When arriving in Limassol, the sunny port city on the south coast of Cyprus, you could be excused for thinking that nobody in this town eats. Every cafe down the coastal strip and in the town centre is filled to the brim without a morsel in sight. Limassol is a coffee town, fuelled by espresso on ice with water or milk. It is sensibly always served with a water on the side to avoid those coffee dry horrors.
It took us some time wandering the streets to find Limassol’s old market. Once the place for the nearby village people (Not the band! There are too many construction workers here and not enough cops in Limassol.) to sell their produce, now the market is surrounded by cool bars and cafes frequented by sexy Cypriots. It is in the square by the market that we found the traditional charcoal grill cooking that we had hoped for at this stop.
Over the space of a couple of days we tried a few of the eight or so restaurants that line the square. Each has a service window facing out to the table filled piazza and each a similar menu with meat on the grill, an assortment of bean dishes and a smattering of classics like moussaka, tzatziki and stuffed vine leaves. Or you can choose the full meze fiesta if you have ample time and an appetite to match.
The pick of the bunch was Famagusta where Yiannis the proprietor and sole waiter quickly maneuvered us from standing and uncertain beside the specials board to seated and spending at one of the chequered cloth covered tables. We quickly settled on the grilled lamb chops and a serving of black eyed peas. (Also not the band! These were still delicious having stuck to their original recipe.)
A light lunch to share or so we thought.
Cypriot eating is generous! First came a bowl of home marinated green olives and a serve of pickled vegetables with steaming hot flat bread, soft to the touch straight from the oven. Then the black eyed peas with spinach, served hot without any other ingredients. Yiannis told us to season with salt , a squeeze of fresh lemon and a drizzle from the olive oil on the table. Next the lamb chops also so simple with just the flavour of lamb and the charcoal. This was the smell that filled the square from the rooftop vents that surrounded us. It was served with hand cut chips sprinkled with parmesan and salt and a simple salad with coriander leaves for a subtle twist.
This would have satisfied but Yiannis returned with complimentary stuffed vine leaves. They were deliciously hot with tender vinegar marinated leaves and a pork mince and rice filling with just a little of the tomato sauce they were cooked in pooling on the plate. Then back again with two tuna and rice balls, fried crispy with a hint of cinnamon.
Stuffed and satisfied we set off back onto the streets of Limassol in the warm sun, stopped for an ice coffee surrounded by local students and contemplated our next destination. Lesson learned Cypriots definitely eat.