Eating out and relaxing have often been stated as two of the prime reasons to visit Northern Cyprus. A meal here means much more than just eating
The culture and heritage of any island reflects the various countries that have ruled it over the centuries, and this applies to food as much as to architecture and other more obvious signs. This is never more true than in Northern Cyprus. Various cultures have left their mark here, and the traditional cuisine of Cyprus is enhanced by flavours from both the East and the West. The relative isolation of the island also means that the emphasis is very much on fresh, locally grown produce.
Eating out is a traditional Cypriot pastime and quite simply, Cypriot people love food and love preparing it and presenting it as much as they love eating it. The North has an almost unbelievably wide choice of restaurants, tavernas, bars and cafés for you to enjoy. Although traditional cuisine still forms the basis in many places, contemporary and international dishes are also readily available. Here, in addition to time-honoured establishments, you can find Indian, Chinese, French and Italian restaurants, serving some of the best quality food you will ever have tasted. Whatever your culinary desires, you will find something to suit you. Even a takeaway kebap from a roadside stall will surprise you with the fresh ingredients and wonderful flavours.
If you want to experience traditional Cypriot food then a smaller restaurant may be the best choice, though there are some larger establishments that offer the ‘full experience’. Dishes are nearly always home-made and the service excellent and personal everywhere you go. The staple here is meze. Although this translates loosely as ‘appetizer’, it can be ordered either as a starter or a complete meal. Primarily, it comprises numerous small dishes, both hot and cold, including fish, meats, salads, grilled and cold cheeses, stuffed vine leaves and much more. Taken as a complete meal, this also includes various charcoal-grilled meat dishes. The sheer quantity and variety is breath-taking. Alternatively, choose a smaller meze as just a starter and then enjoy a main course such as Mousakka or Kleftico, a slow-cooked shoulder of lamb that is incredibly succulent. Expect your bread basket to be regularly re-filled throughout your meal, and certainly in smaller restaurants, don’t be surprised to find that the owner will come and join you at some stage for a drink and a chat or if other groups do the same! You are likely to leave not only feeling full and satisfied, but also having made a few new friends.
Turkish deserts tend to be extremely sweet so those on a diet need to be warned! However, fresh fruit is plentiful and being locally grown, the flavours are wonderful. Of course, it is considered near essential to finish with a proper Turkish coffee. This is made in a small pot on the stove, where ground coffee is combined with water and sugar to your taste in individual portions. There are three basic ways to order: sade (bitter, with no sugar), orta (normal, medium sweet) and şekerli (sweet). For drinks throughout the meal, some Turkish wines are of surprisingly high quality and house wines are normally chosen with care. Imported wines and spirits are generally best avoided, as the relatively high duty rates make them comparatively costly. For the real North Cyprus experience, try a glass or two of raki. An aniseed-based spirit, this is normally diluted with water. Local beers, for the less adventurous, are of good quality, very thirst quenching and remarkably cheap.
With regard to places to eat, the choices seem endless, but for a first-time visitor there are two that should be considered as almost essential. First, an evening meal in Kyrenia harbour. The setting is stunning, and although a prime ‘tourist location’, the quality is normally excellent and the prices surprisingly reasonable. Second, the village of Bellapais. At night-time, Bellapais Abbey is floodlit, and forms an incredible backdrop to a memorable meal.
Although by no means extensive, here are a few restaurants you might like to try
Jashan Indian Restaurant
Califorian bar and Grill
D & B Café
Temel Reis Restaurant