I’ve just returned from a very pleasant week in Cyprus staying in an all-inclusive hotel close to Ayia Napa. Since you are asking, the weather was great (sunbathing in the sun, needed a jumper in the shade). The sea is that beautiful turquoise when the sun shines and the water is crystal clear. The coastline has that air of volcanic activity with sharp grey rocks leading down to the water interspersed by sand-gravel beaches. I also really liked the countryside around with its wild flowers and the ability to get away from it all with only a short walk.
And the food? Well I will caveat my answer by reminding that we were in an all-inclusive hotel with a buffet. Intriguingly the deal also included one evening in the a la carte restaurant. I am always amazed that kitchens can provide great variety for many people to any kind of standard at all. The hotel did a good job of offering American, Continental and Scandinavian breakfasts, and at least seven options for dinner and lunch. The breakfast highlights for me were the Greek yoghurt with delicious honey and a range of dried fruit and nuts. The bacon and sausage were dreadful – looked so bad I didn’t even touch them, the fried eggs were good and the scrambled eggs stood a chance if you got to them early. I also had some porridge which seemed to be made by two completely different cooks. On one day it would be a tasty creamy delicacy, on others it was some undercooked oats lying at the bottom of some hot milk…very odd.
Things got more interesting at lunchtime and in the evening. I really enjoyed the local meatballs – I have never heard the name before but it included several esses (and no it wasn’t sausages). There were regular appearances of roasted vegetables and they were great with just about everything. I particularly liked the courgettes and aubergines. They made a nice change from the usual fries. They were also nice with the minty yoghurt dressing. The regular appearance of beetroot was nice as its one of my favourites. So were the Brussels sprouts but I was somewhat surprised to see them on the menu here quite so often. There were some tasty lamb dishes on the bone but the chicken and beef were disappointing. One of the nicest things I had was some enchiladas oddly enough. There was a counter serving freshly cooked griddled food and the chicken with a flatbread and roasted vegetables with green beans were delicious just with the mint sauce. Some of the fish when it was freshly cooked was very good too.
Desserts are almost always poor at these kind of places – way too much bad chocolate and jelly. There were passable hot crumbles and rice pudding here though. There were also some very odd things. Something bright green and looking a bit like jelly turned out to be indistinguishable from wallpaper paste. My favourite was some blue cheese with the good pears and some crackers. Obviously there was good feta and halloumi appeared in many different forms. I love halloumi and its versatility should really be a separate blog. The fruit was variable but the kiwis and oranges were consistently good.
The a la carte night was a slightly odd affair. The menu was extensive with an aperitif, a starter, soup, main course and dessert. The aperitif we had was champagne with an enormous strawberry hanging on to the glass and threatening to overturn it. It turned out to be a very good strawberry though.
The starter was some really tasty deep-fried (?) halloumi with a lovely crust and soft interior on top of some local ham and then on a deep fried bread which was beautifully pillow-like. The proportions weren’t quite right but it had lots of potential. The main course was a bit of a disaster with lamb fillet done in two ways – firstly with an impossibly over-tarragoned sauce and the other in very rich pepper sauce. Dividing the two warring parties was some tasty roast veg and a large sprig of rosemary.
The dessert was pannacotta but, instead of allowing me to give it a wobble on the plate, it had been turned out and divided into pieces in a sea of sweet strawberry sauce. It made me feel that either someone had made a massive traybake of pannacotta and felt this was the best way to serve it or that it had fallen apart and this was a salvage job.
All in all, the general palette of flavours in this part of the world is very much “my thing”. There is some real depth of flavour as well as some good healthy options. I can’t say this was a foodie trip in any sense but I did try a few new flavours and some of them I liked.