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Brew > Have a cocktail with your cuppa March 14, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Nicosia, Food Cyprus, Greek Taste Local.
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An evening spent in a bar that specialises in cups of tea may not sound like your idea of a good night out, but, banish any thoughts of PG Tips and the blue-rinse brigade and, if you’ve not been already, be sure to put the wonderful Brew on your list of bars to visit.

Yes, it has an extraordinary variety of teas (hence the name), but it also has an extensive range of expertly made cocktails, an intriguing selection of light bites and a warm and welcoming ambience that other bars could only wish to have.

Set in Laiki Yitonia, a little gem in the heart of the city, the rabbits’ warren of outside and internal bar areas make Brew one of Nicosia’s prettiest nightspots. During the warm evenings the lovely, intimate tea-lit courtyard is an ideal haven for romantic trysts whilst all year round the inside bar is a perfect place to gather with friends and explore the large variety of drinks and try the tasty salads, sandwiches and soups, such as the exotic sounding carrot, honey and ginger soup, whilst listening to an eclectic mixture of current R&B, dance and indie tracks peppered with a few classics.

The decor is simple but stylish. Aside from a vibrant red wall behind the long glass-topped bar in the main bar area, the rest of the interior is painted white with some floral artwork here and there, with sofas and kafenion style wooden chairs scattered around candle lit tables.

The place is decidedly unpretentious – an increasingly rare attribute for bars in Nicosia. As far as dress is concerned, anything goes – be it sequins, jeans, heels or trainers, it doesn’t matter. And although Brew is the venue for Mixed Olives nights – popular singles events – it lacks that predatory feel of so many other places, instead exuding a relaxed and chilled out atmosphere.

You could spend most of the night perusing the dizzying array of drinks on offer. Whilst tea may not seem initially enticing, one look at the menu, which includes such delights as ‘Octopussy’ – a blend of black teas with vanilla, citrus and lavender, may have you change your mind. There are even teas to combat migraines, menstrual cramps and the flu so there is no excuse for a tummy ache or cold to prevent you from going out.

As tempting as the tea menu was however, I made a beeline for the cocktail list and enjoyed a particularly spicy and zingy Bloody Mary. Some gentle persuasion from Nas, one of the owners, steered me away from ordering a second and opting instead for an interesting sounding mandarin margarita. It was probably one of the best cocktails I’ve ever tasted. Made with freshly squeezed mandarin juice and with just the right balance of sweet and sour, it was quite simply, delicious.

On a roll, I decided to go out with a bang and ordered as my third and final cocktail of the night, the classic choice of 1980s chavs, a Pink Panther. Imagine. The humble Pink Panther has been promoted from student union rocket fuel to a bona fide cocktail. The mind boggles! The sickly flavour of blackcurrant mixed with cider and lager – inexplicably tasty – brought back recollections of precariously balancing plastic tumblers filled with the potent mixture whilst dancing disastrously to Martha and the Muffins. Before attempting to recreate these embarrassing memories I wisely decided I had had enough and should leave whilst my dignity remained more or less in tact. This was around midnight and the bar was getting lively and filling up with a mixed crowd who were drinking teas, cocktails, beers, wine and whatever took their fancy.

‘Something for everyone’ is a much used and often abused description but in the case of Brew, it really could not be more apt.

Brew, 30b Hippocrates Street, Nicosia, Cyprus, tel 22 100133. Opening hours: 11.30am – 2.00am weekdays, 11.30am – 3.00am weekends.

For further reading > https://grhomeboy.wordpress.com/2007/11/03/a-passion-for-tea-tea-for-one/


Touch of spice > building an appetite for a great cause February 29, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Greece, Greek Taste Local.
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29-02-08_gb.jpg  Restaurant with a view. The Grand Balcon at the St Georges Lycabettus hotel in Kolonaki, Athens.

Nothing like building an appetite for a good cause. Charity and gastronomy meet at the table next month, as “Food for Life” a culinary event at the Grand Balcon restaurant of the St George Lycabettus hotel, opens its doors on Thursday, March 6.

Taking place on Thursdays next month, the event brings a group of prominent, British and Britain-based food masters to Greece. At the Grand Balcon, guest chefs Atul Kocchar (March 6), Anthony Demetre (March 13) and Martin Wishart (March 20) will be preparing signature dishes for their Athenian diners.

Proceeds from all three exceptional dinners currently being organized will benefit charity organization “The Child’s Smile” for the construction of a new ward at Paidon, the children’s hospital in Athens. The ward is destined for the treatment of teenage cancer patients.

