble; or larger prawns for their little brother, same again.
In bold print the management boasts ‘Delivering the Ocean to your door’, thank goodness we are 300m above sea level. There are all the usual sea creatures plus battered and dressed in imaginative manners, plus zucchini battered and dressed, and the perennial grilled Halloumi. Very wide range of Sushi and her sisters. But I want more diversity. Platters are the order of the day, but here’s the rub: platter for one, if the visual menu is to be accepted, would certainly feed two; it contains four garlic mussels, six prince prawns open shelled, a fillet of baked fish, two portions of upper and lower fresh calamari, plus what the management call a half portion of chips or rice. Platter for two is roughly twice the size, and continues until we reach Platter (Gargantua) Full Deck, which will feed the Cypriot Navy. They are all very well presented and arrive to the minute with a minimum of fuss. As did mine. Delivery two euros. Extremely polite courier who thoughtfully brings two extra menus.
A strange telephonic experience occurred. The waitresses have trouble understanding my unfamiliar English and asked me to repeat the order to the manager: Ackers. A deep sonorous voice addressed me politely and being aware of the Yarpy connection, for a micro second it crossed my mind I was in conversation with former Springbok giant of Rugby Union, the legendary Matfield and I hesitated. What foolish nonsense. Matfield in Regina Street junction with Ledra; can’t happen.
One duff mussel, everything else very acceptable apart for the ghastly chips
Two of the major blights on our fair city: KFC and Ron MacDon have understood that chips must be open to the atmosphere. Chips in sealed cartons, traveling for as short a time as five minutes are inedible. Worst I’ve tasted, although my cats didn’t complain.
WHERE Ocean Basket, Mall of Cyprus
WHEN 12 noon to 10pm seven days, local fish takes 25 minutes to prepare.
HOW MUCH Good value