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(CyprusMail)-The heart of Paphos old town has been upgraded and now provides great accessibility for pedestrians wandering the narrow streets and alleyways. And one of the best established restaurants here is Laona, found hidden away down one of these passageways.
Laona is a family-run, traditional Cypriot restaurant and an excellent example of local hospitality and home-cooked food.
Set down a newly-paved, gently sloping street, Laona has seating available both outside and inside a lovely old building and is predominately a lunchtime eatery although they are open all day on Tuesdays and Fridays. It is essential to book for dinner.
Food is hearty, fresh and flavourful and created with love and pride as recipes have been passed down the generations. Laona’s vision is to serve regular and new customers authentic Cypriot cooking with well-honed dishes that reflect the change of seasons and highlight the best of what’s fresh and available.
A Saturday morning stroll resulted in my companion and I deciding, on the spur of the moment, to drop into Laona for lunch. I have been coming here for years and turning the corner the familiar and enticing smell of local herbs and spices wafted down to meet us. Thankfully, as this is a busy place, we were lucky enough to find a table.
The welcome here is always warm, and greetings made we moved inside as a black sky threatened. We settled down on traditional Cypriot chairs (which thankfully have cushions for comfort) at a wooden table covered with a checked table cloth. I always feel as if I’m in the Cyprus of my youth at this venue.
The menu is written in different coloured chalk on a large blackboard which is brought to our table and each dish explained, in detail, as it’s read out. Dishes are made fresh on a daily basis, so don’t expect all of the ten or so choices to be available if you turn up for a late lunch.
Most of the dishes are priced at €10, although black eyed beans were €8. A meal and an accompanying salad is chalked up at €12 and a special meze €17.
The aromas from the kitchen are tantalizing and it’s a busy service as usual, but we don’t have to wait too long. Sliced local bread is brought to the table and there are a number of good quality wines from local boutique wineries, such as Vasilikon and Ezousa, available to order by the glass, or in a carafe or bottle.
I decided on the peas with lamb, as the octopus casserole had already sold out. Our food arrives on white china, plated in a basic way, but the taste and quality of the dishes are superb and the delicate use of spices and herbs consummate.
Succulent pieces of lamb, with peas and carrots, potatoes and tomato really hit the spot, this is comfort food at its very best.
My companion is delighted with the rabbit stifado which is packed full of perfectly cooked shallots that give the rabbit a wonderful taste and sweetness. The meat falls off the bones and is tender and bursting with flavour.
Fish in the oven, meatballs, marinated pork in wine and coriander, stuffed oven roasted vegetables, beef stew with vegetables, moussaka, chicken stew and fried lamb’s liver were also on the board.
A delicious slice of complimentary homemade cake was brought to the table which is well paired with a traditional Cyprus coffee to finish off the meal.
The staff are truly hospitable and ensure that the ambience here is just right. I always find it calming, welcoming, relaxing and pleasurable, a hard mix to get right but they do.
Laona offers Cyprus at its best and is hugely popular with both locals and visitors who long for an authentic Cypriot experience. Happily they are not disappointed.
SPECIALTY Traditional Cyprus dishes
WHERE Laona Restaurant, Votsi Street, Paphos Old Town
WHEN Monday to Saturday 11am-3pm, Tuesday and Friday open all day until 9pm
CONTACT 99 541249
HOW MUCH Main course €10