Greetings dear readers! I hope you’ll forgive me for my brief absence from the blog. With Ramadan just around the corner I have a bounty of things up my vegan sleeves, including a trip recap or two! My first trip of 2015 turned out to be a spontaneous getaway to the heart of the Mediterranean, Cyprus.
Despite the fact that I had previously been there many a time both on family vacations between the ages of 5 and 8, as well as on a high school biology trip in the mountains – I was still excited to explore the island as an adult.
But most of all I was looking forward to this.
Sun, sand, rest and relaxation.
Now, having never visited Cyprus as vegan, I was slightly apprehensive that there would hardly be anything for me to eat between the copious amounts of seafood and lamb that tend to make up the majority of restaurant menus. Hotel buffets were forgiving enough – although that said by the end of the trip I was more than happy never to look at a baked bean again.
While some areas were definitely more vegan friendly than others – I must say I was pleasantly surprised most of the time.
For one thing, there seemed to be an endless supply of vegan gelato all over Cyprus, particularly in the sunny beach town of Ayia Napa.
Two generous scoops of lemon and strawberry sorbet – the perfect post-beach treat.
And speaking of strawberries…
The only way to describe these berries is to say that they were so plump full of flavour and sweetness, I could’ve sworn they were fake. In all my years studying in the UK, I have never had strawberries as good as these. Needless to say many an ice-cold punnet were consumed by the beach.
Dinners in Ayia Napa weren’t half bad either, thanks to a little TripAdvisor research. A nearby Japanese restaurant called Hokkaido had tons of veg-friendly options, including the ubiquitous grilled vegetables, seaweed salad and this avocado maki which was delicious.
(Apologies for the iPhone quality photography – not the best I know but it was pretty dark on account of alfresco dining)
After a couple days of typical tourist fare, I was craving something a little bit more authentic. Cue a road trip to the nearby city of Limassol. While also on the southern coast of Cyprus, Limassol is far more urban and populous, and it’s busy streets felt worlds away from the resort town of Ayia Napa.
A bit of exploring led us to a delightful little family-run Greek tavern in the heart of the old town, Meze Taverna.
The staff were more than accommodating when I explained my dietary needs, offering to sub olive oil for butter where needed, and highlighting the veg options on the menu.
Starters were grilled garlic mushrooms in a red wine sauce, hummus and a babaghanoush-like eggplant dip.
For my main, I opted for some Imam Bayildi (an originally Turkish dish, if the name didn’t give it away) – which consisted of slow-cooked stewed eggplant in a tomato sauce on a bed of rice. Absolutely heavenly.
The most vegan-friendly city of Cyprus however, has to be the hustling and bustling capital of Nicosia. Although I was initially unsure of including Nicosia on the itinerary, boy am I glad I did. For one thing, it’s home to the only vegan restaurant in Cyprus, Inga’s Veggie Heaven.
Hidden in the back streets of Nicosia, it was a bit of a challenge to get to – but well worth the walk.
Run by an Icelandic expat, the simple menu consists of healthy vegan and vegetarian meals that change on a daily basis. We of course, tried some of everything.
Buckwheat veggie burgers, as well as a fresh salad with figs and walnuts to start.
Followed by a delicious red lentil nut roast with tomato sauce and millet stuffed peppers with a tahini drizzle to top.
Both mains were incredibly hearty, dense, flavourful and satisfying in the way that only a rustic home cooked meal can be.
The idea of a nut roast has always seemed far too heavy – but this was quite the opposite. Light, fresh and rich in flavour.
The peppers shone through equally, due in large part to the taste of the produce itself. And need I say more about the Tahini drizzle?
Of course, we couldn’t possibly have left without dessert.
Vegan orange cake with a scoop of homemade banana ice cream, as well as a vegan panna cotta with berry compote.
The Panna Cotta was nothing to write home about in my opinion, but the orange cake on the other hand was out of this world. Zesty and moist with just the perfect amount of crumble and sweetness – complemented perfectly by the ice cream.
Now that is what I call a fantastic vegan meal.
Luckily for me, Nicosia was filled with many more surprises including an entire day’s worth of vegan food courtesy of a custom designed vegan taste tour. But more on that next time – be well dear readers!