Britain’s culinary craftsmen have come a long way – steak and kidney pie aside. From the simplicity and nature-friendly take of the Naked Chef, aka Jamie Oliver, to the likes of haute cuisiniers Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsey, among many more, the art of cooking has fast become a booming business, a vast playground for big and small egos in state-of-the-art kitchens and a fountain of international culinary expertise.

Executive chef and director of the Benares restaurant in London’s upmarket Mayfair, Atul Kocchar became the first Indian chef to be awarded a Michelin star. Born in Jamshedpur in Eastern India, Kocchar began his career at the Oberoi group of hotels in India, before moving to London to open the Tamarind restaurant in 1994. Though based in Britain, Kocchar travels frequently to his homeland, researching ingredients and recipes. In Athens, Kocchar will present an evening of Indian colors and flavors, essentially a culinary marriage between traditional and more contemporary Indian dishes.

Chef and co-owner of Arbutus in London’s Soho, Anthony Demetre is also behind the hugely successful Wild Honey restaurant in Mayfair. Arbutus has been hailed as down-to-earth with value for money prices, voted Best New Restaurant by Time Out in 2006. Known for its British and Mediterranean flair, the restaurant’s top scores go to dishes such as braised pig’s head with mashed potatoes and caramelized onions.

Meanwhile Wild Honey earned a Michelin star only a few months after its inauguration and accolades such as “The kind of place that New York or Paris would kill to have. You can’t eat better that this,” according to Giles Coren of The Sunday Times.

While chef Demetre will be working on the food side, Ranald McDonald, director of London’s celebrated Boisdale restaurant and jazz bar will present diners with an exclusive selection of whiskies and Cuban cigars.

“Scotland’s next big thing, no question,” is how uber chef Ramsay talks about chef Martin Wishart. The Restaurant Martin Wishart situated in Edinburgh’s port of Leith, is a Michelin star awarded establishment for heavy-duty fine dining. At the table, the chef’s native Scotland meets gastronomic queen France, resulting in a contemporary Scottish take with a French twist.

St George Lycabettus Hotel, 2 Kleomenous, Kolonaki, Athens. For table reservations contact Joanna Evangellou at 210 7234435 and 210 7290711. Price per person set at 125 euros, including wine. For those wishing to participate in all three evenings, the price is 115 euros per dinner. All three evenings begin at 7.30 p.m. with cocktails and canapes. Dinner will follow at 8.30 p.m.

A passion for tea > Tea for one November 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Nicosia, Food Cyprus, Greek Taste Local.
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While most of us make it from a teabag, for one Nicosia woman, the quest for a perfect cuppa has become a lifetime’s adventure

Cyprus is a country renowned for its coffee culture, so the idea of a tea bar may seem somewhat strange. That hasn’t put off Gabrielle Duval though, who has recently opened Brew Lounge and Tea Bar in old Nicosia, which serves more than 24 types of tea.

“Cypriots associate drinking tea with being ill but I’m convinced that Brew will show that drinking tea is an entire lifestyle,” the 30-year-old said. “We have an amazing variety on offer, including classic teas from Sri Lanka, India, China and Japan to name a few, as well as herbal, scented and iced teas.”

She added that she is confident that Cypriots, “will embrace this new lifestyle that they’re not currently familiar with, much like they have done over the last decade with wine, with which we can draw similar analogies.” Duval explained that she has been a tea lover since the age of 18, “when I had to stop drinking coffee for medical reasons and needed to find an alternative.”

While studying in Toulouse, France, Duval discovered a quaint creperie, where the owner initiated her to tea. “This was the beginning of a journey which has been expanding ever since.” She said that she took the decision to open a tea bar in Nicosia, “to follow my passion, indulge in it and share it with others. This became urgent when I couldn’t find any decent tea to drink on the island.” When asked what her favourite is, she hesitated. “That is an impossible question as the variety is so great, with each tea having its own separate character. A different time of day and mood will dictate my choice.”

A teabag is how most of us will take the drink, but Duval said that the contents are the lowest grade of the leaf. “When the leaves are gathered and stored at source, all the leaves that don’t pass the quality requirements of the tea houses are ground together with the rest of the sediment to produce tea bags. Tea has been popularised and made available to the masses through a teabag, but it’s worth noting that it was considered a luxury item until just after WWII.”

So, how does one make the perfect cuppa? “There are certain basic rules and each type of tea has its own way of being brewed,” she noted. “For example, a black tea should be brewed with water of 95 degrees celcius for about five minutes, while green tea should be brewed at 70 degrees and should not infuse for longer than three minutes.”

