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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Restaurant Review by Nikki Dake ]

Restaurant Review by Nikki Dake

Robust Cypriot fare in Tala

Melitzia Tavern

One could be forgiven for thinking that the last thing Tala needs is yet another restaurant, with eateries lining the village square and offering everything from old fashioned fish ‘n’ chips to more upscale dining. But Melitzia – a new family-run, stone-built taverna on the Kissonerga road down out of the village – is well worth a visit, not only for excellent Cypriot food but also for its stunning views out over the plains down to the sea.

It was those plains and the great walking terrain that took us to this village just below Kamares in the first place; 20 stalwart ramblers well known for their ability to do thorough justice to a lunchtime pint or two after walking, together with a plate of salad and something savoury. Savvas and his wife kindly opened up Melitzia especially for us at the end of March (he mainly opens from 4pm) and offered an amazing choice from an extensive menu including all the usual taverna grill favourites (between €10 and €12) as well as some more seasonal offerings like rabbit stifado (€10.25).

I’m a real fan of rabbit here in Cyprus although I do wish it were possible for local butchers to master the British system of six large joints with manageable bones rather than massacre the poor beast so there’s a splinter in every mouthful. That said, I was most impressed with the Melitzia version which had just the right top-note of spice and vinegar to offset the richness of the wine gravy; I have to admit I sucked the bones clean, so delicious and tender was the meat. The beef stifado was also praised for similar reasons; all too frequently mass-produced stifado lacks the correct balance of spice that’s evident in the Melitzia dish.

Being a big group, we did a comprehensive test of at least a dozen different dishes – including chops, loukanika, sheftalia and kleftiko - and everyone expressed satisfaction.

Particularly praised was the beautifully-cooked Sipoura, presented off the bone with a selection of fresh crunchy vegetables (€10.25), while the giant prawns came in a very generous portion for €11.95. I managed to steal a prawn from my neighbour’s plate and was impressed that a kitchen offering such a wide menu of dishes was able to grill these to absolute perfection; tender, succulent and no sign of the usual problem of a busy taverna - being left to cook a fraction too long.

Equally, a nice touch was the finger bowl garnished with fresh flowers, something that even good seafood restaurants occasionally forget.

Freshness is very much the order of the day at this taverna; the moussaka is plainly prepared daily and the afelia was just melt-in-the mouth, I’m told. Over the winter weeks, a group like ours becomes expert in the varied art of the village salad. I can honestly say that the Melitzia version – simply called Melitzia Salad (€3.40) – is exceptional. Garden leaves and herbs including coriander, plus onions, cabbage, tomatoes and cucumber, topped with bright pickled vegetables, diced beetroot and feta – a real gem of a salad, as pleasing to the eye as to the palate; the dressing was excellent, too, as well as the usual side dips. Tavernas are often let down by their breads, but here we had a choice of hot pitta and hunks of village loaf, rather than the sliced cardboard often served in Paphos. Finally chips! Like everything else, they could not be faulted. Why when Cyprus has such good fresh fare are we all too often offered a frozen import that falls well short of delighting the tastebuds?

I’m racking my brains to remember what the dessert menu offered, but I’m sure there was one with the usual honeyed local puds. We were more than happy with the heaped bowls of juicy merlin oranges served to us, together with fresh apples which were just the right finish to a meal that was hard to fault.
Sadly, as I mentioned earlier, the restaurant is not usually open for lunch, but it’s well worth a visit for ‘sundowners’ on the delightful tree-shaded patio followed by a meal of simple excellence. The restaurant is spacious and nicely decorated; it’s going to be popular, so I suggest that advance booking/checking is probably a good idea. There’s also quite good parking if you get there early.

Vital statistics
SPECIALITY Cypriot favourites with flair
WHERE Tala village, Kissonerga road, Paphos
CONTACT Tel: 26 652979 or 99 683642 (Savvas)
PRICE meal for two with wine from €50
BOOKING Do ring to check opening hours

(Source: Cyprus Mail)

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