The dining scene in Valletta is making headlines lately. In my experience, Malta’s capital city can provide a better luxury meal, at a less expensive price, than most places around the world. Not that I need proof, but a recent Global Foodie Index for 2023 ranked 150 cities worldwide and placed Valletta at 16—higher than some of the planet’s most popular food cities, including Rome, Barcelona, Venice, Chicago, and Buenos Aires.
The list was compiled by blogger Asher Fergusson, who used resources, including the Michelin guide, the World’s 100 Best Restaurants list, TripAdvisor, and the cost of living database Numbeo, to develop a points system that allowed him to calculate an overall index for each city on the list.
Needless to say, I couldn’t agree more with Valletta’s place among the world’s top 20 “foodie” cities.
A reader might conclude this writer has lined his pockets with cash, free meals, and all doors opened to him. But it’s important that you know I have never received a single cent or favour for my writing. I write to express my individuality. I write what I feel is real and relates the virtues, and where necessary the blemishes, of the country of my birth, my pride and joy, one of the smallest and most beautiful countries in the world – Malta.
With that in mind, I must advise you that I don’t recommend specific restaurants, lest I be perceived as currying favour from specific restaurants, the government, or the Maltese tourism authority.
My Early Dining Out Experience
First, let me take you back 70 or so years when I was seven years old. My father Frank had resigned from the British Armed Forces and had become a schoolmaster and was later appointed as General Secretary of the Malta Union of Teachers, with its offices in Valletta.
During my school holidays, he regularly took me to his office, to keep me out of my mother’s hair and prevent continual litigations with my younger brother, Edward. Lunch was always a treat at one of the many aged restaurants he took me to, providing some of my favorite traditional Maltese dishes like fried rabbit, oven-baked chicken, Maltese stewed sausages, tImpana, and lampuk fishi, always served with a lashing of chips or roasted potatoes.
The menu never changed except for the lampuki fish season (between the end of August and the end of December), and other very singular occasions, such as Christmas. Keep in mind, this was an era when restaurants were run by workmen, for workmen. Taking the family out to lunch or dinner was financial impossible and inconceivable. The well-heeled had their palates fed by vastly expensive home cuisine and restaurants far removed from the riffraff.
Nowadays, head to Valletta and you’ll find it teeming with restaurants catering to all tastes, cuisines and budgets, from Indian to Chinese, Japanese, British, Italian, and, of course, Maltese.
Roast dinner served on a beautiful culinary board
My Maltese Stomach
My stomach is Maltese, and I want to keep it that way. I lived in Britain for 15 years but thankfully my late dear parents always prepared food at home, although occasionally we did experience a plate of fish n’ chips or mashed potatoes with deep-fried pork sausages. I also lived in Australia for a year and have travelled throughout the world. While I relish Chinese and Indian cuisine, at the end of the day, it’s my Maltese stomach and tastes that win out.
Traditional Maltese food is very basic, requires little preparation, can be cooked in abundance, is generally inexpensive, and requires only salt, pepper and a little chopped fresh parsley to enhance it’s flavours.
Fresh chemical-free vegetables are easy to find in Malta kitchens
The reason is very logical. For many hundreds of years, the absolute majority lived in poverty, struggling to maintain their families and daily existence. However, each Maltese family reared their own rabbits, chickens, and often pigeons in their back yards or on their roofs, and these were a source of meat and eggs.
These days when dining out in Valletta, there is a supreme and extensive choice, including, now, a handful of Michelin-star restaurants, if that appeals.
But rest assured you can’t go wrong with fresh slices of bread spread with olive oil and tomato puree covered in pepper and salt, or Maltese pastizzi (pastry shells filled with ricotta or mashed peas), as well as the other Maltese dishes that flavor my childhood memories.
Potato bake makes an excellent accompaniment to many Maltese dishes
BeSeeingYou In: Malta
Good to know: Five Maltese restaurants were awarded Michelin stars in 2022, and all retained their star status for 2023.
WOW! Factor: Not one city in Italy, a country revered worldwide for its cuisine, managed to better Malta in the aforementioned index.
Tip: A good meal in Valletta doesn’t need to be expensive or fancy.
Author Bio: Albert Fenech
e/mail – firstname.lastname@example.org
“The eye eats first”
The mouth eats the plate contents first before the food touches the mouth.