Restaurant review: Bemba, Nicosia

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rest Restaurant review: Bemba, Nicosia

There was a time when our capital was an embarrassment when entertaining guests to lunch if they desired anything other than the traditional taverna cuisine, now we are drowning in an embarrassment of plenty. And the cauldron is so full a seat at the table must be booked in advance. What is it about Pindarou Street that is attracting so many of our leading culinary entrepreneurs to set up there: Disy? Surely not. Ayios Antonios is now awash with every kind of fast food outlet and one of the oldest traditional tavernas. But that has nothing to do with the development in Pindarou. Passing trade will not sustain the business. I doubt whether a tourist has ever ventured this far from Ledra Street, so the owners investing the hard stuff are now creating an unique opportunity for us – the dwellers and diners of the most manageable and safe European Union capital – a boulevard of diverse cuisine.

The name of this establishment translates, they claim, as Baby; whether that is Oh Baby or my baby, isn’t clear. However, for a restaurant that opened a month ago, without a carpark, and booking is imperative something special is going on. And it is. The owner Thomas, and Varnarvas, the chef, have been around for an eternity and, not only ‘know their onions’, but when they moved that ancient Greek dining room from behind the GSP stadium they decided to add their talent and experience to the growing oasis in Pindarou and we commend them for it. We booked a table for 12:30 on a Thursday, at present the accommodation is restricted to 60 covers. The decor might be described as light industrial, and they were turning people away.

A simple menu of traditional Greek /Cypriot dishes, some on a Greek/English carte, with half a dozen main courses chalked on a blackboard in Greek and that is the ethos of Bemba, and probably the reason why it has such a unique custom. There were some very expensive outfits dining; it was ablaze with sunglasses and even a small wedding party of beautiful people. The media were well represented and Thomas knew all of them.

Madam, the companion was attracted to the beetroot salad complete with a soft Greek cheese, small leaves and walnuts; I chose a grilled beef liver garnished with shredded carrots and onions, this was accompanied with hot bread from the wood oven and a small bowl of mixed olives with chillies. The service is immaculate and generous. The blackboard is translated and I am seduced by the slow cooked lamb with new potatoes, and the companion hesitates over the oven baked chicken, which is on the large size of huge – our charming waiter offered to serve only the breast – but she settled for the grilled kalamari. They also offered the traditional pork and kolakasi and gigantic pork chops – the neighbouring table ordered them. One imagined they will provide enough sustenance for days.

We shared the starters and I was aware that the liver was served at slightly less then bodyheat; the waiter made a note of it when enquiring if all was well. The beetroot was excellent in quality but too much for a starter dish, and I had trouble finding the walnuts. Again this was noted. The restaurant serves a predominance of Cypriot wines, a few Hellenic examples; comfortably priced and obtainable by the glass. The lamb was first rate, and just as expected, served up in a thick sauce, with four potatoes. The meat was from the chine and one had the additional pleasure of separating and investigating the vertebra for the spinal cord; a glass Skouras Shiras worked very well. Sadly, the companion’s squid failed to provide the same satisfaction. Beautifully presented, hot enough, but on the wrong side of al dente; I explained the problems with bringing cephalopods to the table in a tender condition are not entirely in the gift of the chef.

They have a small sweet menu that contained three novelties: a Pavlova with lemon cream; Pistachio creme caramel and a chocolate tart with strawberry sauce. We selected the first two, and they were delicious. The management gave us two espressos to accompany the deserts, and a glass of Greek Vermouth after we paid. Never happened before.

The establishment is in the embryonic stage, at present offering only the 60 covers, but as it warms up they have a garden area that could double this. They have negotiated a parking area close by which is all they need for a very successful enterprise.

Ambience, service and management are first rate. Early days on the wood-oven, but the operator is an expert so shouldn’t be a problem.

 

VITAL STATISTICS

SPECIALTY Mediterranean/Hellenic

WHERE Pindarou 2, Nicosia

CONTACT: 22 252626, booking essential

PRICE Reasonable

 

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