Venus Restaurant in Bugibba

Let me start with the top. The best dinner we had during our Maltese week was in the Venus restaurant in Bugibba, the sea resort next to Qawra where we stayed, located by the St. Paul’s Bay, in the area where the man who is said to have given up kosher food for sea food shipwrecked around the year 60AD.  The menu is classical with a local twist, and it comes at very reasonable prices.

Venus - Minestra (vegetable stew)

Venus - Spinotta (bass fillet)

Venus - the desert

Maltese food is not spectacularly inventive. The local specialties seem to be at the intersection between closely geographic Italy and British imperial (and bad food) influence, using Mediterranean ingredients. You will get an olive-based spread with your bread as an appetizer, the Minestra (vegetable stew), Aljotta (the local version of bouillabaisse) or the rabbit stew if you ar adventurous as soups or main course. Fish is good (bass, grouper, red mullet) and probably preferable to the tourist level steaks. Pies or pastries filled with spinach, ham, anchovy, tuna, olives offer an alternative. The best deserts are based on dates and honey.

The Plum Tree

Le Beaujolais Noveau Est Arrive

A couple of other places were quite nice, the food was at least reasonable and the owners or waiters amiable and friendly. The fact that we visited the island out of season helped, none of the places was crowded, and the owners seemed happy to welcome customers. The Plum Tree in Qawra is one of these places, owned by a British couple, and decorated with stylish booze posters including classical Noveau Beujolais announcements from the previous century.

The Overflow

inside The Overflow

‘The Overflow’ is another such place, owned by a Brit named Clancy, who receives appreciation letters from customers and proudly displays them.

the La Valette red

I always try to explore the local wines, and I was guessing that Malta’s climate offers little excuse for local wine to be other than good. I was fortunate to have my hopes confirmed and to discover in the first or second evening a local brand called (what else?) La Valette, consistent, aromatic, and not too heavy, which made everybody at the table happy (even our beer drinker friends).

La Sorpresa

No surprise that the food at La Sorpresa was Italian. I do not remember much about it, but what I do remember was that they had TV sets all around and we could see Messi’s best game ever and Barcelona beating Arsenal 4-1.

The Golden Shell

Yes, we even had a Chinese dinner in Malta. The Golden Shell was located near our hotel, and the food was quite reasonable, as all the staff was genuinely Chinese.

Caffe Cordina - the chocolates stand

inside Caffe Cordina

Caffe Cordina

Located on Triq Ir-Republika (Republican Road) – the main street and topological axis of Valletta, the Caffe Cordina is one of the institutions of the principal city of Malta. While the street restaurant is routine tourist level, when entering the old building you get into a very different atmosphere – classy and elegant. The style and the chocolates stand reminded me Capsa in Bucharest.

food stand

No description of local food is complete without talking about the street food. This is however quite uninspired in Malta, and there is nothing special to talk about, no Belgian waffles, or Arabic falafel, or Greek gyro – maybe a variant of these here or there. The good looking sweet stands attract the tourists, which end by trying the local specialties which are variants of dates pastries, and Helwa tat-Tork which looks lesser than its Arabic halwa cousin and more like a sweet sugary mixture and sesame seeds that can come in various colors and flavors. I was not enthusiastic.

Kinnie

And yet, there is one local treat that I discovered only in the final days of the trip, and whose memory I took with me. Believe me or not – it’s a soft drink! It’s called Kinnie, looks like coke and tastes like a non-alcoholic Campari – a mix of herbs and orange flavors, absolutely charming. This is for me the taste of Malta.