I enjoy trying different cuisines, flavours, and dishes from different parts of the world. However, finding truly authentic restaurants that are a decent representation of the cuisine they offer might be challenging. Finding a classic, authentic Cyprus meze is something you can almost never go wrong with in Cyprus.
Many people will tell you that to experience the best of Cyprus, you must travel to a village. Tradition, on the other hand, is not bound by geography, and the good news is that any yearning for meze can be satisfied wherever in the city.
Kyra Giorgena has been around for 16 years. It is a family-run establishment, and whether you are visiting for the first time or the tenth, the owners will make you feel welcome and at ease the moment you walk through the door. The restaurant is situated close to the municipal park and the history museum, so you might go for an educational adventure first and then use the swings to work up an appetite before you eat since you will most certainly need it.
When I go into a restaurant, I make it a point to observe the decor to get a sense of the atmosphere and the type of experience the owners want their guests to have. However, when I go for a traditional meze, I do not expect any bells or whistles, that is why the paper tablecloths and the wooden chairs with woven seats are more than adequate for me. Without hesitation, we ordered the meze together with a few bottles of ice-cold beer.
You will not have to wait long for the bread, dips, and salad to arrive at the table. This is where we all remind each other not to eat too much bread since ‘the good stuff’ will be served later. We all nod in agreement, yet we keep on. Mostly because you do not just receive some warm pitas at Kyra Giorgena; you get an entire loaf that is deliciously soft and warm. It is difficult to put a halt to it.
The staples of a traditional Cypriot meze began to overcrowd the table. Halloumi, loukanika (sausages), scrambled eggs with greens, pourgouri (crushed wheat pilaf), fries, and an unusual serving of baked olives. The wild mushrooms had been brought out, and the village atmosphere was beginning to take hold, when suddenly, I was handed a curve ball: baked peppers stuffed with feta. They were fantastic. I was beginning to wonder if there would be any more twists and turns.
A plate of zalatina (jellied pork) was served. It is not my cup of tea, but other people do enjoy it, so each to their own. The village vibe resurfaced, especially when a small platter of snails emerged, cooked in a rich tomato sauce. I am not a fan, but I always try one when they are served. Although the tomato sauce added a nice flavour, I politely left them for my friend to finish. We were starting to fill up when the ‘good stuff’ was brought out. Tender pieces of souvlakia, succulent pork belly, well-seasoned sieftalies and juicy chicken. Of course, in true village style, there was more than a generous helping of everything.
The service was also quite good. We were not left with a strew of empty plates cluttering the table and causing a mess. Each meal was served with the empty plates from the preceding dish being cleared in a systematic manner, so we never felt like there were too many plates on the table.
We sat back after the last dishes were gone and the plates were cleared, trying to give our filled bellies a rest from the copious amount of food, when the owner approached and asked if we were satisfied with the meal. “Perfect,” we replied. Insisting that a coffee, fruit, or sweet would be the ideal end to our gourmet adventure, he disappeared only to return a few minutes later with a generous serving of loukoumades, deep fried to golden and crispy perfection. Miraculously, we found some extra space to accommodate these delicious honey balls, thus ending our evening on a sweet note.
A wonderful evening with friends was made possible by welcoming owners, a wide variety of good, well-cooked food, generosity, and an authentic experience. My top recommendation for visiting Kyra Giorgena is to arrive hungry.
SPECIALITY Cypriot meze
WHERE Kira Giorgena Tavern, 7 William Weir Street, Larnaca
WHEN Tuesday to Sunday 6.45pm to 11pm, Sunday also opens from 12pm to 3pm
CONTACT 24 664 978
HOW MUCH Meze per person €20