We had previously discounted Malta as more of a package holiday destination, however after seeing several magazine articles raving over the beautiful architecture, ancient historical sites and clearest seas in the Mediterranean we began to feel our preconceptions may be wrong. Further investigation revealed that Malta is also celebrated for its cuisine, influenced both by its proximity to Italy and North Africa, and its history of various European rulers.
Well if the food is good we don’t need much convincing, pretty soon our bags were packed and we were making the short 3 hour flight.
Here we share some our favourite restaurants, as well as the food and drink highlights of our Mediterranean adventure.
Housed in an old confectioners, this family run restaurant was our first stop on arriving in Malta. There is no menu, instead you are talked through a blackboard of the day’s specials.
We enjoyed a selection of antipasti, our favourite being little cubes of sweet marinated pumpkin, before a main course of gurbel al carbaccio – a local white fish baked in a paper bag with fresh herbs.
Margo’s serves ultra-thin pizzas with a focus on high quality, locally sourced ingredients, baked in a traditional wood-fired oven. We enjoyed The Maltese – Maltese sausage and thin slices of pork topped with marjoram, onions, fennel and sesame seeds. This was followed by a rich Valharona chocolate mousse, possibly one of the best we have ever eaten (and we’ve tried a few!).
A bustling restaurant in the heart of Valletta serving traditional Maltese dishes. We decided to be adventurous with a sea-urchin pasta dish and slow cooked rabbit in a rich wine sauce.
The best meal of the holiday. The food was so full of flavour you could easily have been eating in a Michelin starred restaurant (except for the slightly larger portion size). The service was fantastic and the menu featured a good mix of both Mediterranean and Maltese dishes. Here we tried aljotta, a fish soup similar to the French bouillabaisse, followed by belly pork and then a selection of Maltese deserts including sweet ricotta souffle, imqaret and fig ice-cream, all fantastic.
Etienne’s Kitchen and Yacht Lounge, Birgu
Set in a peaceful harbour a short ferry ride from Valetta, this restaurant offered fresh pasta dishes and amazing seafood platters.
Xpresso Cafe, Mdina
A great retreat from the baking sun, this cafe is set in a tranquil courtyard. Arrive early to get one of the tables on the bastion walls with views across Malta. We enjoyed a club sandwich with a chilled glass of white.
Possibly the best cakes in the world! We shared a piece of the moistest chocolate cake and a gorgeous orange and almond cake, accompanied by fragrant teas and stunning views.
Kantra Beach Club, Il Kantra
Apparently this was Brangelina’s hideaway when they were filming on the island and we can see why. The restaurant overlooks a gorge with turquoise waters, perfect for swimming on a calm day. There are sun loungers and parasols so you can easily while away a whole day here. The waiters were attentive and the food outstanding. We had mini bruchetta topped with tomatoes and orange, followed by a starter of stuffed pumpkin flowers and caponata, then linguine with sardines and wild fennel, beautiful.
Ta Rikardu, Citadel
The citadel is currently undergoing renovation, and so we had to find our way through scaffolding to this tucked away place. We climbed up an ancient spiral staircase to the roof terrace where we sat at a battered wooden table overlooking Victoria, the capital of Gozo. We had ravioli filled with sheep’s cheese and served with a rich tomato sauce, fresh parmesan and plenty of homemade bread and wine from the family’s own vineyard.
Drinks and snacks
A mixed platter allows you to sample some of Gozo’s specialities, including gbejna cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, capers, broad bean dip and mini water biscuits
Little pastries filled with spiced dates
The local beer, especially the refreshing lemon flavour
Mini pasties filled with either ricotta cheese or mushy peas, enjoyed by the Maltese for breakfast, or as a quick snack between meals
Strong coffee flavoured with cloves and aniseed, sometimes topped with an aniseed liquor
Crusty bread rubbed with olive oil, garlic and tomatoes, we particularly liked it topped with fresh tuna, capers and olives
Nougat and other sweet treats
Ubiquitous at village festivals and celebrations
If the food has evoked a desire to visit Malta then just wait until you see the sights in part 2 of our blog, coming soon!