Sea-front restaurants in Larnaka
As with everywhere else in South Cyprus, there are many places where you can eat out in Larnaka, mostly fairly inexpensively compared to Western Europe. The Finikoudes sea-front promenade hosts dozens of restaurants, with outside eating areas during the warmer months, where you can stop for a coffee or an ice cream any time, or have a meal. Most of them are generic restaurants designed for tourists, with a mixture of Cypriot and English food, generally accompanied by chips and perhaps a bit of salad. The quality is usually pretty good and the service reasonable. They’re good places to relax, to enjoy the view of the beach, and to stay as long as you like.
We haven’t been to most of them; we don’t eat out very often, so we’ve usually taken recommendations from friends rather than experimenting. A few times when we simply chose a place that looked nice, we rather regretted it: once because we chose to sit upstairs under a matted canopy roof, only to find little insects dropping on the table as the evening drew on! Other times we’ve found the menu to be rather too limited for our tastes. So, over the years, we’ve decided that our friends were right: the best place for Europeans to eat informally on the sea-front is Alexander’s. It’s near the fort end of the sea-front, often not as crowded with drinkers as some of the other restaurants nearby. It doesn’t even look particularly appealing at first glance: the chairs look like garden chairs, the cushions a little shabby, and the menu is colourful but dated, and rather tatty.
However.. the choice of food is very wide, the quality uniformly good, and the service usually excellent. There is standard Greek Cypriot cuisine (stifado, moussaka, various kebabs), pizza, waffles, pasta, salads and more. There are even at least ten vegetarian choices, which is unusual in Cyprus. Most items are accompanied by chips and salad, and the portions are good sizes. There is also a range of starters – mostly Cypriot specialities such as halloumi or tzatsiki – and, if you have room, various desserts including some sumptuous ice creams.
There is a standard wine list and drinks, although be warned that the prices for soft drinks are very high, rather balancing the good value of the food. Water can be bought to drink in bottles, or brought free in glasses. At Alexanders the bill is brought with the meal , and (as with most restaurants in Cyprus) service charge is included. A nice touch is that, at the end of the meal, the waiter will sometimes offer something on the house – usually coffee or hot chocolate, or perhaps a brandy.
At the other end of the sea front, and much more up-market, is Hobo’s steak house. The outside area is for drinks only, with the restaurant found upstairs. A lift (elevator) at the front takes you directly to the dining section. Hobo’s is much smarter than Alexander’s, and also usually quieter. The menu looks inviting, although there is not so much choice for vegetarians and the prices are somewhat higher. Service is good, though, and the atmosphere very pleasant.
Other restaurants in Larnaka
A little way behind the sea-front, almost hidden in a side-street is the Art Café, popular with Cypriots and a good place to go if you want something local that doesn’t have chips with everything! The Art Café features paintings of several genres on the walls – there is no outside area – and a feeling of home cooking, with old-style plates and a surprisingly limited menu that nevertheless usually has something for most tastes. Service tends to be slow, but the food is good.
If you want something spicier – and don’t mind paying a bit extra – Larnaka’s Mexican restaurant, Aztekas, is a little way out of the city, along the Dhekelia Road. It has outdoor seating in the summer, indoor in the winter. The food is all Mexican (or, at least, Tex-Mex) with chimichangas, fajitas, burritos and more, all with a choice of beef, chicken or vegetable fillings. No chips in sight! They have a good ice cream selection too, and often offer complimentary strawberry margheritas after a meal.
There is also an excellent Indian restaurant, Masalas, not far from Aztekas. They offer a wide range of authentic Indian dishes, with special offers for early diners on weekdays. Our only problem with Masalas is that there is almost nothing available for vegetarians.
Fast food in Larnaka
There are, as with most European cities, plenty of fast food places for fussy visitors who don’t like Cypriot food! Along the sea-front can be found McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut among others, and there are similar fast-food restaurants in other places around the city. Our personal favourite, however, is Souvlaki Express, on Fanouroumani Street. This sells Cypriot or Greek pittas filled with a choice of meat or halloumi, and quantities of salad. It’s more a take-away places than a restaurant, but there are a few seats outside for those who wish to eat on the spot. They also sell chips, and a few other items such as burgers.
A few things to note
Although South Cyprus is now part of Europe, and restaurants are supposed to have non-smoking areas, this is still very new in a country where smoking is very much the norm. Since the start of 2010, smoking is banned in all public buildings; this should include restaurants. However during the summer most people eat at outside tables where smoking is still permitted. By all means ask for a non-smoking table if you wish, but it may well simply be a corner that has smokers only a couple of tables away. We have found it best to eat early (most Cypriots have lunch about 2.00pm and their evening meal at 8.00pm or even later) so that we can leave before it becomes crowded.
It’s possible to book a table at some restaurants, although not everywhere has this facility, but not usually necessary. Service charge is nearly always included in the cost of a meal, so there’s no need to leave a tip unless you wish to. You won’t get just one waiter or waitress, usually, so any tip is probably divided between them all. They’re paid reasonable wages (for Cyprus) that don’t rely on tips – but if you do find exceptional service, a tip is always welcome.
Most restaurants in Cyprus don’t have a dress code, so you can dress as informally as you wish, within reason! Turning up in a swimming costume probably isn’t a good idea, but a tee-shirt and shorts – or jeans and a sweatshirt – is fine.