Cyprus is located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa. The advantageous location and natural riches for centuries attracted neighboring powers to the blessed island. They have influenced the culture, life and local cuisine, enriching it with new products and overseas dishes.
To get to know the diverse national cuisine of Cyprus in one go, order a mezet at the restaurant. In just a few minutes, waiters will start filling your table with small plates of delicious food – from fresh salads to traditional meat and fish dishes.
What is a mezè in Cyprus
Food in Cyprus is not just a banal meal, but a ritual to which hospitable hosts invite relatives and close friends. Such a friendly meal does not tolerate bustle – locals and at the table adhere to the main principle of the island – “siga-siga”, which means “quietly and quietly”.
That’s why here they adore mezet (translated from Greek as “little delicious”, “snacks”). These are not only Cypriot delicacies brought together, but also a special relaxing atmosphere that allows you to enjoy the communication and leisurely savor each piece.
Popular food came to the national cuisine in the 16th century thanks to the domination of the Ottoman Empire. The traditional Oriental cuisine, which quickly won the love of the locals, is now at the top of the country’s gastronomic charts.
Meze (Mezedhes) is not a specific dish, but a series of appetizers that are miniature copies of popular dishes in Cyprus. It is a part of it:
Olives in a variety of variations;
side dishes, hot and cold appetizers;
Main courses of fish, seafood or meat;
Before tasting the mezet, you should have a thorough appetite – the classic service includes 20 to 50 different delicacies. That’s why Cypriot gastronomic institutions accept orders for at least two people.
How to serve mezes in Cyprus
Each Cypriot tavern has its own traditions and ways of serving mezet food. What they have in common is that waiters never bring in all the ingredients 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 can last up to four hours.
First of all, visitors are offered sauces (tahini, dzadziki, thyrocafteri, taramasalata, hummus) and a basket of warm bread. They are followed by vegetables, salads and a mandatory component of all Cypriot meals – olives (fresh, canned, stuffed). Having enjoyed the light snacks, the guests start fried halloween cheese, meat rolls, seafood, dolmades and garnishes. Then comes the turn of “heavy artillery”: souvlaki, cleftico, stefado or baked fish. The final chord is seasonal fruit, ice cream, sherbet, jams and traditional sweets (lukumades, suzuko, tulumba, pastelli, cormorant).
Anise aperitif Uzo, vodka Zivania or sherry Fino are often served to mezè in Cyprus. But the most popular drinks, which perfectly complement the taste of national flavors, are local wines: red sweet commandaria, dry ruby Marateftico, harmonious white Xynisteri or sparkling Bellapais. Spirits are served separately.
What is the case with mezet
Traditionally, local restaurants and taverns offer two types of national cuisine: fish and meat. In addition, there is a mixed meze-mix, a great way to try everything at once.
To order a meze-mix in Cyprus means to take care of the safety of your budget, because the price of this abundant meal in the gastronomic establishments of the country does not exceed 35 € (per serving).
To visit the coast of the island and not to taste the freshest seafood is blasphemy! Local chefs know dozens of ways to prepare them and successfully demonstrate their talent to hungry tourists.
In addition to mandatory sauces, olives, salads, cheeses, garnishes and desserts, fishmeze in Cyprus includes stuffed or batter-cooked squids, shrimps, octopus, cuttlefish, crab or mussel julienne, roasted, grilled or deep-fried fish (lamb, dorada, angry, pepper). In expensive restaurants guests are spoiled with caviar, lobster, sea urchin or exquisite soufflé of rare fish species.
If you don’t like seafood, you can choose from pork, lamb, beef and chicken dishes. Meat lovers in Cyprus are offered a mezza, which may include meat lovers:
Dolmades grape leaves stuffed with meat;
Cut smoked sausages are lucanico;
fragrant baked lamb kleftiko ;
Grilled cutlets, patches;
stewed in vinegar and red stefado beef wine;
A variety of Arabic kebab suzukakya;
local kebab souvlaki;
The rich taste of meat delicacies is perfectly emphasized by olives, mushrooms, pickled vegetables, spicy dzazzi and hummus sauces.
Where to find the best mezzanine in Cyprus
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 places where you can taste the maximum number of authentic dishes that are part of the traditional mezèe of Cyprus.
1. Taverna Eparxiaki. The famous Limassol tavern knows how to please guests. Here you can not only order a standard meal, including 34 dishes, but also create an individual meze. In addition to a rich meal, private wines from a private winery will be the perfect complement to your meal. The average check is 20 €.
Grada Tavern. Hardly anywhere else in Cyprus you will find a mezèe of 50 ingredients. The chef of the popular establishment, located in the picturesque village of Oroklini (not far from Larnaca), especially manages the meat variant of the meal. One serving costs 18 €.
3. Taverna Ayia Anna. The traditional tavern of Aia Anna village welcomes visitors with its ancient stone walls, beautiful interior 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, the mezzah costs only 14,50 €. For this money you will have the opportunity to taste 27 local cuisine, as well as listen to national music and admire the magnificent view from the terrace during the sunset.
To fully experience the exotic cuisine of Cypriot cuisine, choose a place far from the hiking trails. Important: in many mountain villages where the local population does not speak English, there is another name for the national dish – “mezedes”. Remember this when travelling around Cyprus and visiting taverns in remote parts of the island.