3 hours in Limassol
By Yiannis Karakasis MW
The modern city of Limassol is located in the south of Cyprus and has a population of about 237,000 residents. It is built amphitheatrically on Akrotiri Bay, between the two ancient cities of Amathounta to the east and Kourion to the west. It was awarded third place on TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Destinations on the Rise and ranked 89th worldwide in the Mercer Quality of living city ranking.
Having visited Limassol dozens of times over the last five years, I have to say that it is a vibrant, lively city with an appetite for novelty (amongst which wine has a leading role). A city of contrasts, where the magical coexistence of modern and traditional never ceases to surprise me, be it in architecture, gastronomy, wine, mentality. In absolutely everything.
Now, I did say gastronomy and wine. But, really, how many things can one discover within a limit of three hours? How many flavours can one explore? It was precisely upon this idea that we based our exploration of the city. A whistle-stop Sunday afternoon tour of Limassol with my business partner Christopher Christoforos (the other half of First Growth Wine School). The rules we laid down were: we only order a single dish or tiny dishes of "meze", and we stay a maximum of 30 minutes at each place.
19.30 We departed from our base at the Alasia Boutique Hotel, which is always filled with positive energy, and parked relatively easily and quickly in the centre of the city. Fortunately, we avoided the directions of our car's auto-parking system that would take us straight to another parked car.
19.45 We sat at the lovely Gin Garden and started with a Gin Tonic made with my favourite Monkey 47. Very well prepared, with care, and the soft taste of the tonic led us towards tasting a Moschofilero from the interesting Wine List. We ordered Route Gris from the Troupis Winery (pictured above), a fascinating expression of Moschofilero in grey-pink tones. These new Moschofilero approaches give new impetus and interest to this favourite Greek variety and are highly enjoyable all year round. The price of the bottle was 21 euros. Exceptional.
20.10 Depart from Gin Garden, and 5 minutes later, we had already ordered at the new Street Food Style restaurant, with the promising name, Birdslut. From the blackboard, we chose two yakitori, one with Black Angus and one with pork belly, as well as a Katsu Sando. In the absence of wine choices, I ordered a Negroni style with Sake which proved to be too alcoholic for my elegant palate. After returning it, we tried a new and particularly delicious Cypriot beer from a micro-brewery called Humor. Impressions from Birdslut? Interesting concept, although we have seen similar establishments running for many years in Athens and abroad. I would have preferred less sauce on the Sando and better cocktails.
20.35 We left with a sense that something more genuine was missing, so we went in search of traditional Cypriot cafés and cookshops. Unfortunately, there weren’t many open on that particular day, so we decided to stop for pizza to think about what else to do.
Shortly before, Christoforos threw in the idea of visiting an old 1909 house museum, in which the works of Zacharias Koumoudios are hosted. Self-taught, born in Prastio of Messoria in 1940 and a professional teacher, Zacharias Koumoudiou has captured memories and experiences from his life in the village. His works were inspired by old rural life, morals and customs of Cyprus, professions and Greek mythology. Alexander Koumoudiou, the artist’s son, hosts the whole collection in his home. The realism of the traditional wine press and the vendor of roasted chestnuts (both pictured below) left us speechless. One wonders why these pieces of art haven’t found their way into a museum yet.
20.57 After this unique stop, we arrived at Zester and ordered a Pizza Viola with Peruvian potatoes, mozzarella, basil and guanciale from Rafael's food truck. Excellent, thin and crispy, paired, once again, with a Humor IPA beer.
21.40 Shortly before 22.00, we finally managed to find a table at a Cypriot café named Chouzouri, where we ate traditional meze paired with Zivania Loel. This is one of the Zivanias commonly found around town, a little richer and more oily than the refined expressions of Tsiakkas and Vouni Panayia, which I prefer.
22.10 Ice Cream is always a huge question mark. We aimed to try traditional Cypriot delicacies, so we started with "papoutsosiko" ice cream, which means prickly pear in Cyprus. We discovered it at Gelato Mio, and it was such an experience. But, because nothing is as good as pistachio ice cream (not the greener version, but rather the greyer one instead), we searched further. Finally, we discovered some at Gelatofabio by the Limassol marina.
Before I go, I have to mention five more restaurants we visited over the previous days, which should not be missed.
Polo Restaurant at Alasia Boutique Hotel is a gastronomic paradise, with talented chef Chris Theophanous in charge of the kitchen. I have tried his fantastic and inspired dishes many times, always very tasty with excellent raw materials. The last time, the grouper ceviche stood out like a painting, a fabulous red mullet and scallops risotto and the inconceivable wagyu with celeriac. In addition, the wine list is continuously improving. We tried a Jermann Pinot Grigio 2020, Karamolegos 34, 2019 vintage and a Pauillac Latour 2014, which all paired wonderfully with the dishes.
Puesta Oyster Bar is located on Limassol Beach, and I will always stop there when I travel to Cyprus. It stands out for its innumerable oyster options. For example, I tasted Josephine and various sizes of Normandy, whereas, on a previous occasion, I had tasted Gillardeau. Its wine list is also on an upward trend since Kyriakos and Giorgos are constantly looking for new and exciting wines. I tried a very lovely Luis Seabra Alvarinho Grant Cru with character.
Now for the more traditional options.
Sikaminia is a top authentic choice. It opens early at noon and closes around 16.00. You have to get there early if you want to have many options. I loved the roasted meat, grandmother's pasta and the amazing meatballs (like small torpedoes). Oh! And broad beans with cabbage. I don't even usually eat beans. Leave some room for galaktoboureko at the end.
Two other favourite choices are Rouis in Polemidia and Parpetas in Limassol. At Rouis, Rouis himself and his small kitchen steal the show. Everything is freshly cooked on the spot, and quantities are limited. If, for example, you want a repetition of a plate, you will only get it when the rest of the customers have been served. At Parpetas, they serve Goofy's peanuts at the end of the meal, and they also have a Jukebox. Both cult places and unique!