Friday, 30 August 2013

Patio - Nicosia

Let me start this review by saying that this is one of the most beautiful bars I've ever been to. It's truly stunning.

Now that I've clarified this, let me go on to the actual evening.

We arrive at Patio and after the initial ohhs and aaahs upon seeing the decor, we notice the guy at the entrance of the yard holding a clipboard. I don't like guys/ladies at the entances of clubs/bars with clipboards. In fact, I absolutely loathe them. They remind me of the Armani/Burberry-clad, moisturizer-wearing men and the leggy blondes wearing clothes two sizes too small at the entrances of most clubs in Cyprus who think they are a bunch of rock stars just because they are holding said clipboard.

However, I won't continue my rant about clipboards as this particular clipboard-holding guy was rather nice, and after finding our reservation (don't even dare go there without a reservation) he led us to it and the two guys already sitting at our table. It seems that despite the almighty clipboard, supposedly to keep track of reservations, mistakes do happen. Anyway, after a 5-minute conversation between the clipboard guy and the two guys already sitting, we established that they sat down because some random guy at the door (without a clipboard obviously) told them they should go in so they sat down at some random table, but now they're going so if someone could cancel their order. Mistakes do happen of course, and if there's no space, there's no space but I'm not sure I'd be very happy if this happened to me. Nevertheless, even when the two guys left, the table was still set for five, while our reservation was for seven. After adding a chair for the time being we sit down.

Now let's all take a minute to appreciate the work of Patio's designer.

The girlfriends arrive and we have a look at the menu. Very imaginative to say the least - a bite of mojito salmon or a glass of psychotherapy anyone? However, somewhere along 'drink careful' I wondered why someone would invest so much money into making this a success but not proofread the menu.

However, to get down to the nitty gritty, we went for the 'sparkling salad' (seasonal salad which in the Greek description was described as 'sensational', with fruit, cherry tomatoes, caramelized walnuts, grana padano, spinach and red cabbage all dressed with a cinnamon and mint vinaigrette), halloumi panna cotta with a fig-honey gel and mint powder, a milonga (grilled spanish beef tenderloin marinated with herbs and served with chimichurri sauce) and a small cheese and charcuterie platter. For drinks we ordered a pitcher of red sangria, two dragon kisses, and a beer for the Boy who wanted to maintain his masculine ways as possible being in the company of a bunch of females.

The sangria came with a plastic ball on top of the jug to keep the fruit - which I'm not sure what it did for the drink - so we poured everything into the jug, gave it a stir, poured into wine glasses and drank away.

Although the sangria was suitably fruity, it was also too... cinnamony. Unfortunately, I couldn't finish my glass because of the strong cinnamon taste and neither did the other two girls. However, the girls with the dragon kisses were very happy with their drinks, so maybe the sangria was just a poor choice.

The Boy's beer was rather warm, but the Boy being the Boy he preferred to remain quiet on the matter. However, he does have a louder girlfriend with a blog.

Now!!! The food. The salad arrived with the dressing in a mini champagne glass, which I thought was pretty, and crossed my fingers hoping that this artistic presentation was not used to cover up any shortcomings in the taste section. Thankfully, it didn't.
The greens were fresh and crisp and without the harsh Cyprus rocket everyone seems to be using. The dressing was a deviation from the usual and complimented the greens perfectly. Figs are always nice.

Next up, the halloumi panna cotta. This was my absolute favourite. It was fluffy, and airy and sweet but not too much, and not heavy at all. It was heaven on a teaspoon. Although apparently it's not for everyone (some of the girls didn't find it as exciting), I was just happy that there was more for me! If you're going, don't miss it. Sadly the picture doesn't do it any justice.

Then we had the platter. I liked the selection of charcuterie - it wasn't just the ordinary supermarket stuff - but I couldn't find more than two slices of each. Similarly, the cheese the selection was fairly wide for a small platter. Nevertheless, as the platter alone costs 14Euros, I'm not sure how many people would order it.

The tenderloin. It was suitably cooked (we asked for medium and hooray it wasn't overcooked!) but the sauce did nothing for me, which is a shame since this kind of dish could light up some serious fireworks in the tastebuds.

...and of course the compulsory recreational photos.

All in all I think it was quite nice. No establishment is flawless, but I would revisit Patio for the amazing ambiance and the imaginative menu. Yet, I would probably wait until the buzz of it being the new kid on the block settles down and it's not as crowded. Sharing a teeny tiny table and being squashed while trying to eat is not fun for anyone, even if the halloumi panna cotta makes your tastebuds dance.

