Cyprus Secrets: Finding Fig Heaven

“Park in the monastery car-park across the bridge and walk back to our reception. We will arrange to bring your bags for you”.

I was already intrigued by the hotel’s concept; the guest rooms of Casale Panayiotis were once traditional homes and are thus dotted around the village of Kalopanayiotis on the Northern slopes of the Troodos mountains in Cyprus. We were making a leisurely journey towards the hotel and had stopped at Omodos village for a bite to eat. I was being tempted by yet more lace table settings (my collection will soon demand a new cupboard) when Marianna called me from hotel reception; was I confident of directions and did I have any special requests on arrival?

It was Sunday. Traditionally, this is when Cypriot families meet for lunch and the mountain roads were busier than normal as families gathered; several generations emerging from cars and heading into the tavernas. The mountains smelled of roasting souvla.

We arrived in Kalopanayiotis.

Casale Panayiotis                                                         Casale Panayiotis hotel

Casale Panayiotis

Weaving through the cobbled streets we entered through a wooden door into a courtyard where a staircase in the far corner led to our room.

Casale Panayiotis, Superior room

Casale Panayiotis, Superior room

Casale Panayiotis furnishings

Casale Panayiotis furnishings

I do love a hotel room with a fridge. We sank into the gloriously comfortable chairs on the balcony for a cold beer; I had no plans to move until dinner.

Casale Panayiotis

A few minutes walk away, the hotel’s Byzantino restaurant beckoned.

Byzantino restaurant, Casale Panayiotis

Byzantino restaurant, Casale Panayiotis

Byzantino restaurant, Casale Panayiotis

As expected the first item on the menu was the traditional Cypriot meze. Three of us were dining and first we opted to select and share a variety of appetizers. A plate of local breads and dips appeared as we browsed the menu, eventually plumping for Maratheftikos takos – feta cheese, tomato, olives and oregano served on a traditional rusk, Oven-cooked mushrooms stuffed with feta and anari cheese and the waiter enthused about the halloumi cheese with fig marmalade so that just had to be done. I opted for that and on first bite immediately decided against sharing. It was one of the best taste combinations I’ve ever had – the soft, squeaky and slightly rubbery texture of the halloumi cheese in a coating of a sweet, sticky fig glaze. The restaurant understandably guards its secret recipe for the fig marmalade though when the fruit drops with a thud from my fig tree this autumn, I’ll be heading straight into the kitchen to experiment!

Our main courses were just as good; between us we tried salmon, pork fillet and chicken breast. Really delicious. Earlier on, I’d had my eye on the home-made walnut pie or the Anarotourta (fresh anari cheese with sugar, cinnamon, honey and filo pastry) though we all had to bow out before dessert.

Walking back through the narrow streets, the only sound was the soft slap of our sandals on the cobbles. The rooms were cool and the pillows ‘gave’ so perfectly, I peeled back the case to make a note of the brand.

The sun was hot on the balcony next morning so we headed straight over to the kafeneio for breakfast. Below, in the valley, workmen were employed in creating a swimming pool and new spa for the hotel. I made a mental note to return.

Casale Panayiotis kafeneio

Casale Panayiotis kafeneio

My two chaps enjoyed a cooked breakfast plus cheeses and meats. There were cereals plus fruit, thick yoghurt, honey and walnuts. Meanwhile, I fed a continuous stream of bread into the toasting machine in order to gorge on more of that fig marmalade…

Read all about the hotel here plus the facilities and activities I longed to try but on this occasion, didn’t have time.

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