Cruising the highways of our capital midweek early evening one might suspect the barbarians had entered the gate and spirited away the population: where is everybody? Cross that catastrophic monument to hubris – the moat – and there they are; but if you want to find a space to dine between Regina Street and the occupied sector, you’d be well advised to take your own chair. I have never seen the boulevards so busy. No establishment touts for custom any more. There are boundary wars: proprietors produce tape-measures to justify the position of a spitoon on a rival’s manhole.
To quote a former British prime minister, who had a brief encounter with our problem: ‘Crisis, what crisis’ between the Turks and the Venetian Walls there are hordes of homo sapiens and some others desperate to spend money whether on burgers, balloons, bowler hats or budgerigars.
Can there be a diner I haven’t reviewed in our main pedestrian thoroughfares? Last month Sexy Fish – now packed. Approaching The Pig: the diners outnumber the spectators at a Cyprus international football match. The tables are spread along the adjoining walls of the bank. Another short distance and I’ll be at The Balcony. The competition for dining space creates an unusual problem for the reviewer: repetition.
Fortune favours the brave, according to Terence: just so. Entering the wind tunnel that flows from the crossing point past Faneromeni church I stumble on Loxandra (or To Steki tis Loxandras to give it its full name); it’s been there for years and years and it’s my first visit.
It is the archetypal town centre taverna. The establishment is where former schoolmates meet, and the ‘Hens’ and ‘Stags’ recall old memories. The menu holds no surprises and if you mentioned Hector Blumenthal they might call an ambulance. However, I had one of the most appetising starters that combined a small portion of perfectly prepared mashed potatoes with garlic and a dish of pickled anchovies with shredded onions. All dishes are on one page, the grills, salads, fritters, sausages, burgers, mezes, cutlets, mixed grills and would you believe: calves liver. Really? Provenance? The price indicates it can’t be imported. I order it along with two small lamb cutlets. Our waitress, Beata, delivers a bottle of very reasonably priced Onoufrios, a little too chilled, she offers to decant it – nice touch.
The liver was grilled and served with fried potatoes and a basket of hot pitta. If I had to swear that the offal on my plate came from a six-month-old milk-fed male calf my nose might obstruct the steering wheel. However, even though it had spent more time under the grill than required, it was a flavour not encountered in many a season. The lamb cutlets did not disappoint either.
Andreas, the proprietor and his partner, know their onions having served the masses for decades. If you can find a table mid-week in steamy Nicosia, give them a visit. Nothing fancy, but lots of food, good efficient service at very reasonable prices. Another word to the wise: we have the cheapest inner-city parking in Europe make sure you secure a space early.