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Meet Stavros

Originally from Nicosia, Stavros came to the UK as a seven-year-old in 1956, when his father brought the family over to escape the civil war that left Cyprus split as it is today, between Cyprus and Turkey. A family portrait taken two days before they left the island hangs on the wall: “I’m the good-looking one,” he quips. “We were British subjects, but my father spoke no English and had no job, nowhere to live and five kids – it was a brave move.” The Stavrous settled in north London, and Stavros has lost little of his accent – a charming mix of Greek and estuary vowels – or his style. In his crisp, open-necked white shirt, smart waistcoat and flat cap, he’s the spitting image of the Greek café patron in the painting on the wall. “Every time my wife buys a new pair of shoes, I buy a new hat,” he says, adding mischievously: “I have a lot of hats.”

In the 1970s, he began visiting Cornwall with his wife and children. Later, he faced a choice: moving back to Cyprus, or to Cornwall. The decision was made, and after four decades in the construction industry, Stavros turned his attention to “giving something back to the community” via the food he loved.

The Newquay restaurant had been established for eight years when his thoughts turned to Falmouth. “Everyone said it was a good place to be, so I visited, and when I saw this location it inspired me.” Trade has been brisk since the grand opening in May of Stavros opposite the Prince of Wales pier, in the presence of the mayor and mayoress. Be sure to book, especially at weekends, which have seen a full house: “I can’t really ask for more,” says Stavros, proudly.

The two restaurants are deliberately similar in design, right down to a mural based on one Stavros saw during his last annual visit to Cyprus, and a specially commissioned copper clock made in his homeland. Both have 60 covers, including 20 outside in Newquay. The dishes are a mixture of Greek and Cypriot cuisine, incorporating Stavros’ personal favourites and those of the Greek Cypriot chefs he employs. “It’s healthy food. Fish and meat are mostly cooked on charcoal, with an accompaniment of traditional rice and Greek salad.”

Ask Stavros for his personal recommendation, and he points to the meat meze, which is a sharing meal of 20 dishes over four courses, from cold and hot starters, through fish and meat from the grill, with Greek salad, rice and pitta bread. It’s a social occasion for a minimum of two people, but the more, the better – perfect for family gatherings and friends. “It’s very Mediterranean,” he says. “The only difference is that in Cyprus, we’d eat it outside.”

There are plenty of traditional dishes to remind you of your favourite holiday destinations. Starters include houmous and tzatziki, calamari and whitebait, halloumi cheese and dolmades (stuffed vine leaves), saganaki with mussels or prawns; mains range from souvlaki (skewers) and sheftalia (Cypriot sausages) to a long list of Greek Cypriot specialities including the ever-popular moussaka and kleftiko (slow-cooked lamb). Still got room? Indulge yourself with a dessert: baklava, kataifi or simple yoghurt with honey and nuts.

Every customer gets a free drink of Ouzo or Metaxa Greek brandy. “If I’m in the restaurant, I like to meet people and have a conversation,” says Stavros. “It’s that personal touch – people talk about things like that.”

As I sit sipping sweet Greek coffee and swaying to Zorba The Greek, a customer tells me: “It sounds even better with some calamari,” adding: “The food really is very good.” An impressive array is produced for the photographer: kotopoulo Greco, fried chicken with mushroom and bacon cooked in white wine and double cream; pork chop marinaded in oregano and honey sauce; freshly grilled seabass; a luscious Greek salad and bowls of olives and dips, and some outrageously colourful cocktails. I’m heartily encouraged to get stuck in, and I can attest that the food is indeed “really very good”. I make my escape before being persuaded to drink an entire cocktail on work time; the staff are tucking in to ensure that nothing will go to waste. It feels friendly and familial, and above all, truly Mediterranean.

Copyright Stavros Restaurant 2018

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