Saturday, 22 September 2012

Ulyana Sergeenko - Refreshingly traditional

Ulyana herself
In light of the fashion weeks of the world being the focal point for pretty much all the fashion blogs out there, this post is about Ulyana Sergeenko. Don't you know her? I didn't up until this morning, when I read an interview of hers in The Times and was intrigued. I did a little research of my own and was intrigued even more.

So let me introduce you the second wife of the Russian oligarch Danil Khachaturov, the 32-year-old Ulyana. Ulyana was born in a small, poverty-stricken town in Kazakhstan, and showed an interest in clothing and style (which is very different to fashion by the way), since she was pretty much a child (she had to make her own clothes), and met her husband-to-be in a dentist's waiting room. Yes, you can assume that this is a classic rags-to-riches tale... with a twist.

What makes Ms Sergeenko stand out is that despite her uber rich husband, her status as his wife, and her potential of becoming the flashiest and trashiest WAG ever, she doesn't show off every bit of skin she has. No sir. Instead she dresses like her grandmother, Baba Sonja (her words!). Nevertheless, she apparently took it upon herself to teach Russian women how to dress, as she launched her own fashion label in 2011 during Paris Haute Couture Week (the horror!), despite her inexperience in design or tailoring. It goes without saying that this move did raise several eyebrows as it was deemed audacious and arrogant. She appeared to be someone who probably didn't have anything better to do rather than spend her husband's money. It could be argued that she was doomed.

She was not. Her shows drew an influential audience which included Grace Coddington, Anna Dello Russo and Carine Roitfeld, shutting the mouths of those who initially criticized her (including her present friends, she admits). At this point I should note that her clothes are not your average designer pieces - they are quite complicated (and heavy) with lots of hidden bits and pieces holding everything into place. Reportedly, the team of 40 tirelessly working for Ms Sergeenko's label need weeks for a single dress and months for a coat, resulting to an end product of the highest quality. However, they don't come cheap; her dresses cost around 17 000Euros, while the prices for her (amazing) coats climb to an eyewatering 28 000Euros a piece. Nevertheless, there is interest for her work and she did manage to break even within her first year.

I think the clothes speak for themselves.

Oh by the way, she has a blog.

Photos via

Monday, 17 September 2012

The tale of Zanettos and how BH met his Waterloo

So, after two months of intensive work I came back to the (surprisingly not rainy) UK and I'm already missing the Motherland. Luckily, a few days before leaving we went to Zannetos in an effort to bid Cyprus goodbye. If you've never been to Zannetos, you probably don't understand what this entails, so let me just say this: if you don't have the appetite of a giant, don't go there. You'll just embarrass yourself. Nevertheless, I suppose large quantities of food go hand in hand with Cypriot culture.

Before I go down to the food, let me give you a bit of contextual information. Zannetos tavern has been in Trikoupi St. since 1938 when Savvas Zannetos sold tinned goods, meat, fish and cheese, but also served cognac and wine along with his mezedes. Mr Yiorgos Ioannides, who owned the coffee shop next door used to recall how Zannetos would make his own cognac and how octopus, afeleia and the snails in tomato sauce were among his most delicious mezedes. Trust me, if it wasn't this good, there's no way it would survive through the decades. It was the first time I went there and was very impressed by the quality of the food and the generous portions, but most importantly by their traditional Cypriot hospitality: the staff was very friendly and we even got to wash our hands with rosewater, which I hadn't done in years!

This made me smile!
So let me cut down to the chase: the food. As I already told you, you have to be serious about your food to go there. There's no ordering, there's just a fixed set menu of mezedes, about twenty of them, and I can assure you this is no tasting menu. Go hungry or go home! (I'm serious, there was a guy sitting at the table next to us pleading to the waiter 'no more food please, no more food').

The array of mezedes included traditional green olives with coriander, grilled halloumi, pork belly marinated in red wine, pork and chicken souvlaki, sheftalies, spanakorizo (rice cooked with spinach), melt-in-your mouth veal liver, snails in tomato sauce (which we ordered a second time), traditional yogurt, ravioli with a halloumi filling and bulgur wheat cooked in tomato paste. The desserts didn't disappoint either (you do notice the plural, don't you?): traditional halva like my grandmother makes it, lebanese mahallepi with mastic and pistachios, fresh fruit and glyka tou koutaliou, which are fruit or vegetables served with a syrup made from water, sugar and infused with the fruit. We washed everything down with a glass of ice-cold beer. Pure bliss.

The halva which comes second only to that of my grandmother's!

We left happy, although BH was defeated; he just couldn't cope with the enormous amount of food. Honey, I know you're reading this, so please know I still have faith in you and your appetite :)

If you want to try some of the best Cypriot food out there, I highly recommend Zannetos (it's not a locals' favorite for nothing); you'll find them at Trikoupi St, 65 in the old district of Nicosia or call them at 22765501.

