dancing to Greek music
Walk along the street in Protaras, a coastal resort in the east of Cyprus, and you will see signs outside restaurants advertising kleftico cooked in an oven.
Of course it is cooked in an oven, but is it a clay oven?
Nicolas Tavern is the only restaurant with a wood-fired clay oven. The oven is fired with logs midday. Kleftico, a traditional Greek-Cypriot lamb dish, is cooked slowly slowly over many hours. It melts off the bone. If you have not eaten kleftico at Nicolas Tavern you have not eaten kleftico, merely a pale imitation.
I ate a couple of times at Nicolas Tavern.
My Russian friend Lena and I went along one evening. We had tasted kleftico the week before when we had had drinks at Nicolas Tavern. It was delicious. We were looking forward to our kleftico.
We asked for the best medium-dry red wine. We were served Status 99.
We then ordered kleftico, only to learn it had proved so popular that night they had sold out.
We decided on fish. I had sea bream, very tasty. Lena a baked fish.
Ideally a white wine to go with the fish. Status 99 is a full-bodied red. Ideal for kleftico.
We were pleased though we had ordered Status 99 as an excellent wine. It comes, as do many of the wines served at Nicolas Tavern, from a small family vineyard, this one Kolios Winery near Paphos. Quality wines to go with the quality food.
We were sufficiently impressed with the Status 99, that we ordered a second bottle which we took away with us when we left.
For starters we had chicken soup. The most delicious chicken soup we had ever tasted. The soup was served in an enormous bowl, plus pita bread.
To go with our main dish we ordered a side salad, which again was very tasty and delicious.
For desert we had strawberries and cream. Cypriot strawberries are not a nice as English strawberries and Lena added not as nice as Russian strawberries. I would have preferred Greek yoghurt to cream. Something I acquired a taste for on Mykonos.
On Mykonos I stayed in a villa belonging to the deputy mayor overlooking the beach. I would climb down the cliff to a nearby taverna on the beach. Here I would have breakfast. My breakfast was strawberries and raspberries and Greek yoghurt.
Ask any locals where to eat and they will tell you without hesitation Nicolas Tavern. It is very popular, with people often making the trip from Nicosia.
A few days later I ate again at Nicolas Tavern, and this time yes, I did get to eat kleftico. It was delicious, melts off the bone.
On that night, one long table with Greek-Cypriots. After my meal I relaxed with a brandy sour, a Cypriot drink. My entertainment was the Greek-Cypriots dancing to Greek music.
If there is one criticism to make it is that the portions are too large.
At times the service is a little slow. But what is the hurry, there is nothing else to do? The evening is relaxing, eating a meal. It is not a fast food outlet. You are there to enjoy a gourmet meal.
When dining out at a place worth eating, you spend the evening enjoying your meal.
Nicolas Tavern is the place to eat in Protaras. Whilst there may be other places to eat, Nicolas Tavern is in a league all of its own.