Home > Malta > More than just rabbits and rocks

More than just rabbits and rocks

Seafood Towers, local Maltese wines, restaurants carved into rocks, English breakfasts and steaks for 60 Euros – just some of my gourmet adventures on a recent trip to Malta, renowned for its rabbit stews, rocky cliffs and British colonial history.

Well, during a recent vacation in Malta, aside from enjoying an English breakfast or two, some touristy pasta and pizza joints, I found some cozy local restaurants in Malta and enjoyed some great meals with first-class service.

Secluded and romantic

View of the Lupanara wine bistro

The first is a real hidden gem – and when I say hidden, I mean hidden as it’s literally carved into a wall of rock without any sign of a name or menu hanging outside. The only giveaway is a few scattered tables and lounge seats perched on the quayside. To find it, you pass the Birgu waterfront’s marina on the left hand side and the Vittoriosa casino on the right hand side before you reach what seems to be a dead (and dimly lit) end of the street. But venture around the corner and walk around the water’s edge to the other side and you’ll discover the Lupanara (www.lupanarabistro.com) wine bistro. I liked it so much that I’ve been back several times – with friends for a cheese platter and bottle of wine and once for a romantic dinner with my fiancé.

The cuisine at Lupanara is a mix of everything from seafood dishes to cheese and ham platters – modern European food with a local flair – and with a great selection of local and international wines. It’s a classy but understated place where you hear nothing but the quiet murmur of voices around you and the occasional lapping of water, with the rocks illuminated as a backdrop behind you. Prices are very fair – a bottle of wine, two coffees and two main courses will set you back just EUR 46.

Steaks and seafood towers
If you’re after a decent steak or an assortment of seafood, check out the newly opened Grill 3301  at the Corinthia Beach Resort in St. George’s Bay. There’s a pretty nice view over St. George’s Bay and the Dragonara Casino – regardless of whether you are a sun-starved tourist who wants to sit on the rooftop to soak up al-fresco dining or if, like the locals, you prefer to sit indoors in air-conditioning (which might leave you stepping outdoors to warm up!!). No matter where you sit, you’re guaranteed a view!  

Tucking in to the Seafood Tower at Grill 3301

And then there’s Grill 3301’s house speciality, the Seafood Tower – a three tiered mountain of seafood where you’ll have to get off your chair to see what’s on the top. On the bottom there are clams, langoustines, mussels; on the second layer you’ll find shrimps, swordfish carpaccio, octopus and on the top lobsters. It’s perfect as a shared starter or main course and with some champagne. 

Then comes the tough decision of choosing a main course; unless you are like one member of our group who only eats chicken, then your choice is narrowed to the corn-fed chicken. But if you have your eye on a steak, it’ll take a while to decide if you want rib-eye Kobe beef, a fillet of grass-fed Aberdeen Angus, or, what I opted for – the porterhouse 600g Charolais steak. If you think selecting your meat is the toughest choice, then you have to choose between Madagascar peppercorn, organic mustard or Stilton cream sauces which come served in a cute little saucepan with a miniature soup ladle. If you’re neither a steak, seafood nor chicken lover, then there’s plenty of pasta and risotto dishes. As a crème brulée fanatic, I savoured every mouthful of my dessert, finishing up with a coffee and Baileys.

Dinner here can be pricey – a steak can set you back anything between EUR 19 and 60 – but in today’s recession-hit climate, Grill 3301 has been smart enough to also cater for those on a smaller budget. The pasta and risotto dishes start from EUR 8.50; and there are set menus including starter, main course, desert and coffee for around EUR 30 per person all in. This means it pretty much covers everything from a business dinner to a romantic meal to a group get-together … and with impeccable service.  

When in Malta, do as the locals do
If you head further south in Malta, La Favorita in Marsaskala offers great seafood in a relaxed unpretentious atmosphere and is popular with locals. Other locals recommend the waterfront seafood restaurants in Malta’s main fishing village, Marsaxlokk.

So, after a great vacation, my conclusion is that if you are ever in Malta, don’t be put off on your first day by the McDonalds and pizza signs and “so so” pasta dishes in the touristic haunts. Like anywhere, there are plenty of great restaurants around, just be a bit adventurous and get off the beaten tourist track. If you don’t have any locals to ask for advice, check out the survey-based guide called The Definitive(ly) Good Guide to Restaurants in Malta & Gozo which lists the top 150 survey based restaurants in Malta & Gozo.  

 

 

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  1. July 18, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    If you like cosy restaurants and wine bar, I would also suggest Rampila Restaurant and Wine Bar in Valletta. It is situated opposite St John’s Cavalier. Its entrance is not very noticeable. On entering this restaurant you find yourself in a historical building built by the knights of St John, the dining room has a vaulted ceiling and its open terrace is within the city’s bastion embellishments. It also features a ‘museum’ with moving figures depicting life in Malta in the olden days. This restaurant offers Maltese/Mediterranean food or you could simply indulge in some maltese dips and platters and a good bottle of wine. Its worth giving it a try when visiting Valletta!

    • July 18, 2011 at 9:25 pm

      Thanks for the tip! Actually I have been there once before a year ago and thought it was great. Definitely also worth a review!

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