Food is an essential element of any and every social occasion in Cyprus.
A conversation rarely takes place without coffee, beer or brandy being offered, customarily accompanied by a small snack. Cypriots love food, so it is does not come as a surprise that the country’s cuisine is so expansive. The island’s geographical position and its history have resulted in a very interesting merge of Greek, Turkish, Arabic and English culinary influences.
It is mainly at the weekend that families gather to eat at a relative’s house or at a restaurant or taverna, where groups of 15 people or more are nothing uncommon. These are informal gatherings where the table is usually strained to breaking-point under the incredible number of different dishes. Plates are piled high, and everyone tries a little bit of everything, although leaving a clean plate is unusual.
This style of dining comes from the Cypriot preference for meze (which means “mixture”), which consists of many small dishes with a little of everything that is available on the day in that taverna or restaurant. There is no better way to sample Cypriot cuisine than the meze, as you can literally enjoy the widest variety of local food in one sitting.
A meze always includes a few Cypriot specialties, mainly halloumi cheese, produced by thyme-fed goats and a delicacy which can be obtained only on the island.
Cypriot dishes are well seasoned, but not spicy, so there is no fear for visitors of stomach upsets.
Although Cyprus is an island, the price of seafood is quite high as this part of the Mediterranean is not rich in fish, and many species have to be imported deep-frozen. Traditional Cypriot seafood dishes include small, deep-fried fish and cuttlefish rings.