Posts Tagged ‘Maltese restaurants’

The usual New Year’s Eve dilemma … what to do!

December 26, 2011 1 comment

Left your New Year’s preparation plans till the last minute again? Paid an arm and a leg for a New Year’s celebration weekend abroad last year in a hotel that didn’t match your expectations and your budget? Bored of ‘to-ing’ and ‘fro-ing’ between friends’ house parties every New Year’s Eve?

Probably you thought about sweeping your special one away – or being swept away – for a cosy weekend in an exotic location or vibrant city. Or maybe you’re just one of those people who hates New Year’s Eve and all the fuss it brings and have resigned yourself to sitting on the sofa watching the celebrations on TV. If you’re a frequent business traveler, probably the thought of a stiff set menu in a decorated conference room at a hotel reminds you just a bit too much of that December office party or a formal business event. But you’re in a bit of dilemma. You don’t want to go away and you don’t want to sit home or go to a house party. And you don’t want to cook or hang out with a bunch of strangers. Maybe you’re in the mood for getting dressed up and spending but looking for that something special to splash out on.

Almost every hotel and top-notch restaurant offers a ‘special’ New Year’s Eve menu … ‘special’ in so far that they can justify a pretty steep set price because it is New Year’s Eve and because their staff have to sweat hard indoors instead of joining in the celebrations outside. Last week I struggled looking for a suitable New Year’s Eve dinner venue for myself and my husband. And that’s quite a bit of research as they are umpteen restaurants and hotels in Malta to choose from. Many menus looked great, some were new places I hadn’t been to and were on my “to see” list … but in the end, we settled on an ‘old’ favorite which holds special memories for us as it is where we got engaged, where the food and service is always good, and where we have spent many lovely evenings together – Grill 3301 at the Corinthia in St. George’s Bay, Malta.

Interior of Grill 3301: romantic atmosphere and stunning views.

My rationale: Why risk paying the same price somewhere else when you know what you’re getting. The menu at Grill 3301 with its focus on fresh and seasonal ingredients sucked us in like a magnet, combined with its large glass windows with panoramic sea views and professional service. The seven-course menu together with drinks for two people will set us back around EUR 180 – less than the price of a night in a good hotel in London for New Year’s Eve or a flight within Europe for one person. It’s not cheap but for a pleasant, hassle-free evening, it’s a good investment! I’m a sucker for the Grill’s beef steaks which are served on iron plates and accompanied with little saucepans for the side orders and a ‘soup ladle’ for your choice of sauce. There’s just about everything from the Kobe beef steak which will set you back around EUR 60 or, if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, there are simple pasta dishes for around EUR 10. Unfortunately, if you want to try their a la carte menu, you’ll have to go back another time because they have a seven-course set menu for New Year’s Eve, but one which is already making my mouth water.

“If you’re looking for a romantic dinner with exquisite food and unique atmosphere … and to give yourself and your loved ones a special treat for New Year’s Eve, come and celebrate with us,” says Antoine Zammit, restaurant manager, who’s going to be ringing in his fourth new year at Grill 3301.

New Years’ Eve at The Grill 3301 kicks off at 8 pm with a cauliflower puree served with mushroom salad and truffle oil. Next up is a seafood mélange with an interesting combination of limoncello jelly and caviar dressing, followed by wild mushroom risotto with grilled quail. For your main course, it’s going to be a tough choice between the Scottish Aberdeen Angus beef fillet or the red snapper/grouper plate. And, if you have a sweet tooth, you’ll be in heaven when you see there is a pre-dessert teaser, before the real dessert, which is not just one but an assortment of three – coconut cheese cake, passion fruit mousse and mango ice cream. All topped off with coffee and petits fours.

That’s bound to bring us up to midnight by which time, we’ll either be ready to hit the sack or jump on our scooter to finish off the night with a bottle of champagne on the bastions of Valletta, before hopping into bed and waking up in 2012.

More information on New Year’s Eve at Grill 3301, click here.


The “worst of” wining and dining in Malta…

“Worst seafood and pasta”: It’s got to be George’s Seafront in Bugibba. Lured by its fantastic view over the bay and the mix of international people inside, and a cheap menu, this place turned out to be a shocker. Can you really go wrong with bruschetta and bolognaise? Apparently, yes. The bruschetta looked like it was made out of the leftovers from the fridge with three pieces of tomato, four pieces of raw onion and some scrapings of what looked like the bottom of a jar of olives. The bolognaise wasn’t much better … the pasta was stuck together like glue and the sauce a gooey mix of meat and tomato that had probably looked better in a previous life. The frozen/tinned shrimps with garlic were worse again – on a bed of plain rice, the only flavor came from the garlic cloves. Still at EUR 4 for a bolognaise and EUR 8 for the shrimps, I guess you can’t expect much!

“Worst Asian experience”: I’ve eaten in Wagamama in Copenhagen(threw up one hour after leaving); in Dublin(my food was served cold and dry) and in Malta. Each experience just gets worse and worse. I decided in Malta to give it another chance and ordered the fried rice with chicken. For EUR 9 I got two meals of my choice as they had a buy one get one free offer. Good value BUT the dish consisted of eight pieces of chicken, some half-cooked onion, some corn and slices of peppers thrown in for a splash of color and not much else. Good for kids who have fun with the chopsticks and like eating something different than McDonalds.

“Most overpriced café”: Café Cuba is trying to be the “Starbucks” of Malta but it’s grossly overpriced by Maltese café standards. I love the décor and concept but it’s just not worth
the money. Expect a coffee and sandwich to set you back around EUR 8 while at most street cafes you can get a decent coffee and pastizz or cake for half the price.

Great view, nice spot, comfy seats ... lousy coffee!

