Holding a large plastic paddle above a vat of soon-to-be halloumi cheese, Loulla Efthymiou explains, in Greek, the one important ritual that must be observed before the next step in the cheesemaking process.
“She is making the sign of the cross,” says tour guide Demetra Argyrou Viguier, as Mrs Loulla (as she’s known) slides the slotted paddle into the white curds (a blend of goat’s and sheep’s milk), slicing vertically then horizontally, before plunging in and churning the solid mass into chunks, ready to be strained.
Working 365 days a year, Mrs Loulla has been producing halloumi and anari cheeses at her farm in Choirokoitia since 2004, using techniques learned as a child. And people come from miles around to stock up.
Tucking into thick slices of the deliciously salty finished product, I can see why. Sitting at the dining table in the adjacent farmhouse, I’m treated to a wonderful spread of the famous cheeses, along with chunks of cucumber and tomato, tangy green olives, crusty bread, and homemade lemonade. Over lunch, Viguier tells me about the fascinating history of Cyprus.
Prior to 2020, the country welcomed four million visitors a year, who were responsible for 20% of the country’s GDP. Now, the half-dozen cruise ships visible from the balcony of my sea-view room at the Parklane Resort & Spa in Limassol are a glaring sign of the times.
Instead of ferrying holidaymakers around the Mediterranean, these vast, empty vessels have been floating idly for more than 18 months.
But things are looking up. The popular Parklane is back up to 90% occupancy, but the spacious hotel, part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection, never feels overly crowded during my stay.
Opened in 2019, it’s the kind of resort you can check into and forget about the outside world. With facilities including a 14-treatment room spa (plus hair salon and barber’s), a well-equipped gym and yoga studio, tennis and five-a-side football courts, five restaurants, three swimming pools, and a wide stretch of black sand beach, there’s very little reason to leave.
The latest addition to the dining line-up, Mathis By The Sea, is my idea of culinary heaven. And one of world-renowned Swiss chef Reto Mathis’s two signature ingredients happens to be my favourite: truffle.
I start my sensational meal with a potent truffle-infused vodka cocktail while munching a crispy pizzette topped with cream cheese and truffle. The main is a veal truffle burger and a side order of truffle fries.
After dinner I hop in a taxi and head into Limassol old town for more cocktails at Gin Garden, a courtyard bar overlooked by the grand façade of a church, entirely lit by candles and fairy lights.
Exploring on foot the next day, I find more evidence of Cyprus’s multicultural heritage. Greek Orthodox churches and Islamic mosques rub shoulders with ornate neoclassical and baroque buildings. Bright-yellow former Royal Mail post boxes, repainted after independence, are dotted throughout the streets, and there’s eye-popping street art.
On the famous Zik Zak street – a narrow, pedestrianised alley – trendy young Cypriots sip coffee at outdoor tables and listen to rock music.
Nearby, a newcomer to the Limassol foodie scene has brought a century-old building back to life. Previously housing the city’s municipal market before it fell into disrepair, Agora reopened in 2020, populated by more than a dozen food stalls doling out Chinese street food, tacos, sushi, salads, burgers, pasta, pizza, gyros and more. The success of the project is a testament to how Limassol – and the country at large – is finally on the road to economic recovery.
Sunseekers from all over Europe are flocking back to their favourite holiday destination – or, like me, discovering it for the first time – and food is a big part of the draw.
From home-made halloumi to fine dining and international eats, Cyprus offers cutting-edge gastronomic delights while still retaining a melting-pot magic that keeps regulars coming back for more.
Cyprus is one of the oldest wine-producing countries in the world. With a history stretching back 5,000 years, Commandaria is one of the oldest in the world still in production. And today, there are more than 50 wineries dotted around the island where you can taste what was once hailed “the gift of the gods”.
Parklane Resort & Spa (marriott.co.uk) room rates start from around £232 per night, including breakfast.
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