Find them at Megalou Alexandrou 55, Nicosia (just off Ledras Street near Caramelotopos), or call them on 22664488. Their Facebook  page is also constantly updated.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Souxou Mouxou Mantalakia

Mantalakia is by no means a new arrival to the gastronomic scene of Nicosia, but it's one of my favourite spots for dinner. We were there last week for a family celebration and it didn't disappoint, so I thought it only fair to share it with you.

The interior is white, crisp and elegant.

Concerning the food, I'd say it was Greek gone to art school; the base was Greek food but with a slightly different approach and fused with a lot of creative touches.

We started with a green salad with walnuts, green grapes and graviera cheese. Unfortunately I didn't manage to get a picture of the serving bowl - I wasn't quick enough - so here's a photo of my plate being an example of poor food styling.

Anyhow, I'm a firm believer that any chef worth their salt will pay attention to the salad they serve and take it from a bunch of greens to something extraordinary. This was the case. The vegetables were fresh and crisp, and the dressing suited perfectly the tanginess of the green grapes and the nuttiness of the walnuts.
Well done, sir. Well done.

We continued with nut encrusted chicken accompanied with a salad with mushrooms.

....succulent pork fillet on a bed of risotto...

...and a salmon fillet with pureed peas and carrot shavings.

...and it was all washed down with chilled rose - naturally.

The sister and the bottle
We couldn't do without desserts.
The following beauty was a cheesecake with a duo of sauces: orange and red fruit. Deliciously creamy, with the sauces stopping it from being too heavy.

We also couldn't do without chocolate. So here's a chocolate parfait with mint ice cream. I liked the contrast between the deep chocolate flavours and the minty flavour of the ice cream - kind of like an after eight chocolate only creamier and more intense. Although it was quite nice, still the cheesecake was my favourite.

If you're after something a bit special Souxou Mouxou Mantalakia will certainly fit the bill. Compared to other restaurants in the same area it is a tad above the average price level, but you get what you pay for: the food is delicious, the ambiance is elegant and the manager/owner has some serious people skills.

The only thing I would like to see improved is the English spelling/grammar in the menu. However, I'm a bit of a grammar Nazi myself, so I'm not sure how much such spelling/grammar mistakes are noticed by other (non-grammar Nazi) people.

You'll find them at 47, Onasagorou Street, Nicosia, or call them at 22666600.

Also, the menu changes periodically, so you don't get bored and you always have a reason to visit. ;-)
PS: If you're into big, meaty dishes (in the classic Greek/Cypriot manner), don't miss their kotsi dish - you'll be thanking me.

Friday, 23 August 2013


If you like beer keep reading.

Brewfellas is one of those niche, little-known gems in Nicosia which (I would guess) has a select but loyal clientele, who knows what to expect and how to appreciate it.

The selection of beers can't even fit my frame!

Phanos was like a kid in a candystore.

Now, I'm not ashamed to say I know next to nothing when it comes to beer. 
Luckily, the guy who worked there did. So, I told him what I liked, and he recommended a couple or four of the vast selection available. The first two were Scottish, the third was Dutch and the last one's brewed by monks in Belgium.

I went for Brew Dog's 5am Saint amber ale.

Despite the cosy interior, it was too hot, so we sat outside and took some suitably out of focus photos.

I suppose every group of friends has a member who's near-bonkers...

 ...and an Alex.

If you love beer, you'll love Brewfellas. It's got the right booze and the right character. 

If you're more of a margarita/daquiri-drinking type, then I think you should skip it - there isn't much else served there apart from water and water is for wimps.

You'll find them at 7, Pygmalionos St, Nicosia towards the end of Ledra Street, or call them on 22264007.
Also, every now and then they change the beers they have on tap, so it's worth checking out their Facebook group and their website.


Monday, 19 August 2013

Uni Fever

I'll be heading back to the UK soon to my new University (for a second degree, I don't change universities just for the sake of it!), and my lil' sister is also heading out to the big, cold UK for her studies, so here are my two cents for everyone beginning their studies this autumn.

Freshers' Week is Godsent. Don't miss it, and certainly don't spend it skyping with your friends from home. Get out of your room, smile, and talk to everyone - they are probably as nervous as you are. Even if you're not a party animal, it's an amazing opportunity to meet new people, especially your flatmates with whom you'll be sharing a flat for the next year! Obviously you won't become best friends with everyone, but give people outside your comfort zone a chance, and you may be surprised. By the way, if you get Freshers' Flu (yeah, it's a thing), chamomile tea with a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of honey will work wonders for your sore throat and runny nose.

