Valletta has lots of restaurants in historic townhouses, as well as options with stupendous sea views. Ph...
This year, for the first time, the Michelin guide will recognise Malta’s richly diverse cuisine. This sunny Mediterranean archipelago was fought over for centuries, and each of its settlers brought new foodstuffs to the table, from the punchy pastas of nearby Sicily to Arabic flavours introduced in the middle ages.
Denise Briffa and Lisa Grech edit the local, survey-based Definitive(ly) Good Guide to Restaurants in Malta and Gozo, and recommend all visitors sample “pastizzi (flaky pastry stuffed with cheese or peas), ideal to eat on the go, at any time of day. Village bars serve them with tea in a glass.” Every town has a pastizzi hole-in-the-wall shop – and you can pick the pastries up for as little as 40 cents depending on location – but arguably Crystal Palace in Rabat bakes the best.
The islands also have superb bread, with all-night bakeries where locals queue up for fresh bread in the morning. Jonathan Cilia, food writer for Malta Uncovered, says: “When you want to grab a proper classic ħobż biż-żejt (traditional Maltese flatbread filled with olive oil, tomato paste, tuna, onions, olives, broad beans, capers and fresh herbs) you need to get to Buchman’s in Gżira. And of course, make sure you order a te’ fit-tazza while you are there. This is a small glass of black tea mixed with condensed milk, and is the essential accompaniment to a tasty morning ħobża.”
He also recommends “the carb-on-carb timpana (pasta pie), one of the most sought-out Maltese comfort foods during winter. Pasta in tomato sauce encased in pastry, it can be served as a pie, or in a square foil with a layer of crispy millefoglie pastry on top. For €2, it’s a total steal, and can be found all over the island in the traditional pastizzerias – two of our favourites are Premier Pastizzeria in Mosta, and Sphinx Pastizzeria in Żurrieq.”
It’s possible to visit local producers here, too, such as beekeeper Arnold Grech, who’s been keeping bees to produce honey for more than 65 years, or cheesemakers such as Ta’Rikardu on Gozo. You can visit the eerily beautiful salt farms on the Gozitan coast, where dried salt piles up like snow drifts.
Malta has a tradition of excellence in winemaking, little known outside the islands. Visit boutique wineries such as Ta’Mena or the San Niklaw Estate, where you can taste the fruity, full-bodied local wines. The islands’ biggest winemakers, Marsovin and Emmanuel Delicata, hold summer wine-tasting festivals in Valletta’s Hastings Gardens and Upper Barrakka Gardens respectively, with astounding views of the Grand Harbour to drink in as you try the wines.
Ed Lansink, also of Malta Uncovered, says his favourite restaurant right now is Hammett’s Maċina, across the harbour from Valletta, in Senglea. “They consistently serve excellent dishes with finesse, combining a blend of local and wider Mediterranean flavours with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, and the setting is unique: an age-old building that dates back to the Knights of St John.”
Seaside towns St Julian’s, Sliema and Mellieha are also great for eating out and drinking, with seafood specialists such as Barracuda, which occupies a grand 18th-century villa and has tables at the water’s edge.
Malta’s smaller sister island, Gozo, is renowned for its restaurants, with some highlights including Ta’Philip (St Anthony Street), with local produce and traditional Gozitan dishes, such as rabbit and suckling pig.
Marsaxlokk is another key destination on the Maltese culinary map. Businessman and creative Aldo Gatt, who’s better known as Gattaldo, from Valletta, enthuses: “On sunny summer days, I love nothing better than to head to the busy fishermen’s market in Marsaxlokk with family and friends to eat a simple meal of freshly caught fish – some of the restaurateurs are fishermen by trade and offer great no-frills meals right by the bobbing fishing boats.”
With a diet rich in fresh seafood and fish, local herbs and vegetables, and the local delicacy of rabbit, Malta has long been the unsung cuisine of the Mediterranean kitchen. Book a trip now: you’ll experience superb cooking in beautiful settings, and explore a culinary culture that resonates with centuries’ worth of influences and the joy of food.
With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, Malta offers more to explore