Arch Makariou III 67, Kornos, 22531000, LEFKOSIA (NICOSIA)
Tue-Sun 12:00-15:00, 18:00-23:00
Food: [rating:3.5] 3.5/5
Service: [rating:4] 4/5
Ambiance: [rating:4] 4/5
I find that I have a few things in common with Archontiko Papadopoulou: we both believe in the Cypriot tradition and we have created something using the local elements while trying to transform our product into something that would suit the 21st century. Also, we both want to bring out what we are proud of and allow people to enjoy it. When I first visited Archontiko almost 3 years ago I thought I had got what it was all about. It was only after my visit last week though, when I had the opportunity to talk to the owner, that I managed to grasp the effort put into its construction and preservation, the history behind it and the concept around it.
You might know of it as “a good restaurant”, but what I found most impressive was the story of Archontiko that started probably more than a century and a half ago. It was originally the house of the great grandfather of Ms Papadopoulou who runs it today. No one knows exactly how old it is but it is definitely more than 120 years old. More specifically, when they discovered a “pithari”* in the basement with the oldest “coummandaria” ever found in Cyprus, (that was so old it had solidified), it was estimated to be at least 150 years old. I was also shocked to find out that that almost all the ornaments and decorative elements are authentic and belonged to the great granddad’s household. That includes dozens of tools and baking pots, old cupboards and desks, more than 50 “pitharia”, an old wooden oven that goes back to the 19th century and a lot of antique pots. What the great granddaughter of Mr Papadopoulou did was use all of that to create a restaurant and a sort of museum to display the 150 year old history of this place.
Upon entering the restaurant one can feel the traditional element they are trying to maintain. What is different about Archontiko is that it is also rather refined and elegant. They have taken the food you can find in an old school taverna and made it into a kind of fine-dining experience. A very special part of the restaurant is the private dining room, which is also the wine cellar of Archontiko, situated on the lower ground- a cellar that contains only Cypriot wine of all ages and types. Apart from anniversaries and marriage proposals it has been (and can be) used for company dinners and special events.
The food is something that fits very well with the ambiance and concept: it is a traditional selection with some more innovative dishes which use the Cypriot element. Even the presentation is unique as each dish is served in clay pots made at the Archontiko by “Kiria Theognosia” an old lady from Kornos that makes the pottery at the restaurant. You can order a la carte but we ordered the recommended meze selection, “ta pylina”. In hindsight I highly recommend it since it was an extremely high value-for-money selection (and you can see why shortly!).
We started off with a traditional Cypriot salad and a salad with dried figs and a sweet dressing. Although I preferred the latter it was obvious that both of them were made with fresh vegetables. They came with 4 tasty, home-made dips: aubergine salad, feta dip with peppers, hummus and beetroot with tahini dip (my favourite). Together with the slightly sweet local-type bread (which is also made in house) they were the perfect start to our meal.
The starters that followed were millefeuille with aubergines and tomatoes and halloumi cheese that was simple and flavoursome, mushrooms with spinach and local cheese (that vary according to the season) that Mr Proud Cypriot devoured, and a selection of cheeses wrapped in “kataifi” filo, served with tomato jam. These were being crispy and cheesy and were my favourite starter.
The main dish selection that followed (indeed a “pandesia” as they call it), started with two types of ravioli, a savoury one and a sweet one (as they make it at Kornos village), served with a tomato sauce and cooked al-dente which I found truly fantastic. The tender pork fillets stuffed with sweet prunes were a good deviation from the standard meat dishes. The “tavas” with tomatoes, vegetables and pork was excellent. It had a very strong local flavour, while my favourite dish was the home-made stuffing that was aromatic and very flavoursome. We were also served slow cooked and very tender “kleftiko” with herby potatoes which we genuinely enjoyed. At this point two more dishes were brought out: a chicken dish with a mustard dressing and mini Greek burgers in a feta sauce which I thought were a bit too much – not in terms of flavour but in terms of quantity. Apparently some people eat even more than we do!
Dessert was quite interesting as instead of offering a selection to share, a tasting menu of 4 mini desserts that suited the season was served in individual plates. The extra soft and moist “melomakarona” were in my opinion more evidence of the attention to detail put in the food preparation. The “kourabiedes” were equally tasty while the fried honey pie was a also good addition. The moist chocolate cake served hot was I guess there to keep the chocolate loving masses happy.
Now something for all the foodies and wine lovers reading this: do try a glass of the “coummandaria” chosen from an entire “coummandaria” menu. If you have the time you can enjoy this at the “coumandaria” bar behind the main dining area- something which I don’t think you will find anywhere else.
For me, the cherry on the cake was the price: 23€ for all of the above was extremely good in terms of value-for-money, especially when you think that you pay 16-17€ for a meze selection at your average taverna.
50% of the experience (apart from the food), is the tour of the Archontiko, so don’t forget to ask them to give you one (although the very friendly staff will most likely offer to do so).
To summarize, if you are looking for an all-rounded dining experience in a beautiful and cosy ambiance at a place that actually has something to show and something to give, I would definitely recommend paying a visit to Archontiko Papadopoulou.
* (old clay jar used for storing olive oil, wine and other liquids and dry food),