Maltese cuisine is an assortment of Mediterranean dishes that reflects the culinary influences of both the locals and the varied civilizations that occupied the islands through the centuries. The restaurant scene in Malta is eclectic with some eateries serving up local fare, and others offering their own take on Maltese specialties.
These five restaurants are great representatives of the island nation’s unique food culture.
Tarragon, St. Paul's Bay
Chef Marvin Gauchi started Tarragon in 2007 and in December 2013, it won nine awards at the Definitive(ly) Good Guide to Restaurants Awards.The awards included best restaurant in Malta, best food and best service. The young chef has designed the menu to include varied dishes. There is the soup of the day, different types of pasta dishes and some unique mains such as chicken, quail and pancetta roulade served with red currant port and rose petal reduction. Ingredients are locally sourced and many of the vegetables are especially cultivated for the restaurant.
They also have an impressive wine list and their accolades also include awards for People’s Choice wine list and best Maltese wine list. The restaurant has a sophisticated ambience with wood paneled interiors and large windows that overlook St. Paul’s Bay.
Located at Hastings Gardens, Valetta, Rampila offers a unique dining experience. A stone staircase, originally built in the sixteenth century, leads to the main dining rooms that sit cozily inside a tunnel with a fully domed stone ceiling. There are just about 20 tables and the atmosphere is warm and intimate. The unique layout is accompanied by a modern menu, which features an interesting mix of Mediterranean dishes including local Maltese specialties, rabbit, steak and fresh seafood. The wine list includes some carefully chosen wines that complement the menu. The wine bar also offers assorted platters that may be enjoyed on the beautiful terrace that provides stunning views of Valetta.
Fumia Restaurant, Valetta
Located in the basement of the Manoel Theatre and considered as one of Malta’s best seafood restaurants, Fumia offers classic Sicilian cuisine such as fresh fish baked in a salted dough crust, squid ink ravioli and different types of marinated seafood. There is also a comprehensive pasta menu featuring the daily catch of seafood from the local market. The dessert menu features classics like sorbetto al limone (lemon sorbet) and gelati di nostra produzione (homemade ice-cream). The wine list offers a selection of local and Italian wines. The vaulted dining room lends the place a classic ambience and there is a slight air of formality here as they have a smart casual or jacket and tie dress code.
Michael’s at the Civil Service Sports Club, Valletta
A family-run restaurant, Michael’s at the Civil Service Sports Club was started by chef Michael Cauchi in 2013. Although a recent entrant to the culinary scene in Malta, the restaurant has already gained popularity among the locals. The menu, which is a modern mix of Mediterranean cuisine, features freshly sourced seafood and vegetables from local markets and neighboring countries. A unique feature of this restaurant is the salad and herb stand. Desserts include homemade specialties including a crème brûlée trio of vanilla, chocolate and pistachio. A selection of Maltese wines serves as appropriate accompaniments to meals. Eclectic interiors, reasonable prices and a friendly environment make the place ideal for a family outing.
Ta’ Frenc, Gozo
Ta’ Frenc in the Gozo Island is an award-winning restaurant that serves up an impressive fusion of local dishes and French cuisine. They use fresh ingredients sourced locally and have their own herb garden outside the restaurant. Chef Mario Schembri is classically trained, but also well-versed in modern culinary techniques. He is especially known for his rabbit ravioli. The restaurant is actually an old farmhouse and is flanked by scenic countryside views. It also has a private dining room decorated with illuminated niches displaying antique Maltese and French silver and crystal decanters. It seats 22 people at a specially crafted long wooden table.
Other Maltese restaurants popular among locals and expats include Palazzo Preca in Valetta, which specializes in Mediterranean seafood dishes. Another popular haunt is The Overflow in Qawra, run by expats Philip and Theresa Bailey who serve up Maltese, Mediterranean and Italian cuisine, and also specialize in steaks.