“Worst cup of coffee”:  Without a question, the Radisson Blu Hotel in Golden Bay. A large pot of coffee-flavored water probably made with one teaspoon of Nescafé.

Twenty Two: up in the clouds ... in more ways than one!

“Most expensive cocktail”: Twenty-Two on the top floor of the Portimaso Tower
is trying to be Malta’s “sky bar” concept with a view. Unfortunately, it’s smoky inside, the drinks are overpriced and it feels more like Moscow than Malta. High yes, but I personally think the view at Valletta’s Waterfront is more impressive.

Note: These “worst of” tips are my personal opinions based on several visits to these establishments.

Related article:
The “best of” wining and dining in Malta …

The “best of” wining and dining in Malta …

May 24, 2011 4 comments

Tourists sometimes complain that the food in Malta just isn’t as good as in neighboring Mediterranean countries. Others are thrilled to see Italian favorites like pizza and pasta on almost every menu. Meanwhile, Anglophones, who like their home comforts, are always happy to see an English breakfast and fish and chips popping up here and there.

Tucking into the Seafood Tower at Grill 3301 at the Corinthia San Gorg Hotel. Most Maltese restaurants have a good selection of fish dishes.

Like any other place which has a heaving tourism industry, for every good restaurant there’s a not-so-good one. Stick to the tourist-beaten track and you’re sure to be disappointed. I’m referring to tourist traps like Paceville and Bugibba  … many restaurants here just don’t try hard as they know that their diners will come once and never return, regardless of whether they get good food or service … or not. (Of course, there are a few good restaurants in both places but if you’re not in the know, it’ll be like looking for a needle in a haystack to find a Michelin-star-worthy one.)

But what is good about Malta is that there is a restaurant for every budget, age group and taste. The challenge is to find them!

Over the past ten years, I’ve built up a list of my firm favorites to which I always return, found some that have become regular hang-out spots and tried some new ones that, for sure, I will never revisit.

My “best of” list:

Lupanara by evening. Romantic and secluded.

Best romantic spot: Lupanara is a cozy cellar-style restaurant/wine bar built into stone fortress walls on the waterfront in historic Vittoriosa. Intimate and atmospheric, it’s the perfect setting to enjoy a cheese platter and bottle of wine with your other half or close friends and family. It recently got new management so hopefully, nothing too dramatic will change.

Best value for money:  You just can’t beat La Cuccagna in Sliema for good food at a price that won’t break the bank. Unpretentious and “simple” décor and the kind of food you could imagine an Italian mama cooking up at home. Their avocado, ruccola and prosciutto salad, with bruschetta as a starter, come highly recommended.

Best hidden secret: Wedged in between a dodgy-looking Chinese restaurant and a rowdy bar, don’t be put off by the entrance to this restaurant, or by its childlike name. Snoopy’s serves up a great steak and has a cozy wooden seating area upstairs, a nice bar downstairs.

Gululu. A colorful twist on typical Maltese food.

Best to impress foreigners or visitors: Touristic? Maybe. Kitschy? Yes. But Gululu is a great place if you want to eat Maltese food in  lively and pretty Spinola Bay  … it’s the perfect
spot to bring foreign friends or visitors to taste Maltese food. Their selection of dips for starters are delicious.

Best view, regardless of the weather: This can be a thorny issue but, personally, I like Surfside on the Sliema waterfront. The food’s so-so here but they have a great choice of pizzas and pasta, all named after famous footballers. There’s a large sun patio on the roof, a side balcony, and indoors, large glass windows giving you a panoramic view of the waves crashing on the rocks underneath. An all-weather venue.

Best “local” hang-out: Peppi’s is a well-established and classic spot on the waterfront, a stone’s throw from Balluta Bay. From the outside it looks a bit like a kiosk but they have plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. The no-frills menu is basic but broad. Their pizzas – especially the Capricciosa – are well worth checking out, or, if you are a bit more conservative, their half-roasted chicken and chips are a safe bet. Friendly service, low prices and, if you’re a football fan, plenty of TV screens.

Best to cure indecisiveness: If you’ve walked up and down the seafront in Marsaxlokk ten times and still can’t decide on a seafood restaurant, why not try La Ruelle. They have all the usual fresh fish of the day, a good choice of seafood platters, classy water bottles and a nice rustic décor inside. Their wraps are also good.

Best café: Without a question, Mint in Sliema is my absolute favorite. The food display is always changing so even if you go there every day, you’ll never get tired of it. Great coffee, mouth-watering cakes and tasty lunches (especially their chorizo hot dog and quiches). There’s free wireless internet, some magazines and papers, and toys for the kids.

Best Sunday lunch spot: If you don’t know Marsascala you probably make a beeline for the waterfront like the tourists, but Tal Familija despite its more rural setting has actually some of the best seafood in town. Especially their seafood platter which they can customize according to your preferences. The perfect place for a leisurely Sunday lunch with friends or family. Outdoor seating, though, is limited.

Rabbit is pretty common on Maltese menus. Eat it as a sauce over spaghetti or whole.

Best “home away from home”: Feeling like you are sitting in your own home, Vino Veritas in Sliema is understated and cozy with a great selection of pasta dishes and friendly service. It’s good value for money and if you want something traditionally Maltese, their rabbit is supposed to be pretty good, according to the locals.

Best “trendy” spot: The flickering flames on the roadside on the Sliema waterfront mark La Rive, a great watering hole for after work drinks and casual dinners. Always attracts a young, professional and lively crowd right through the week.

Best view in Valletta: It’s got to be the tucked-away Café Deux Baronnes underneath the Upper Barrakka Gardens. The outdoor café has a great view over the Grand Harbour, super-friendly staff, a decent menu for lunch or just a coffee break and is much more reasonable than some of the cafes on the city’s larger squares.

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