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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Archontico Papadopoulou (Kornos, Cypurs)

Forget the autumnal gloom, here's is our second installment from our late Summer Cyprus holiday.  

Moving up one notch in refinement from the wonderful, basic Ladas taverna, tonight we drive up to the village of Kornos, a stone's throw away in the woody inland from Limassol or Larnaca, to try a new and ambitious opening. The restaurant is set in a fascinating mansion over a century old, which housed the Papadopoulos family and shop. 

The charming hostess – the current generation of the Papadopoulos – gives us a tour of the mansion showing us many interesting objects found during the restoration and the rediscovery of the place: vases and other crafts, photographs and...but look, Man is already in the cellar, almost fainting at the musty sweetness of the perfume of Commandaria emanating from a very old, huge vase – we are told this is the oldest remnant of Commandaria in the island!! 

Man has to be dragged away forcibly before he falls in. This is an emotional beginning.

The bread with sesame was fresh, fragrant, well-made, and also pleasant was a sort of gazpacho served as an amuse bouche.

We were very curious to try one of the pasta dishes – we learned it is traditional in this part of Cyprus. We opted for ravioli, which were accompanied by other irregular bits and pieces of pasta -as in the old family kitchens, where nothing was to be thrown away. The pasta was well-made, and it was covered in a pleasant, yogurty-feeling sauce, creamy and quite light. The filling of the ravioli was intriguing, presenting our palates with flavours that are unusual to us, just a little on the salty side for our taste. 

A dominant theme of the evening were the sweet-salty contrasts. As in a main of pork cutlet, 

which had been marinated probably in honey to great effect, so much so that although the dish presented several faults to the fussy tasters (the meat was overcooked and hence slightly hard and dry, the tomatoes were on the contrary undercooked and frankly not too good), ultimately a sense of deep satisfaction prevailed, so spot on and beguiling was the taste.

In the other main, an old recipe of pork cubes stewed with beetroot, 

the coriander was not a mere side detail but it became a protagonist, lavished in large amounts and thus suffusing everything with fiery freshness. This lifted the rich, spicy, sumptuously greasy dish, certainly not one for the lily-livered, but a real dish from the heart and the tradition.

The same powerful role was played by the coriander in a very different offering as a starter, a huge mixed salad where once again sweet and salty played with each other in a myriad of variations.

We concluded with a dessert consisting of a sort of millefeuille which alternated phyllo pastry and the sweet Anari cheese, very typical of Cyprus (it is produced together with Halloumi, which more special to Cyprus than Feta -  or so we are told), worked in a fluffy cream. 

It was a fitting conclusion, together with the best Cyprus coffees we've had in the island,

to a sweet dinner.
 This is a place run with obvious passion and a clear sense of mission, that of reviving the Cypriot culinary heritage. They have basically all worthwhile Cypriot wines - which can be extremely pleasant, hic - on the list (some 150 of them) and even a fully dedicated Commandaria bar – where you'll find samples that would be hard to get in any other part of the island. 

Although there is some elegance and formality in the ambience, don't set your mood on 'fine dining' or look for too much finesse of presentation as if you were in a continental Michelin star venue, because then you'd be disappointed. Just enjoy the warm hospitality, the beautiful setting and especially abandon yourselves to the rich flavours that this cuisine brilliantly recreates from the tableau of the Cypriot tradition. 

We paid less than 100 Euros including a bottle of local rose' (called Poze') in the low twenties, which makes this lovely...well let's call it 'trattoria' in the best Italian sense, good value too. Had we had more time, we would have loved to return to try more dishes. And more wines.


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