Beyond the mainstream news and politics in the local press, there is rich, deep and layered amount of history buried in North Cyprus, and a similar amount of diversity.
I’ve set out to explore and tell stories about the latter, such as how a young Filipino woman came to be running The Academy, a pan-Asian restaurant that opened in the capital of North Cyprus seven months ago, and doing well with it, I might add.
“I have been here [in the TRNC] for 5 years, but my mother has been here for about 15 years. I think North Cyprus is warm and friendly,” said Patricia, the 21-year-old manager I was interviewing on a hot Saturday afternoon in Lefkoşa.
Patricia and her family hail from Manila, the capital and main port of entry to the Philippines, a country in southeast Asia on the eastern rim of the Asiatic Mediterranean. The Philippines is bounded in the west by the South China Sea; in the east by the Pacific Ocean; in the south by the Sulu and Celebes Seas; and in the north by the Bashi Channel.
“Most delicacies and food recipes across a lot of Asian countries are very similar, but the spices and food preparation are quite different. So, it is quite easy for me to prepare a Chinese dish,” Patricia smiled and explained.
“Oh, and my parents own the business. I only manage it,” she chipped in with another smile, just as I wondered how she was able to set up the business all by herself.
The entire cooking and food preparation process for the restaurant is handled by members of Patricia’s family – which ensures consistency each time.
Patricia tells me she also gathered some experience in customer service running an online food service business when she arrived North Cyprus.
The Academy’s extensive menu boasts of a wide range, from tempura panko prawns, to salt and pepper calamari, and sweet and sour chicken, black bean beef, beef noodles.
The 50-seater restaurant happily accommodates guests celebrating a birthday party, Patricia explained, which includes “a free birthday cake” from The Academy, as well as anniversaries, proposals and other special occasions.
The pan-Asian eatery’s diverse customer base includes locals, students and tourists from Africa and Turkey, and those from southeast Asia looking for familiar cooking.
“I feel like I get to show off and welcome my guests to my country with each meal I serve. So, I serve them well and treat them with the utmost respect, as though we were in my country,” Patricia stated.
If there was one important thing that stands out among all other qualities at the restaurant, it is The Academy’s hospitality.
“In my country, you must treat every guest well. It is in our culture” says Patricia.
It is important to note that Patricia is a recently graduated student with from one of the relatively popular universities in the TRNC, “with high honors” she adds with some pride.
At the tender age of 21, she already boasts a glowing academic qualification, a strong business acumen, and plenty of self-determination and drive. In all regards, Patricia is a highly impressive young lady – as impressive as the cooking and customer service at her family restaurant.
As for The Academy, its tasty food is matched by its affordability. In comparison to other Chinese restaurants in the TRNC, the menu is cheaper making it great value for money, especially for the portions they serve.
They also regularly offer combo meal deals, which is especially popular with students seeking affordable dining in the capital.
The Academy International Cuisine and Bistro Bar in Lefkoşa is open every day bar Sundays – see below for full details.
Essential restaurant details
Name: The Academy International Cuisine and Bistro Bar
Address: Atilkan Plaza Residence, Küçük Kaymaklı, İsmail Beyoğlu Caddesi, 99010 Lefkoşa, North Cyprus
Seating: one indoor room, with outdoor seating also possible
Opening days and times: open daily, Monday to Saturday from 12 noon to 11 pm
Vegetarian/Vegan options: yes to both – there are vegetarian options on the menu, and the restaurant advises that for vegan customers, dishes can be further customised for them.
Prices (£ cheap, ££ standard, £££ expensive): ££
Payment: the restaurant accepts cash, and all major debit, and credit cards
Website: not available, try the restaurant’s Facebook page instead: facebook.com/TheAcademyBistro
Tel/WhatsApp: +90 533 835 3074