Don't stick just with people of your own nationality, especially if you're an international student. Most of the times very exclusive cliques form with people of the same nationality, which is not only extremely anti-social, but also you'll miss a hell of a lot of fun. I remember in my previous Uni, there was some British guy trying to make casual conversation with another Cypriot girl. All he got was a prolonged, aggressive stare, at which point the girl turned to her friend and said to her in Greek: 'why is he talking to me?'. So incredibly lame, never mind the very poor manners. The poor guy just turned around, possibly amazed at how rude people can be.

I recently read a similar post on another blog, where the blogger advises her young and inexperienced readers to not stress out about lectures, and that it is okay to skip a couple of them, take long weekends and other similar habits which won't get you a first, and will hardly take you anywhere near a 2i.
Now, I don't say you shouldn't have fun or that you should study from dawn to dusk. But don't skip lectures. You may not think much of it at the time, but it will only end up in tears come exam season. Even if you think going to a particular lecture is completely pointless, there's no way that in that one hour of lecturing you won't gain anything. If you'd stayed at home, you'd be procrastinating in front of your computer screen anyway, and you know it!
Also, I suppose you've heard how they say the first year doesn't count? Well, it kind of does. Although it won't count towards your degree class for most unis, the university still keeps record of your marks and employers may ask for them. Also, going from first year's "it doesn't count" to a second year when your next coursework counts for 20% of your final mark, is a pretty big shock. So do yourself a favour and prepare yourself accordingly during the first year.

Do the readings. Always. As I pointed out above, no matter how pointless you think it is, readings are an excellent way of preparing yourself for lectures (you'll actually understand what the guy at the front of the lecture room is going on about), and it will make coursework writing a lot easier. If you don't have the books from where the readings are from, and they're not online, get to the library ASAP, as there are other students who would want to borrow them as well!

Keep your notes in tact. Even if for some reason you miss some of the notes, get copies of them soon, before you forget all about it. Usually universities put them up online, but this is at the discretion of the lecturer in question. Failing that, copy them off a friend. Whatever you do, keep them in big files in chronological order, and try your best to keep it this way until exam time. Trust me, it will make your life a lot easier and it will save you so much time when you'll want to look up things for courseworks or studying for an exam.

Get involved! Especially if it's your first year, you'll have the least workload compared to other years, and you'll get to meet even more people. Also, it's a good idea to try something new with uni societies and clubs, be it fencing, belly dancing, archery, you name it! Not to mention it's a lot cheaper to do this as part of a student society rather than as an individual. 

I know that 50p pizzas from Tesco sound like a great deal, but they're not. They are really really not. I know you'll probably be cash-strapped but do your best to take care of your body, with healthy(ish) eating, a bit of exercise and a good night's sleep. 

If you'll be living in halls, you know how you have to fill in a form saying if there's anything wrong with your room? DON'T IGNORE IT. If there are cracks on the walls, ink marks on the curtains, or the shower head's broken, write it down, and include as many details as possible. It seems small and unnecessary, but I've heard horror stories of people not getting most of their deposit back because of damages that were there before they moved in. Ideally you could also take pictures (that's what the inspectors do when they come in after you move out to decide how much of your deposit you'll be given back). Better to be safe than sorry. 
Buy budget cutlery, mugs, glasses etc as they'll probably go missing by the end of the year. However, do invest in some nice bed sheets and a good pillow. I know it's not a conventional piece of advice, but if you're going to slave away at the library all day, you might as well get the best night's sleep you can. Plus, there's nothing better than sleeping in clean, fresh bed linen after finishing a huge-ass piece of coursework (extra points if it's a dissertation).

Last but not least, take pictures. Take lots and lots of pictures. University happens for only a limited time for most people, so don't miss the boat, and cherish every minute of it. Plus, when you graduate you'd be glad to be able to go through these pictures with university friends and reminisce about fun (and embarrassing) stories from your time there.

Ah they grow up so fast, don't they?

PS: I know I already said last but not least, but this is important. Call your parents. I don't mean every minute, and I don't mean everyday, but every few days call them up to assure them you're still breathing, ask them how they're doing and request to put your dog on the phone. Trust me, it will make their day. Extra points if you call your grandparents - you'll make their week and I'm talking from experience.
PPS: Pictures were lovingly taken from Pinterest apart from the last one obviously.
PPS2: If you've got more little bits of advice, feel free to share. :-)


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