It is not surprise to anyone that the main cuisine found in Malta is Sicilian. I didn’t realise that tours of Sicily could be organised from Malta, with only a 2-hour boat ride.
San Julian is busy at night and the centre of it is mostly packed with bars and clubs. Walking along the coast towards Selima takes you away from clubbing centrale and closer to simple restaurants with delicious food and beautiful views. As our days were long, we were casual restaurants, where locals would also go eat. In San Julian, there are 2 restaurants worth trying out: Barracuda Restaurant for fresh seafood and Piccolo Padre for Sicilian food. The latter is the one we ended up trying and we recommend going for the Maltese pizza – at least to share as a starter. The portions are generous everywhere in Malta. I had very fresh and well seasoned squid and couldn’t have asked for better!
Valetta is another lovely area to wonder around at night. It’s mostly pedestrian streets, with an interesting mixture of history and modern vibes. The architecture is beautiful and the old buildings are very well maintained. There are many nice corners and side roads with restaurants around there so take your time to walk and pick the one that seems most interesting. We decided to try out a local bistrot called Trabuxu . It has a really cute wine bar that also serves tapas style food if you’re not very hungry. The wine list is very interesting and Maltese wine was all we drank when we were out there. We loved every type we tried. We mostly went for white wines since it was really hot but it was a delightful surprise to us how tasty they all were. As full as we were, we still wanted to taste their food. We had a couple of starters and then shared a risotto for our main. The highlights were the gorgonzola croquettes to start with and the creamy artichoke and pecorino risotto as a main.
Xlendi Bay in Gozo is nice if you’re after a casual and simple area for dinner. It also has a beach but it wasn’t inviting enough to me. There are restaurants along the bay, all pretty casual that seem to serve very similar food. One thing I forgot most of the time is the fact that the Maltese are very generous with their portions and sometimes a starter would be as much as a main course for me. I was super hungry when we sat down and ended up ordering 2 starters, and 2 mains for the both of us. The ravioli was too big for a stater and too thick – the chef could have done with rolling it a couple of times. The filling was local goats cheese but it didn’t have as much flavour as I was hoping. The chicken salad was also big enough as a main but that’s what happens when you order and you’re too hungry! For our mains, I had grilled squid which was once again very fresh and perfectly cooked and Youssef tried the rabbit stew, a local dish served in most restaurants in Malta. I didn’t have the courage to try it, as I had rabbits as pets when I was a kid and I still refuse to eat them.
The highlight in terms of food for us was on our last night, in Medina. It is known as the silent city and you will understand why when you get there. Cobble roads, narrow streets, old buildings and lanterns lighting the city are what make it very charming in the evening. We were torn between 2 restaurants for dinner but I’m glad we opted for de Mondian in the Xara Palace, a Relais & Chateau palace in Malta. We were initially considering booking it for our trip but thought it would be too far from the beach and not worth it. After visiting it, I regret not booking it for a couple of nights. From the terrace of the restaurant, you can see Valetta, San Julian and and Mostre. The setting was peaceful and romantic and the food made it all so much better.
To start, we shared the Prawn Mousseline filled Squid Ink Ravioli, which was served with a piece of baked white grouper, black olive and lemon vinaigrette, baby pac choi, keta caviar and a fish emulsion. It sounds complex and possibly too much but it was perfect. The ravioli was so thin and the filling was flavoursome. Everything on the plate was very well balanced. It was all very promising for our next course. I chose the catch of the day, which was Maltese rockfish, served with mashed potatoes and jerusalem artichoke spread,
baby calamari, broad beans and asparagus and a fish and olive oil emulsion. Once again, perfectly well executed and balanced dish. Youssef opted for the lamb, which was so good that even a non-lamb fan would devour the plate (i.e me). It was roasted best end of lamb with a Moroccan spiced bread crust, barley stew with lamb shank confit, golden raisins and apricots, turnip purée and wilted kale, and lamb jus. If all that didn’t make your mouth water, I’m not sure what will! To finish it off, we shared the orange and Grand Marnier soufflé, the chef’s proud creation which was good but not my favourite. The starter and main courses set our expectations so high for the dessert and unfortunately, we were not as mind-blown for the finale. It doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t return and try the other desserts. The service was faultless, the food was delicious and the setting was perfect. Definitely a must visit when in Malta!