A true connoisseur will not add milk or sugar, nor will they eat or smoke during a tasting. “The choice of tea pot is also important,” Duval stated. “For example, earthenware pots are ideal for many of the fragrant Chinese black teas as the tannin, the chemical compound, is absorbed by the pot, thus enhancing the next pot to be drunk.”

She also spoke of the drink’s health benefits. “Tea contains anti-oxidants, some are high in vitamin C, while most are diuretic. Some even have properties that lower the body’s temperature, which is great during Cyprus’ hot summers and highly beneficial when running a fever.

Brew also sells rooibos, which, according to Duval, is not technically a tea as it comes from the red bush plant grown in South Africa. “This contains no theine [caffeine] whatsoever and has become popular around the world with those who must eliminate all caffeine from their diet.”

Brew Lounge and Tea Bar, 30b Hippocrates Street, Nicosia, tel 22 100133.

Sampling a tea > We couldn’t leave without a tasting so Duval proceeded to make us an ‘Au Revoir’. The Chinese green tea is blended with traditional Moroccan nanah mint and naturally scented bergamot from Calabria and pepper from Madagascar.

Brew uses a water purifier as the water on the island can be very hard, Duval explained. She poured hot water over the loose leaves, which clearly unravelled and expanded as they absorbed the water, “which releases the flavour.” The contents were left to infuse for three minutes in a glass teapot. The taste and smell was quite minty, while I could also clearly detect the black pepper. I had never before tasted such an unusual tea but it definitely got the thumbs up. Delicious!

Galaxy BBQ > a grill with a view September 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Taste Local.
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Dining for business and pleasure

For decades, the Hilton Athens has been a favorite meeting spot for a business lunch or an after-hours cocktail. Since the hotel’s renovation in 2004, the top floor hosts the Galaxy BBQ in addition to the Galaxy Bar.

The idea of a BBQ is a smart one, keeping the preparation simple and providing a casual dining environment for spring, summer and autumn evenings. With superb views of the Athens Acropolis and the Athens skyline, guests at the Galaxy can unwind with a cocktail while the staff grills a juicy steak or some fresh seafood. Combined with a seasonal salad, this is Athens summer dining al fresco with one of the best views in the Greek capital.

The crowd at the upper floor is upper crust and the atmosphere is a perfect escape from city traffic and heat. The minimalist decor, with decking and marble pillars, adds to the relaxation factor. Finishing up with a post-prandial drink in the bar on plush sofas is a welcome detour before heading descending to street level.

Likewise, guests may choose a lighter alternative and linger over oriental finger food and a glass of wine at the bar while taking in the views of the city. Either way, the top of the Hilton is a welcome respite from summer in the city, and a perfect place to take a guest to talk business.

Galaxy BBQ, Hilton Athens, 46 Vasilissis Sophias Avenue, Athens, tel 210 7281000.

Pure luxury by the sea > a beach bar with a difference August 31, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Limassol, Greek Taste Local.
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In Limassol we visited a beach bar with a difference

Beach bars are a fun and practical idea. Designed to offer beach goers an alternative choice when it comes to refreshments, eating and above all relaxing, Larnaca, Limassol and Paphos all boast some impressive bars and cafes lined along the coastline. But whereas most are undeniably a convenience, catering for thousands during the day, there is a particular one that has focused on offering that much more. Cote D’Azur is one of those beach bars best described as pure luxury by the sea, with an utterly stunning decor and excellent service. You can enjoy a bottle of Crystal in an environment specifically designed for those who will enjoy experiencing Cannes in Limassol.

Situated on the main beachfront in Limassol, Cote D’Azur is relatively new to the beach bar mania, but nevertheless has managed to distance itself in that it offers the over 20s a relaxing and very bling experience from the moment you step in.

“We wanted to be able to offer people who have had enough of busy clubs and bars an alternative choice,” says the owner, George Paplomatas. “But it wasn’t just about giving them a spot to chill and relax. We wanted to focus on lavishness from our drinks to our cakes, plates and glasses.”

Indeed, once you’ve sat down, it doesn’t take a rich, experienced person to realise that even the service is different to what we’re normally used to. All waiters and waitresses are dressed as sailors, giving the whole ambience of the bar the illusion that you are heading out on a journey.

But it isn’t just the themed costumes; walking into the bar, you will notice that unlike other beach bars, there is no sand. The bar is positioned on a higher altitude than the water, which splashes up against the wall, allowing you really to feel as though you are set on a yacht. The scent of the sea, the light breeze, the shell-covered table lamps and the all-white decor just give that oomph, making it a truly remarkable experience.

