Last month, was the first in my series on #CelebratingDiversity in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC), helping to unfold the lesser known, yet rich and deeply diverse modern cultural heritage of North Cyprus.
My explorations took me to The Academy, in the capital Lefkoşa, where I had the chance to tuck into some fabulous Chinese food while discovering the story of the Filipino family behind it (Celebrating diversity in the TRNC: The Academy – a great Chinese restaurant with excellent customer service, 10 July 2021).
I stay in Lefkoşa for the next chapter in my culinary adventures.
How many times do you find a restaurant proudly straddling three distinct cultures simultaneously and doing it well?
The complexities of preparing so many separate dishes, while paying homage to cultural authenticity is usually too much for most restaurants to balance, especially when they are also trying to combine profitability with longevity. Yet this is what El Sabor has successfully achieved for the last 17 years.
Their secret? This joint Portuguese-Turkish Cypriot venture boasts a menu spiced with delicious Spanish and Italian dishes, created and delivered by an Italian chef with a Turkish background supported by an equally diverse restaurant team.
This diversity has paid off in immense ways, as the restaurant has secured the hearts and pockets of not only the local community, but also international students, and even senior government Turkish Cypriot officials, who are not shy in declaring their affections for ‘Sabor’, as it is locally known.
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Whether for lunch or dinner, or some afternoon coffee and cake, or tapas, Sabor is a lively and popular place to visit. This earned customer loyalty has also been valuable for the restaurant in light of the pandemic, when other restaurants seem to be struggling.
“Online orders and deliveries have been particularly helpful”, says the manager, adding that “we are happy to deliver large portions of all fresh food”.
Nestled on a pedestrian square in the heart of the Old City, a stone’s throw away from Selimiye Mosque and other historic sites, El Sabor offers a welcome alternative to North Cyprus’ dominant kebab culture.
Sporting a 5-star rating, the restaurant’s extensive menu boasts a wide range of Spanish classics including Patatas Bravas, Tortilla Espanola, Alitas Picantes, Pan Con Ajo, and of course Paella, alongside a myriad of pasta options, from spaghetti to fettuccine.
Steak is a big part of the offering too, and for those that drink, the restaurant is famed for its sangria, and also has a decent selection of wines.
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The Mediterranean ambience of El Sabor moves beyond any one of its individual identities, fusing elements of Turkish, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian not just on the menu, but also the contemporary international music that serves as the soundtrack to our meals.
Pre-Covid the restaurant seated up to 300 people, though it’s more like 100 people these days due to the social distancing measures. It’s currently open all day, every day bar Sundays – see below for full details.
Essential restaurant details
Name: El Sabor Restaurant
Address: Selimiye Sokak, Lefkoşa 99010, North Cyprus
Seating: indoors with large outdoor seating area also available
Opening days and times: open daily, Monday to Saturday from 12 noon to 11 pm
Delivery and takeaway service: both available – see below for link for online and telephone orders
Vegetarian/Vegan options: yes, both options are on the menu.
Prices (£ cheap, ££ standard, £££ expensive): ££
Payment: the restaurant accepts cash, and all major debit, and credit cards
Website: not available, try the restaurant’s page on Mr. Order instead: www.mrorder.com/Sabor
Tel/WhatsApp: +90 392 228 83 22