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Australian Asian Gardens

More Than Just a Pit Stop?
The Stamna Taverna gave me food for thought.
Some venues are essentially an up-market MacDonald’s - the staff read the orders on the package, slam it into the microwave for as long as it takes and then plonk it on the table with a smile in the hope of getting a bigger tip.

Not so everywhere, though

In fact I respect MacDonald’s more than other tourist-trap eateries because they are not charging you extra for the word “restaurant” in the venue’s name and they do not expect tipping just because they had the kindness to bring the plates to the table.
Macs (shorn of the American-flavoured feel-good hype) supply cheap, standardised, filling munchies in a clean environment.
This is often a good alternative to being robbed blind for equally standardised, poorly re-heated “tourist fodder” products elsewhere at three times the price.

A real restaurant, or perhaps I mean a proper restaurant, by the Webz definition of things at least, has something more to offer. Generally they actually like what they do and their menu is something they are proud of. They will take time out to speak to you of fresh pork marinating in red wine – ideally Othello – with coriander sprinkled carefully into the mix before the whole thing is left in peace overnight and then cooked very, very slowly. They will tell you about how lokanika are dried in the sun, and if you want to try pastourmas they will bring you a glass of water to put out the fire in your mouth afterwards without even waiting to be asked. Tell them that for pastourmas you prefer brandy and they will smile at you as if you were the prodigal son newly returned.
It is so much more than just reheating the munchies, just as a waiter should be more than just a plate delivery/tip retrieval operative.

So, where do we go to find these fine ideals realized other than in my fevered imagination and memories of an eastern Cyprus long gone?
Well in Ayia Napa you can apparently drop by the Stamna, on the long slope downhill towards the Jasmine Inn on the road from the small roundabout. It claims to be the oldest house in Ayia Napa which initially seemed a dubious recommendation for a restaurant as if we assume the kitchen was as old as the house, things were probably going to be a bit tricky! (More so the morning after) Never the less we decided to favour them with the dreaded meze test.

Let me make it clear, this test is dreaded because it should scare any experienced reviewer white. The meze is a bit of everything and in a dodgy venue is probably all the junk that no-one else wants or has already left on their plates.
In England this goes into the stock pot – in Cyprus it becomes tomorrow night’s meze. Further, in a mean venue you get just a few courses on tiny saucers and then after a curt “that’s yer lot” you get sent into the streets in search of a Big Mac to keep your kids going until breakfast.
In a good venue all this is magically changed. It’s a chance for the chef to do some very serious showing off as course after course is delivered with a smile and a few appetising details about what it is, how it is made and maybe even where in Cyprus the recipe is from. And it just keeps coming – do not EVER order a starter with a meze at a decent restaurant - you will need a wheelbarrow and two hefty blokes for them to get you from (under) the table to the taxi home.

The Stamna qualifies as an excellent venue with a cheerful host mingling and chatting quietly in Greek and English among the diners in a small open air forecourt (more space indoors) and a waiter who spent the evening smiling cheerfully whilst delivering plate after plate of drool-worthy local dishes from squid with crispy rather than soggy batter to spicy pastourmas and constant refills of pitta bread for the home made dips. Our only problem was that we kept running out of space for the food on the table and that was with four of us hard at work on the meal.
The menu otherwise is fairly simple with a range of local wines, beers and deserts to follow your meal if you can manage to find the room to put it all. Traditionally ouzo is for meze but beer goes down just fine.
Prices were fair and the venue medium busy without being wall to wall – it’s a quiet time in Napa just now. Having said that a busy road just outside was far from quiet and is not a blessing, and parking is a little on the problematical side, but its worth the effort. Spot the place, then take the first right afterwards and park up, then walk back up the hill – I did.
Ask the waiter nicely and he will probably wheelbarrow you that short distance to the car after the meal.

Would I eat there again? Try and stop me.
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