When you venture into a new restaurant, it is well worth considering what makes us go through that door for the first time. Was it a personal recommendation? The location? The menu? Or the chef? In this instance, it was certainly not the location, as the Mare e Monti is on a strip of substantial concrete hotels in Paphos and not even on the ground floor.
Having parked in the large car park to the side, we went up the stairs to the side (there is also a lift), and a very different interior to the one downstairs awaits you. It felt cosy and warm, and if you ignore the plastic grapes hanging from the lights, it is smart, if a little dated, but with large tables and very comfortable chairs. In the summer, the large terraces outside would undoubtedly come into their own. My visit was mainly because I had heard that the chef, George Halkides, had recently joined the team.
The menu certainly reflects George’s love of fish from his previous restaurant. However, his new menu offers a wider variety, emphasising both Mediterranean and Italian cuisines, and the prices seemed very reasonable. In addition to the reasonable price point, I also love a place when the menu makes it hard to decide what to have.
The menu is divided into starters; pasta and risotto; a limited choice of three pizzas; and a great selection of main courses, with some fantastic and unusual fresh fish options. We selected the Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli and the Seabass Ceviche to start. It is a long time since I enjoyed a starter priced at just €5. While the dish was not huge, it included three large pieces of pasta and the flavour combinations were excellent. It arrived on a very hot plate. The Ceviche was a very generous portion and was much enjoyed. The only thing that disappointed me was the presentation in a large Pyrex-type bowl. However, had it been presented in the usual circle of ceviche on a fancy plate, there would have been a lot less of the raw ingredients to enjoy!
Before our main, and partly as we could not make our minds up from the menu, we decided to share an additional course of Pumpkin Risotto with Turmeric and Curry. It was outstanding and up there with the best risottos I have tasted over the years, offering a unique variety of flavours cooked to absolute perfection.
Having made our minds up, the main course of a Trio of Fish was next to the table. This was individual portions of salmon, seabass and tuna over mashed potatoes, served with a parsley sauce. It was superb and the perfect dish for a cold winter’s night. The other main was Parmesan Stuffed Chicken Breast. Again, the presentation was excellent, with the chicken breast cut into four pieces with an accompanying mango sauce giving the dish a real kick. Large hand-cut chips were served on the side.
We devoured all the food and unusually were tempted by the dessert menu’s choices, priced from just €4.50. With the strong leaning towards Italian food, we thought the Tiramisu would be a good option. We loved the way they served it with a hot espresso on the side. We were instructed to make slits on the top and pour the coffee over. Whilst this is not the traditional Italian way to serve tiramisu, it is the only way I will have it from now on. The other dessert was Crème Brule. Like many of the dishes here, they have done their own take on it, and in this instance, it was a turmeric Crème Brule with a ginger preserve. The addition of ginger under the perfect crispy topping was wonderful.
The wine list is limited to Cypriot and Italian bottles, but they were very well-priced, and the cocktail selection sounded unique and exciting. The moral of the story here is that sometimes it is worth following the chef to their new venue. The whole meal provided some of my favourite dishes of the year so far, with the bonus of being affordable.
WHERE Mare E Monti, Poseidonos Avenue, Aliathon Hotel Complex, Paphos
WHEN Monday to Saturday 6.30 to 10.30pm
CONTACT 26 964400, reservations recommended
HOW MUCH Starters from €5, mains from €14, desserts from €4.50
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