Vasileos Pavlou 7, 22675151, LEFKOSIA (NICOSIA)
I realised that I spend most of my time reviewing new places, but spend very little time re-newing or reviewing places I visit all the time, my “stekia” (singular: “steki”), as one would call them. This is why during my last visit at Pantopolio, when Thomas said they had a few new dishes we had to try I thought perhaps it’s time to renew the long overdue “Pantopolio revisited”. Don’t worry, nothing’s changed in terms of quality, service and the usual menu favourites. There were however a few additions worth mentioning that take the restaurant to another level. I admit that there was a time of ups and downs but I am now sure they are back on track!
If you live in Nicosia you definitely know what it is and where it is so you can skip the description of the venue. It’s one of the few places that have managed to keep a casual but refined ambiance, a very pretty yet simple décor creating a feeling that you are in a Greek island, and generally a very positive and happy vibe. The fact that it is one of the most popular places for business lunch, for lunch with friends, lunch with family, for a casual dinner or an “event” dinner says it all. The central but quiet location is also one of the “pros” since it is easily accessible with a lot of parking and a beautiful outside yard.
It belongs to the restaurants offering dishes from the Greek cuisine. I want to say “Greek creative” but I don’t want it to sound as if they are offering something funky while destroying the traditional part. They have kept the traditional dishes and they have mastered them. In addition to those, they have a few more “innovative” dishes, always keeping it 70% traditional Greek.
One can find a selection of fresh salads including a traditional “choriatiki” with tomatoes, cucumber, onion and olives, a green salad made with local greens a new green salad with fresh marrow and pine nuts and a lightly sour lemon dressing, and a couple of others. The fact that there is only one out of five salads with fruit and they are not strawberries or pomegranates is a MAJOR plus!
Apart from the salad my usual selection includes a “tirokafteri” dip, a “fava” (lentil dip) and “graviera” cheese in filo pastry. This time round we took a leap and tried all the new starters after Thomas insisted that they were worth it. That was the best move we did in months! The zucchini tart with peppermint and “kefalotiri” (Greek hard cheese), was delicious and tasted like a “quiche”. My proud Cypriot friend said it was too much to have as a starter and would have been better for a light meal. At the end I agreed. The baked, sun-dried tomato meat balls were very good (and light), a great starter to share, while the “halloumi” pannacota was truly impressive. A savory and creamy dish, mildly sweet but not too much (and you know how picky I am with sweet food). It’s different to the standard starters, it’s more special, definitely worth trying.
As if they above wasn’t enough we also tried the home-made ravioli, with home-made pasta. Another dish that I could easily have as a main course, light, traditional yet different, perfectly al-dente with a savoury cheese feeling.
As a main course we shared the “picanha“, a new addition on the list of steaks. I did not expect anything less than the tender and flavourful beef we enjoyed. We didn’t have any of the classics: the ribeye steak (“spalobrizola”), the burger stuffed with cheese or the white fish fillet wrapped in leaves (that is now off the menu), but nevertheless we had a delicious dinner with a selection that I will definitely add onto my list of standards.
Finally although we devoured the lemon tiramisu nothing can substitute the refreshing orange tart or the traditional “baklavadakia”.
If you are wondering whether or not to visit Pantopolio, don’t. It’s one of the must-try restaurants of the capital so stop thinking about it and go. My advice is to try some of the more “special” dishes rather than the chicken kebab or the pork chop.
Price-wise you should expect to pay around 20€ each without alcohol (and without the “spalobrizola”). If you take into consideration the ambiance, the quality and the general experience it is not expensive but average, although some may say otherwise.