Please wait, the site is loading...

Travel

A Taste of Malta

by Amanda Statham
A Taste of Malta
Valletta

With a sprinkling of new Michelin stars and a thriving farm-and-sea-to-plate food scene, Malta’s rapidly becoming the gourmet getaway of the Med discovers Amanda Statham. 

Where is it?

This small island - it’s just 17 miles long and nine miles wide - lies south of Sicily in the middle of the Med and is punching above its weight in terms culture, cool hotels and first class restaurants.

What’s the accommodation like?

My base in capital Valletta was restored 17th Century palazzo Domus Zamitello, a Baroque boutique hotel of dreams, with 21 pretty rooms filled with white-washed antique furniture and enormous beds, a spectacular glass-roofed atrium and hidden roof terrace overlooking Valletta’s open-air concert theatre, Pjazza Teatru Rjal.

ION the Harbour
ION the Harbour

What did you eat and drink?

ION the Harbour (as in eye on, geddit?) is a scenic rooftop restaurant set above lux-urious Iniala hotel and one of five restaurants on the island to recently bag a Michel-in star. The city and harbour views alone are worth a gong, but it’s chef Alex Dilling (formerly at The Greenhouse in London), who took things supernova food-wise dur-ing his 100-day residency and secured the coveted Michelin award. Highlights of my seven-course feast included a delicate dish of marinated shrimp, caviar, ginger and creme cru, each tiny scoop bursting with flavour and a sublime araguani chocolate dessert topped with caramel-dipped sourdough.

Perching by a barrel table at Valetta’s oldest wine bar, Trabuxu, I tucked into cured meats, cheeses and a glass of rich marnisi from the island’s Marsovin Winery, while at legendary Caffe Cordina I indulged in a pastizz (think Maltese Cornish pasty) and people-watching al fresco. Lunch at Roots restaurant in Marsaxlokk, a fishing village famous for its fresh catch and colourful boats, was memorable. Delicious homemade bread with kunserva, a traditional Maltese tomato paste, then locally-caught lampuka cooked to perfection; think crisp, salty skin and soft, flakey flesh, accompanied by small roast potatoes and a glass of light, citrusy local plonk Ulysses Chenin Blanc.

Highlight was Diar Il-Bneit, a rustic bistro in Dingli on the island’s west coast where islanders flock for seasonal, traditional Maltese fare. Fried rabbit in garlic and white wine is a speciality, but fond memories of my pet rabbit saw me ordering snails fol-lowed by mackerel. The escargot arrived in an exquisite tomato broth with hints of rosemary and cinna-mon, so good I requested more bread to mop up the sauce. Two large, whole macke-rel then appeared, smothered in a tomato and vegetable sauce (the veg is grown a stone’s throw from the restaurant) with black olives on the side. The oily fish’s strong, salty flavour combined beautifully with the sauce and I tried but failed to polish off the immense serving.

What is there to do?

St John’s Co-Cathedral is dazzlingly opulent, think vaulted ceilings, floor-to-ceiling gold leaf-clad pillars, marble-inlaid tombstones and incredible art work, including two dramatic Caravaggio’s in the Oratory (the only ones he painted outside Italy). Venus statues discovered in island temples dating back more than 5000 years can be found in the National Museum of Archaeology, and don’t miss the noon salute from the battery of cannons overlooking Grand Harbour in Upper Barrakka Gardens. Outside of Valletta, I enjoyed St Peter’s Pool, a natural sea pool famed for its tur-quoise water and cliff-jumpers.

What do I need to pack?

Trainers, Valetta has lots of steps and cobbles, and a swimming costume as Malta’s measurements mean you’re never more than 15 minutes from the sea! Leave space to take home gourmets goodies like olives and tomato paste from Diar Il-Bneit’s deli.

Rooms at Domus Zamitello
Rooms at Domus Zamitello

Lasting memory

Strolling around the ancient city of Mdina feeling like an extra from Game of Thrones (some of which was filmed there!) then enjoying a glass of wine on the ter-race of the Xara Palace hotel built into the city’s ramparts.

Sainsbury’s magazine insider tip

Take time off sightseeing and buy a day pass to the legendary five-star Phoenicia Hotel (Queen Elizabeth II’s fave), which includes lunch and access to its beautiful infinity pool with incredible city views.

How to book

Rooms at Domus Zamittello from €149pn (£119). Ryanair flies to Malta from London Stansted from £34 return.

Don`t miss

We value your privacy

We use cookies to help give you the best experience on our site and to allow us and third parties to customise the marketing content you see across websites and social media. For more information see our cookie policy.

Cookie Preference Centre

Learn more about what each cookie category does and choose your settings (toggle right to opt in or left to opt out). Cookie policy


Strictly Necessary

These technologies are needed to enable our websites and apps to run and to keep it secure.

Sainsbury's Magazine

These technologies tell us how customers use our sites and apps and provide information to help us improve the website, apps and your browsing experience.

Cookie name Duration
PHPSESSID Until the browsing session ends
device_view 1 month
viewedRecipes 1 year
subscription-{popup-version-date}-PopupClosed 12 days

Vimeo

Enables Vimeo videos on the site

Cookie name Duration
_derived_epik 1 year

Constant Commerce

Enables shopping tools for recipe ingredients

Cookie name Duration
cc_a_h 10 years
cc_a_s Until the browsing session ends

DoubleClick

DoubleClick Digital Marketing (DDM) is an integrated ad-technology platform that enables us to more effectively create, manage and grow high-impact digital marketing campaigns.

Cookie name Duration
DSID 10 days
IDE 1 year
RUL 11 months

Performance/Analytics

These technologies tell us how customers use our sites and apps and provide information to help us improve the website, apps and your browsing experience.

Google

Google Analytics tell us how customers use our sites and apps and provide information to help us improve the website, apps and your browsing experience.

Cookie name Duration
__gads 13 months
gadsTest Until the browsing session ends
_ga 28 months
_gat 1 minute
_gid 1 day
1P_JAR 1 month
ANID 10 days
CONSENT 18 years
NID 6 months
__Secure-3PAPISID 2 years
__Secure-3PSID 2 years
__Secure-3PSIDCC 1 year

Marketing/Targeting

These technologies help us decide which products, services and offers may be relevant for you. We use this data to customise the marketing content you see on websites, apps and social media. They also help us understand the performance of our marketing activities. These cookies are set by us or our carefully-selected third parties.

Pinterest

Pinterest conversion tracking gathers conversion insights and builds audiences to target based on actions our visitors have taken on the site.

Cookie name Duration
_pinterest_ct_rt 1 year
_pinterest_ct_ua 1 year
_pin_unauth 1 year

Outbrain

These technologies tell us how customers use our sites and apps and provide information to help us improve the website, apps and your browsing experience.

Cookie name Duration
outbrain_cid_fetch 5 minutes
adrl 5 weeks
apnxs 6 weeks
criteo 2 months
obuid 6 months

Twitter

Twitter conversion tracking enables us to measure our return on ad spend by tracking the actions people take after viewing or engaging with our ads on Twitter.

Cookie name Duration
personalization_id 2 years
muc 2 years
ads_prefs 5 years
auth_token 5 years
dnt 5 years
guest_id 2 years
twid 5 years