PS: It felt so good to be able to speak Greek to the Greek-speaking waiters!
PSS: There are so many seagulls in the South!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

No reservations - Nicosia

THE mousse
Let me clarify something from the very beginning about this little gem in Nicosia: calling and reserving a table is recommended. But you will enjoy food made by an Italian chef with no reservations about how food should or should not be, all with an impressive attention to detail. It was a delightful change to what we are used to in Cyprus. 

Before we went, the BH and I had heard tales of pecorino flan, foie gras terrine with pistachios and cherries and kleftiko with quince (for my non-Greek readers, kleftiko, which literally means stolen meat, is lamb slowly cooked in a traditionally built outside oven sealed with mud so no steam escapes. Legend has it that thieves would steal lamb from a nearby flock and cook it in a hole in the ground for many hours, again sealed with mud so no steam escapes to give them away).   

Unfortunately, we couldn't order the long-awaited kleftiko because the menu changes every fortnight (who doesn't love a restless chef?!). Nevertheless the dishes we did order didn't dissapoint. Again, I'll cut to the chase. The menu consists of fifteen dishes and you have three choices: you order 5 for 20Euros pp, 12 for 30Euros or 35Euros for all fifteen of them. BH and I decided to get 5 each.  

Seabass ceviche

Our choices included the parmesan mousse with pear, honey and balsamic (my personal favourite since it was the airiest, lightest, most melt-in-your-mouth mousse I've had in a long time), foie gras with fig jam (melting-soft and sweet), a seabass ceviche (highly recommended), tortelloni with potato and duck ragut, duck breast salad, beef with a blue cheese crust, sea bream with a potato crust, a coffee creme brulee and an apple tart. I'm not going to lie. I didn't love every single thing on the menu. But I still applaud the effort to bring fine dining to Nicosia with an affordable price tag.

Foie gras with fig jam

Sea bream with a potato crust

Apple tart

I'd definitely recommend it as it is something different and worth trying out, even if it's just for the experience. You'll find them at 16, Stasinou St, Nicosia (right next to the latter Zoo Club), they're open for dinner Monday to Saturday, and don't forget to call in to make a reservation at 22376584.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

I've been waiting a very long time for this: probably the best burgers on the island

Artisan's Burger Bar. It's not a bar but its burgers are certainly skillfully made, exactly like the trade of a specialised artisan. Truth is, I was a bit suspicious at the beginning. I was still in the UK when it opened, so I was only listening to my sister and mum raving about the place. Alas, they haven't tried burgers in places like GBK, I naively thought. Nevertheless, I decided to give it try, how bad could it be, I naively thought once again.

I was impressed. No. I was IMPRESSED. Very very impressed. They have three things I love about a restaurant's food: the portions were generous, the food delicious and the chef adventurous. However, let me take you through the menu just to give you an idea.

You choose a starter: chicken wings (from local farms) with your choice of their homemade dips, fried halloumi with a pomegranate sauce (I've been seeing this sauce everywhere in Cyprus in the last year!),  fried zucchini sticks with dill and a homemade tzatziki dip, or if you can't wait to start on the burgers, you can get two mini ones just to start with (which does bring to mind another well-known burger place in the UK...)

Blue cheese and figs burger

You choose your bread: classic brioche, rustic ciabatta or multigrain wholewheat. I got brioche.

You choose your burger and your side: beef burgers are 100% black angus and include a burger with blue cheese, figs and gherkins, another one with tzatziki and feta (personal favourite), and if you're one for the classic cheese-and-bacon combo, get the crispy pancetta and gruyere cheese one with the roasted tomato, their very own BBQ sauce , spicy mayo and gherkins. Even if you're sad you didn't go for souvlakia instead, get the 'sheftalia burger', served with a tomato and tahini dressing.There's even an (almost) vegetarian option, with a grilled portobello mushroom, grilled marrow (this made smile!) and eggplant, with a pumpkin and goat cheese puree.

Regarding the sides, the french fries (or mash or jacket) are from local potatoes and always freshly cooked. If you want to be on a diet (I don't when I'm there), there are grilled seasonal vegetables or just the good-ol' mixed green salad. But if you're really into it, get the sweet potato, carrot, beetroot and parsnip chips.

Tzatziki and feta cheese burger
I'm not going to go on and on about their burgers. You're spoiled for choice and there's noway you won't find a burger to love and cherish. Just go. And wash it down with a cold beer. And their sinfully good ice cream burger (vanilla ice cream between layers of brownies, drizzled with caramel sauce). Guilty grin optional.

They are open for lunch and dinner, and you'll find them at 20, Stasandrou St, Nicosia. Also, if you don't want to take your chances, pick up the phone and make a reservation at 22759300.


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