Homemade Traditional Cypriot Food at the Family Friendly Kantouni Tavern #review

Cyprus has changed during the decade I have been visiting the island. Sadly many traditional tavernas have been forced by the economic climate to cater to a certain clientele, fitting televisions onto ancient walls playing non-stop sport or Eurobeat music, offering English breakfasts and dumbing down their menus generally.

I get it - adapt to survive. Lucky there are still places to visit if you fancy a quieter, more authentic Cypriot experience.

Last night I went for dinner at one of the island's newest tavernas, Kantouni Tavern, at 7 Sygkrasis, Mandria. It's a converted supermarket can you believe but this is no concrete and steel box but a tastefully restored building which looks like it was once part of a farm.

Kantouni Tavern Mandria, Paphos Cyprus

Table at Kantouni Tavern Mandria, Paphos Cyprus

Outside gives little clue to the menu but since Kantouni has only been open for around a week I think maybe their signage hasn't arrived yet. Only a blackboard announcing what time they open in the evening and glimpses of tables inside plus a tantalising aroma from the kitchen reveals that this is in fact a restaurant and is open for business.

We even had trouble finding the entrance but helpful staff saw us hesitate and opened a door welcoming us in to the dining area which was nicely decorated with lots of homey, farm-house touches.

Kantouni Tavern Mandria, Paphos Cyprus

Kantouni Tavern Mandria, Paphos Cyprus

I spotted other diners reading pamphlet style takeaway style paper menus and was momentarily concerned that we had stumbled upon a kebab shop with ideas above its station but a glance at plates coming out of the kitchen and a quick survey of the menu was very reassuring.

Oh, that menu!

The owners have been very canny and created a menu featuring very traditional homemade Cypriot food alongside modern taverna classics. This means even the fussiest group can dine together.

I love it when you have to study a menu for ages because there are so many things which sound amazing you don't know what to choose.

If you want to eat like a Cypriot there's a huge choice including rabbit stew, lambs liver, Kleftico, cauliflower in salt water, moussaka, lountza, halloumi, a traditional spicy sausage called bastourmas, and beef Ttavas to name but a few.

There was also more common taverna fare including the island's giant pork chops, sea bream, calamari and pork or chicken kebabs served with pitta and amazing hand cut fries. There's a homemade pie section which includes shepherd's pie, perfect for ex-pats missing home comforts.

There's even a menu for children and the taverna's mission to serve only good quality home-made food extends to this so expect grilled chicken, fried calamari and pork kebabs rather than frozen nuggets and pizzas. Portions are generous!

My mum asked to try the house red wine which turned out to be a good (and generous) offering from the Kolios winery.

We were served drinks, our order was taken and we were asked how we liked our meat cooked. We were warned that each dish is cooked to order so this was not going to be a fast food experience. Good!

We weren't left to starve however as a giant bowl containing a colourful dressed salad was brought to the table along with a warm homemade bread.

salad at Kantouni Tavern Mandria, Paphos Cyprus

Apparently the bread is a work in progress with the chef working to a recipe from the owner's mum.

On the day we ate the bread was quite sweet, almost like a brioche, but more dense and textured with a hint of fennel.  It was so delicious it took all of our restraint not to devour piles of it risking having no room for the mains to come.

homemade bread at Kantouni Tavern Mandria, Paphos Cyprus

Mum had opted for one of the specials of the day, rabbit on the bone cooked with lemon, lemons presumably from one of the many heavily-laden trees which line the roads on the island.

Rabbit with lemon at Kantouni Tavern Mandria, Paphos Cyprus

You know when someone else meal looks so good you are kicking yourself for not ordering it? Yep, that was one of those moments. Her earthenware bowl was piled high with rabbit perfectly cooked to be moist and flavoursome.

I had ordered lamb chops, medium rare and they arrived with a mountain of crispy fries and a side dish of homemade Tzatziki which I had requested.  As the rest of the food arrived we smugly congratulated ourselves for risking one of our precious holiday nights at a new untested taverna.

Prices were a pleasant surprise - comparable to the other local tavernas. Think 10 Euros for a homemade Moussaka, 9 Euros for pork kebabs and 13 Euros for a mixed grill consisting of a range of  traditional meat dishes.

No Cyprus taverna review would be complete without mention of Meze. Kantouni offers a meat meze (minimum order two people) at 17.50 Euros per person which includes several plates of savoury dips, vegetables, fries, salad and a wide range of meat dishes.

There's also a mini-meze (14 Euros) and a vegetarian meze platter with cold appetisers and vegetable dishes with fries and salad. I haven tried any of these meze (yet) but hopefully they are as good as the other mains.

All in all, Kantouni Tavern gets a big thumbs up for atmosphere, quality, variety and price.

Kantouni Tavern Mandria, Paphos Cyprus

It's a shame that at present there is no outdoor eating area but it looks like the huge windows fold away to open up one whole wall while other doors and windows opened would offer a cooling through breeze in the summer. It's obviously the perfect place for cooler days slightly out of the main season.

It's a fantastic addition to the already impressive line-up in Mandria village, just a short hop by car or bus from Paphos Airport (and Paphos itself) where you can relax under a grapevine roof at The Klimataria Taverna (check out their enormous pork chops and mouth watering waffles!) quell your cravings for top quality fish and chips at the aptly name Fish and Chip shop (I recommend the garlic king prawns) and even get Asian-inspired food at Karma.  Another couple of Tavernas complete the round up.

Mandria village's establishments really have something for everyone now from bingo, karaoke and quiz nights for those who want that kind of entertainment to quieter evenings spent enjoying traditional food.

Kantouni Tavern Mandria, Paphos Cyprus #review

You can rent apartments and villas in the village and a regular bus service offers access across the island, or you can hire cars, scooters, bicycles or even mobility scooters easily online or locally.

I'd rather you didn't though - I'd hate to turn up to my favourite village in Cyprus and find I couldn't get a table at any of the best tavernas!

Disclaimer: I received no reward or recompense to review this restaurant. Views are honest and my own.