Dining Out on Turkish-Cypriot Cuisine

Dining out on Turkish Cypriot cuisine in North Cyprus is all about mouthwatering local dishes without an eye-watering bill for afters. To whet your appetite, here’s a taste of the rich cuisine your palate and your purse can expect to become accustomed to during a stay here.

Turkish-Cypriot cuisine is extremely varied, owing to its heritage to a mixture of the Mediterranean, Southern European and Middle Eastern influences. And if it’s variety you’re looking for in just one sitting, you simply must opt for the “meze”.

The meze is a speciality in both nearby mainland Turkey and Greece but in North Cyprus, the endless combination of tasty hot and cold hors-d’oeuvres is amongst the best. There are so many different vegetable, meat and fish dishes to tempt the taste buds time and time again, all of which can be taken as either an appetiser or main course.

Expect to start with the likes of black and green olives, hummus, taramosalata and tzatziki, all served with chunks of fresh bread and salad. The meze is then likely to continue with a salty grilled halloumi cheese, valanci dolma (stuffed vine leaves), falafel, keftedes (seasoned minced meatballs), as well as fish, spicy meats and hot-grilled meats… not to mention the princely aubergine, as no meze would be complete here without this true North-Cypriot favourite.

For the more adventurous diner, the menu may offer octopus in red wine, snails in tomato sauce, a tongue of lamb, pickled quails eggs or even beyin salatasi (brain salad). Whilst beyin salatasi is a tasty dish, perhaps it should be left till after a couple of glasses of Raki to tempt the palate (a popular Turkish aniseed alcoholic-aperitif).

A traditional and more appealing local delicacy is suckling lamb roasted whole, or for a good-hearty Turkish-Cypriot speciality try a locally-made mussaka (with thick layers of mince, potatoes and of course, aubergines baked in the oven with a rich cheese topping). Whilst historically the cuisine in North Cyprus has been influenced by many different cultures, these are but a few of the tasty dishes that are now regarded as typically Turkish-Cypriot.

It is also virtually impossible to leave this side of the island without trying a street-charcoaled lamb seftali kebab, accompanied with pide (Turkish flatbread), aromatic fresh parsley and a fresh squeeze of lemon (Turkish-Cypriots are especially keen on lemon and you will find it accompanying most dishes). The seftali is a popular packed-lunch for the working classes but can also be found served in local hotels, minus the bread, under its Turkish name sis kebap (shish kebab).

For those whose appetite is whetted more by sweet than savoury dishes, don’t be dissuaded by all this talk of meze and kebabs. Turkish-Cypriot desserts are an integral part of local cuisine which include a long list of pastries, baklava and other extra-sweet puddings. A must-eat treat is Ekmek Kadayifi, a syrup-soaked sponge served cooled.

And what better place to savour a mouthwatering meal, followed by a tasty sweet treat and a dark-roasted coffee, than in one of the many Turkish or Greek bistros. Eateries in North Cyprus range from small bistros to five-star hotels although there’s nothing like a slice of local hospitality and ambience in one of the small family-run restaurants. Kyrenia is the tourist hub of North Cyprus and offers an abundance of eateries, even for the most discerning palate. At the Kyrenia Tavern or Ikimiz Restaurant, you are guaranteed good-home cooked food. Or for something more upmarket, try the Grida Balik Fish Restaurant or The Ambiance with a stunning sea-front setting.

In addition to local cuisine, there is also no shortage of Italian, French, Indian and Chinese restaurants within the tourist areas. We would suggest you take a stroll along the picturesque Kyrenian harbour by day to pick out where you will eat dinner that evening. After a handsome meal, drinks and good conversation with some of the locals, you will be able to fill your stay and satisfy your appetite with where best to eat every night of the week.