I've written before about our local taverna, Ta Kalyphouthkia. It's about 200 metres from where we live, tucked away in a residential area... so not the kind of place people would find easily, if out hunting for somewhere to eat.
While, as far as I recall, we have actually only once paid for a meal there ourselves, we have been treated there several times by guests wanting to take us out for a meal, and suggesting something traditionally Cypriot. A meze is the classic meal here, consisting of several dishes of food brought out a few at a time, including salads, pitta bread, olives, various dips, an avocado dish, mushrooms, scrambled egg with spinach, several varieties of meat, halloumi, pasta with cheese, tiny pastries with cheese, pourgouri (bulgar wheat)... and more. To finish with, there's even a small plate of chips (fries), and then something light and sweet. The selections vary slightly each time, but are always delicious.
One of the great things about meze is that you don't have to order one portion per person, if you're going with a group. There's a minimum order of two, but it's fine for four people to order just two portions; there's plenty of food, so long as appetites are not huge, and everyone gets a taste of everything. We have never yet managed to finish the entire spread; I rarely eat any of the meat as there are so many delicious veggie options.
Other tavernas and restaurants offer different mezes; some have more meat and fewer veggie dishes, some have fish and seafood rather than meat.
Two ladies who have been staying in our guest flat took us to the local taverna last night. As usual, we chose to go early - about 7.00pm - and, as we expected, it was entirely empty when we arrived:
The taverna is usually frequented by Cypriots, and they tend to eat rather later than Brits.
The dishes kept coming, but we didn't eat particularly fast; we were chatting and enjoying the food, explaining some of them to one of the guests who had not previously been to Cyprus. It was nearly nine o'clock before we left... and it was then that it struck me: the taverna was still empty.
That was not what we expected.
Every time we have been in the past, other diners have started arriving about eight o'clock. By nine, it's usually starting to get quite noisy and busy. But not last night.
Perhaps Monday night is always quiet; perhaps there were more customers later. I hope so. But my worry is that this may be a sign of things to come, with the austerity measures, and drastically reduced incomes for many around the island. It's not as if we eat out regularly, so perhaps it's selfish - in a sense - to want this taverna to remain open for the rare occasions when we might use it. But it's the principle of the thing that matters more: small shops are already being forced to close down, and it would be very sad for the future of Cyprus if small family tavernas are also forced to shut.