Traditional Turkish Cypriot cuisine is full of healthy ingredients, and if you perhaps enjoy the thought of trying lots of different dishes in small amounts then you need to visit one of the many quality Turkish Cypriot restaurants so that you can familiarise yourselves with all the culinary options available, and rest assured there are many to try!
If you’re not familiar with Turkish Cypriot cuisine then you’re in for a treat as you will experience dishes influenced by Mediterranean, Southern European and Middle Eastern cooking, with plenty of variation to keep your interest going throughout the whole meal.
Mezes are the well-known hors d’oeuvres and starters in traditional Turkish Cypriot cooking, although some people prefer to order a meze for a main course. A meze usually combines a mouth-watering mix of vegetable, meat, fish, cheese and salad dishes served on small plates, with both hot and cold options being served, allowing you to pick and choose and get to know the local fare.
If you manage to polish all that off, then main courses usually revolve around meat and fish with dishes being either cooked in clay ovens, grilled or barbequed. Some restaurants will serve main courses with a choice of potatoes, chips and vegetables too, so you feel proud of yourself if you can tuck that lot away as well as your starter!
On the sweet menu you will find that restaurants may often just serve melon or some other fruit at the end of the meal to refresh your palate, but you may also be served the traditional baklava (syrup drenched pastries), or perhaps some Muhallebi which is a popular rice pudding dessert.
To give the finishing touch to any Turkish Cypriot meal then Turkish coffee or tea and brandies are always a welcome sight and often served free of charge.
Some good examples of traditional restaurants include Beyti’s, which is not in the most salubrious place being located in the fairly industrial area behind the Colony Hotel known to the locals as ‘tin pan alley’, but this is always a very busy restaurant with locals, lunchtime workers and tourists too. A really large menu is available here offering everything from soups, kebabs, pides, and salads, and because everything is so reasonably priced at Beyti’s if you’re on a budget it’s a great place to eat out on a regular basis, and we should know!
One of the more higher-class venues is the trusty Niazi’s which has its original restaurant in Kyrenia Harbour, and then a newer more relaxed style restaurant on the way out of town. Both offer a great range of traditional fare, with the harbour restaurant being a more stylish and top of the range venue.
Other options would be The Archway restaurant in Zeytinlik above Kyrenia, which has a lovely vibe, is always busy with locals and visitors and serves a select variety of mezes, some of which really differ from other establishments with the likes of dried meats, pickled capers and cow’s tongues on the menu some days! The Horseshoe Restaurant out towards Kayalar on the coast road west of Kyrenia is also a place favoured – not just for its cuisine, but also for its location above a sandy stretch of beach – it serves a variety of kebabs and salads.
A really popular venue is Charcos in Alsancak which is recommended by mostly everyone who eats there! Decorated traditional style, it has a really comfy feel about the place, and gets packed in the evenings so booking is essential, especially at the weekends – choose from a range of meze and meat dishes all cooked to perfection. It’s a perfect place to meet up with friends to share a good meal with some drinks of an evening and its laid back atmosphere means you feel in no rush to leave! Another certainly worth trying in the same area is Cenap’s which also serves the same kind of menu and is well worth a visit.
In Lefkoşa one of the nicest venues to try Turkish Cypriot cuisine is the Konak Restaurant located next to the Selimiye mosque. A fascinating and superbly restored 1932 Ottoman house which you are free to walk around and explore, and where you dine in the traditional Ottoman courtyard – perfect for a summers evening of history and a good meal.
Or why not try the small and friendly Halfway House on the way up to Karaman where you will be remembered by mother and son hosts and where you will receive a warm welcome as well as excellent mezes and main courses, these are freshly prepared every day, and please note the restaurant’s motto which is ‘sorry – no booking, no cooking’ – proving how popular a venue it is!
There are many other small establishments catering for the traditional meal seekers, and you will more than likely find yourselves heading back to the same place on a regular basis, so it’s well worth seeking out your own favourites. Just make sure you share them with the rest of us!
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