Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Captain Haddock and The Spuds from Mars

Despite my Andean heritage, I am not one to get turned on by spuds. I certainly appreciate hand-cut, crispy and discerningly salted French fries, but more often than not potatoes on my plate are pushed aside like sucked-on olive stones. So when I set out to track down The Rock's premier fish and chips joint—one positive remnant of eighty years of British colonial rule over the island—the chips were the least of my worries.

Lambros' "gazebo" in Dhekelia
Whomever I asked for pointers on lightly battered, perfectly fried fish sent me in the direction of the sovereign British base of Dhekelia in southeastern Cyprus. Figures, no? Overlooking a beautiful bay, home to the Dhekelia Leisure Centre, you will stumble upon Lambros Fish & Chips, arguably The Rock's best eatery of its kind and, if you ask The Wife, Ph.D., one of my many obsessions. On hot summer days, sun-kissed people pack the dark beach below and children waddle through the minute waves that wash ashore. I already envision weekend excursions with The Wife, Ph.D., and Little Miss Despot to stake claim on a few sunbeds and umbrellas and, come lunchtime, take away a few large servings of deep fried haddock and a bottle of Cypriot white to devour by the sea while the daughter swallows sand as if it were Beluga caviar.

Haddock fish and chips
There's nothing fancy about the restaurant. There's a nondescript indoor area and, across the pedestrian walkway, a large rectangular "gazebo" that skirts the seaside and seats most patrons. The furniture is made of durable plastic, and a few annoying feral cats hang out under the tables and pray for a morsel of seafood to fall from the heavens. Even though the menu includes all sorts of goodies (the souvlakia, which I had once, is quite good), their pièce de résistance is rather obvious if you peruse other people's plates. Haddock, cod and plaice are your options and there's plenty of vinegar to douse the fish with. On my last visit, I tasted both the haddock and cod, ultimately preferring the former for its fishier taste and flakier texture. If you like a meatier, less briny meal, definitely go with the cod. What's the money, though, is the batter—light, airy, crunchy, and with hardly any signs of the oil used for the deep fry. The crust is thin so you actually taste the fish and not just greasy, thick dough as in other lesser versions of this English classic. Not sure what's their secret but it makes it worth the momentary arterial shock.

2012 Ayioklima Xynisteri
If you're not a purist and opt to stray from the classic pint of KEO to match your meal, the wine list is basic but good enough to chance upon a decent bottle. The 2012 Ayioklima Xynisteri by Constantinou Winery, for example, had going for it a very subtle fizz and pleasant aromas of citrus and tropical fruits such as pineapple and mango. Otherwise, there's the always reliable Kyperounda Petritis, one of few Cypriot Xynisteris that ages, and a few of the island's vibrant rosés.

With that said, next time you're at Lambros, look out for an overweight Ecuadorian cholo, wife and sand-covered kid in tow. Stop by, say hello and please help yourself to my fries.

Whine On The Rocks' Rating: 4 out of 5 Sparkling Spatulas

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