We interrupt your regularly scheduled Ramadan programming to bring you an installment two of the Cyprus trip re-cap.
Prior to my trip, I of course took to conducting some mandatory research via Happy Cow and TripAdvisor to scope out the most veg-friendly restaurants. It was during a half-crazed soy latte powered research session that I happened across the Cyprus Taste Tours – a company boasting walking food tours all across Cyprus, steeped in equal amounts of history and delicious grub. While I knew the odds of finding a vegan-only tour were slim, I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask.
Lousia, one of the co-founders and tour operators herself informed me that a vegan tour was completely doable, even in the urban capital city of Nicosia! Needless to say I was delighted.
We met with the lovely Louisa and Yiota at around noon on the busy and historic Ledra street, a stone’s throw away from “the green line” that marks the world’s last divided capital into the Turkish north and the Greek south. First up, some welcome snacks:
A traditional sesame and nut brittle, alongside some homemade cookies with sesame and what I think were bilberries. I was far too excited to chat to the ladies and get started on the tour to actually note down the names of these, please excuse my oversight.
Then it was time for stop number one – a traditional Armenian bakery by the name of Lahmadjoun Avo where we sampled some Falafel and savoury pastries.
The falafel was noticeably different to the Arabic version my palate has become so accustomed to, but was just as flavorful – lightly spiced, served with tahini and surprisingly fluffy.
We also sampled a deep fried potato pastry of sorts and a traditional spinach pastry.
The potato wasn’t anything special, but I adored the spinach. The freshly baked dough was the standout star above all.
Next up we made our way to Kozeri, a new cafe set within a restored old house that specializes in local recipes.
Even before we sat down, I fell in love with the unquestionably quirky and retro-inspired decor.
Our food was ordered and we settled in the cosy environment, chatting about traveling, Cypriot tourists and life in Cyprus as a third culture kid. Both our guides were British-Cypriot, which made for a fair amount of common ground and rumination.
We then enjoyed a fantastically fresh Greek salad (feta on the side for those who wished to opt in),
and a platter of grilled seasonal vegetables and potatoes.
I know it doesn’t look like much, but it was spectacular – due in large part to how fresh and delicious tasting all of the local produce was. Even the potatoes were wonderfully earthy and satisfying.
After Kozeri, we headed to what was by far my favourite stop of the entire tour. A little family-run cookhouse called Mattheos Restaurant, nestled in the heart of the old town.
Everything from the decor, to the turn of the century water tumblers and the clientele was incredibly authentic, I almost felt like I was dining at an old Cypriot family’s home.
For our tasting pleasure, Louisa and Yiota ordered us two vegetable dishes, cooked in a traditional Cypriot style.
Stewed cauliflower and eggplant with white rice, and a platter of vine leaves, bulgur pilaf and the creamiest Jerusalem artichokes I have ever had.
The food at Mattheos was astounding, so full of flavour and heart. Despite being stuffed at this point in time, it was too good not to indulge in and we barely left a crumb on our plates.
We then hauled ourselves to the next stop further in towardsthe old town for some traditional dessert at 7 Kleida (7 keys).
We were served a traditional spoon sweet called vaníllia which is actually made of mastic resin and sugar. Our guides informed us that it’s traditionally served dropped into a tall glass of cold water and meant to be consumed like a lollipop. While I’m not usually the biggest fan of mastic, I quite enjoyed the overall sensory experience of eating a spoon sweet dessert.
Our tour culminated at Arsinois Cafe where we indulged in candied walnuts and a rose syrup drink.
The walnuts reminded me of an earthier version of candied chestnuts – even more fascinating was the fact that you could eat the entire walnut – shell and all!
And that, is a wrap on my delightful vegan taste tour experience!
Thank you once again Louisa and Yiota for an amazing day out and for showing me all that Nicosia’s food scene has to offer off the beaten path.