Sitting down for a talk with George and his lovely wife, Sue, it’s difficult to imagine that before the bar was created, the 300 m² area was nothing but an empty field with a small 60s building. “A few metres right of the bar is one of the oldest and best fish taverns in Limassol and this was the preparation room where the toilets, showers and part of the kitchen area was,” says George. It has been renovated and is now Cote D’Azur’s preparation area.

Perhaps there is nothing particularly exciting about this fact, but how about a well situated at the basement? “I think it was used as a source of clean water back in those days,” he says. “But we found it very strange that despite being a few metres away from the sea, it actually contains fresh water!” Although it is not of any use now and has been sealed, it’s a rare finding.

Cote D’Azur operates during the day too, offering coffees, fresh juices, smoothies, milkshakes, Movenpick ice cream (one of the best ice creams in the world) and various scrumptious cakes. “The chefs and the whole staff are specifically trained to offer not only delicious plates of snacks and others but also to mind the decoration too,” George explains.

Having spent a small fortune on glasses, plates and other utensils, the couple wanted to be sure people with certain tastes and preferences would be completely satisfied. Having lived the experience, I’m pretty sure they will.

Cote D’Azur: Cafeteria open from Monday to Sundays from 11am to 9pm. Bar from Monday to Sundays until 3am but make a reservation to be sure. Oh, and dress smartly! Tel: 7000 5008.

Athens welcomes her visitors July 17, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Athens, Greek Taste Local, Hotels Greece.
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Are you looking for a hotel in a nice area of Athens as well as an authentic Greek place for food and entertainment?

In Athens, visitors can find traditional Greek, horiatiki, salad, ouzo and a comfortable bed for the night within a walking distance from the Acropolis. Everything a traveler needs, from hotels, food, entertainment and shopping to Museums and archaeological sites, is within walking distance of Syntagma Square.

The famous Syntagma Square is near some of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, such as the Plaka and Psiri, and most iconic attractions, including the Acropolis and the Herod of Atticus Theater.

For three-star hotels in the area, we recommend the Hotel Cypria, tel 210 3238034, www.athenscypria.com, which has Aphrodite’s Bar next door; the Arion Hotel, tel 210 3240415, www.arionhotel.gr in Psiri; the Athens Central Hotel, tel 210 3234357, www.centralhotel.gr, where select rooms have views of the Acropolis; the Hotel Acropolis Select, tel 210 9211610, www.acropoliselect.gr, which boasts Italian furnishings and art inspired by ancient Greece; and the Hotel Philippos, tel 210 9223611, www.philipposhotel.gr, whose modern rooms are steps from the Acropolis.

For dining out, our picks include the Plaka Restaurant, Kidathineon and Geronta Streets, Plaka, which specializes in Greek oven dishes; Paradosiako, an ouzerie at Voulis and Nikodimou Streets that prepares a curry-flavored sausage called soutzouki and a top-notch Greek salad; and Taverna Tou Psiri, 12 Aeschylou Street, which has one of the best lamb chops in town.

To hear Greek music, we suggest Perivoli Tou Ouranou Club, 19 Lysicratous Street, Plaka, or swing by a bouzoukia night club for a lively club scene.

Greece shares food and wine with the world July 11, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Food Culture, Greek Taste Local.
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After centuries of producing high-quality food products, the Greeks are ready to export them. And they want the world to know.

More than 200 journalists and buyers from around the world gathered on Crete, the cradle of Mediterranean cuisine, for Greece’s “culinary reveal,” if you will. The Greek word “kerasma” refers to the idea of offering tastes, sharing new experiences and communicating with others through food and drink. Kerasma is also the name of the organization that brought the journalists together for this week of feasting and learning.

The selection of Greek food and wine is incredible. Although feta is made throughout Greece, it is very different from the white cheese you buy elsewhere. In fact, a recent decision by the European market will ensure that only cheese produced in Greece can be called “feta.” Keep in mind that feta is only one of the cheeses Greece produces. Myzithra, kopanisti, graviera and manouri cheeses each has its own character.

And the wines they tried were a huge surprise. The Greeks have been sending vintners to France and Napa Valley for decades. And this has turned their wine production around. They now make some extremely noteworthy wines, which should be available in the U.S.

One highlight was visiting Greek women’s home kitchens to cook and learn to make traditional dishes, which we never see in the states. Greek food is often vegetarian friendly. This recipe for briam is a very fresh, oven-baked ratatouille of sorts with potatoes and fresh tomatoes. The potatoes soak up the wonderful olive oil and fresh oregano. Eat it with home-baked bread to soak up all the juices.

FIND THE RECIPE > Under our “Recipes” Category.