Cyprus is at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa. The favorable location and natural resources have attracted neighboring powers to the blessed island for centuries. They influenced culture, life and local cuisine, enriching it with many new products and overseas dishes.
Order a meze at the restaurant for a taste of the diverse national dishes of Cyprus in one sitting. In just a few minutes, the waiters will start filling your table with small plates of delicious food – from fresh salads to traditional meat and fish dishes.
What is meze in Cyprus
Food in Cyprus is not just a banal meal, but a whole ritual to which hospitable hosts invite relatives and close friends. Such a friendly meal does not tolerate fuss – the locals adhere to the main principle of the island at the table – “siga-siga”, which means “quiet and quiet.”
That is why meze is adored here (translated from Greek – “small snacks”, “snacks”). This is not only a collection of Cypriot delicacies, but also a special relaxing atmosphere that allows you to enjoy communication and slowly savor every bite.
Popular food entered the national cuisine in the 16th century thanks to the rule of the Ottoman Empire on the island. The traditional food of the East, which quickly won the love of local residents, still occupies the top lines of the country’s gastronomic hit parade.
Meze (Mezedhes) is not a specific dish, but a number of snacks, which are miniature copies of dishes popular in Cyprus. It includes:
- pastas, sauces;
- olives in various variations;
- marinated mushrooms;
- side dishes, hot and cold snacks;
- main courses of fish, seafood or meat;
Before tasting the meze, work up your appetite thoroughly – a classic serving includes 20 to 50 different delicacies. Therefore, gastronomic establishments in Cyprus accept an order for at least two persons.
How meze is served in Cyprus
Each Cypriot tavern has its own traditions and ways of serving meze. They have one thing in common: the waiters never bring all the ingredients of the food at the same time. The table is filled with food gradually, in several approaches. A kind of culinary performance takes at least two hours, and in good company it can last up to four.
First of all, visitors are offered sauces (tahini, dzatziki, tirokafteri, taramasalata, hummus) and a basket of warm bread. They are followed by vegetables, salads and an obligatory component of all Cypriot meals – olives (fresh, canned, stuffed). After enjoying light snacks, guests proceed to grilled halloumi cheese, meat rolls, seafood, dolmades and side dishes. Then comes the turn of “heavy artillery”: souvlaki, kleftiko, stifado or whole baked fish. The final chord is seasonal fruits, ice cream, sherbet, jams and traditional sweets (lucumades, suzuko, tulumba, pasteli, baklava).
Meze in Cyprus is often accompanied by anise aperitif Ouzo, Zivania vodka or Fino sherry. But the most popular drinks that perfectly complement the taste of national dishes are local wines: red sweet Commandaria, dry ruby Marateftiko, harmonious white Xynisteri or sparkling Bellapais. Guests pay for alcoholic drinks separately.
What is meze
Traditionally, local restaurants and taverns offer two types of national dishes: fish and meat. Plus, there is a mixed meze mix – a great way to try everything at once.
Ordering a meze in Cyprus means taking care of the safety of your budget, because the price of this abundant meal in the country’s gastronomic establishments does not exceed 35 € (per serving).
To visit the coast of the island and not taste the freshest seafood is blasphemy! Local chefs know dozens of ways to cook them and successfully demonstrate their talent to hungry tourists.
In addition to the obligatory sauces, olives, salads, cheeses, side dishes and desserts, fish meze in Cyprus includes squid stuffed or cooked in batter, shrimps, octopuses, cuttlefish, crab or mussel julienne, fried, grilled or deep-fried fish (red mullet , dorada, fangri, perca). In expensive restaurants, guests are pampered with caviar, lobster, sea urchin or exquisite soufflé from rare fish.
If you do not like seafood, then your choice is pork, lamb, beef and chicken dishes. Fans of meat dishes in Cyprus are offered meze, which may include:
- dolmades grape leaves stuffed with meat;
- chopped smoked lucaniko sausages;
- aromatic baked kleftiko lamb;
- grilled cutlets cheftanya;
- stifado beef stewed in vinegar and red wine;
- a variety of Arabic kebab suzukakya;
- local shish kebab souvlaki;
- meatballs keftedes.
The rich taste of meat delicacies is ideally emphasized by olives, mushrooms, pickled vegetables, spicy dzatziki sauces and hummus.
Where to serve the best meze in Cyprus
The national cuisine can be found both in fashionable restaurants and in tiny taverns of godforsaken villages. To help you make the right choice, the Gourmet Tour presents a list of gastronomic establishments where you can taste the maximum number of authentic dishes that make up the traditional meze of Cyprus.
1. Taverna Eparxiaki. Limassol’s famous tavern knows how to please guests. Here you can not only order a standard meal, including 34 dishes, but also make an individual meze. A rich meal will be complemented by wines produced in a private winery. Average bill is 20 €.
2. Grada Tavern. It is unlikely that anywhere else in Cyprus you will find a 50-ingredient meze. The chef of a popular establishment located in the picturesque village of Oroklini (not far from Larnaca) is especially successful with the meat version of the dish. The cost of one portion is 18 €.
3. Taverna Ayia Anna. Aya Anna’s traditional tavern welcomes visitors with ancient stone walls, beautiful interiors and excellent service. Paying 17 €, you will taste 35 delicious masterpieces of national cuisine. Food is served here in clay dishes.
4. Melitzia Tavern. In this tavern located in the southwest of Cyprus, meze costs only 14.50 €. For this money, you will get the opportunity to taste 27 dishes of local cuisine, as well as listen to national music and admire the magnificent view from the terrace at sunset.
In order to fully experience the exoticism of Cypriot cuisine, choose establishments located far from the tourist paths. Important: in many mountain villages where the local population does not speak English, there is another name for the national dish – “mezedes”. Keep this in mind as you travel around Cyprus and visit the taverns of the remote corners of the island.