Occupying a small yet stunning stretch of the central Mediterranean, Malta’s beauty and allure is largely unrivalled. With a sublime setting, access to the finest produce and a country-wide fervour for food, the nation has cemented itself on the global culinary map.
In April, the Michelin Guide released its second edition for Malta, lauding five of the country’s best dining destinations with a Michelin star. FOUR takes a closer look at these national gastronomic treasures.
Nestled in the winding narrow streets of Lija, Bahia is located within an old restored townhouse built in the heart of the village more than 200 years ago. Using skills developed in some of the island’s best kitchens, Bahia brings innovation and respect for ingredients to the fore.
Named after a type of orange prided by the people of Lija, the restaurant aims to honour Malta’s culinary heritage while presenting contemporary and creative cuisine made with the highest-quality produce. The latest menu, titled History in the Making, pays tribute to Malta’s past. Selecting eight of the most significant historical periods, the team – led by executive chef Tyrone Mizzi – has created a collection of flavourful and striking dishes that can be enjoyed à la carte or as part of a degustation menu.
“Since the restaurant opened nearly five years ago, our main goal was to give our guests the best possible experience we were capable of,” says Bahia’s owner Colin Ciantar. “Today, that mission remains one of our core values, and getting recognised with a Michelin star for that is very satisfying. Over the years we’ve learned a lot from our guests. We recognised early that customers enjoyed our attention to detail throughout their journey with Bahia, and this is what we dedicate the most time to.”
ION – THE HARBOUR
ION – The Harbour is luxury hotel Iniala Harbour House’s chic rooftop restaurant. With its privileged position on St Barbara Bastion, this design-forward venue boasts unrivalled views of the fortified walls to the Grand Harbour and Three Cities beyond.
Presenting a fine-dining experience that ventures beyond the usual boundaries of haute cuisine, ION – The Harbour received a Michelin star in the Michelin Guide Malta 2021 within less than six months of opening. From the ambience to the service, food and wine pairing, every aspect of the ION – The Harbour experience is carefully thought out to ensure that guests’ senses are continually surprised and delighted.
Changing daily, the dinner menu offers a four-course à la carte experience embellished with wondrous surprises along the way. Each dish is conceived from the most unlikely ingredients, chosen based on the ever-changing availability of produce and transformed into a culinary marvel.
Situated at 211 Republic Street, an address that has been synonymous with food, hospitality and entertainment in Valletta for more than 250 years, Noni is a haven for gourmets and history enthusiasts alike.
Diners can relish a slice of the capital’s history right from their seat, admiring the venue that has undergone numerous changes over the years – from a residence to shop, popular jazz bar and, now, an acclaimed restaurant. Although the interior has been skilfully reimagined with modern decor and finishes, the building still retains various elements from its past, such as the stone vaults, cast-iron doors and apertures, and a centuries-old oven.
Led by award-winning chef-owner Jonathan Brincat – whose own nickname is ‘Noni’ – the restaurant offers an unparalleled fine-dining experience set in a warm and informal atmosphere, where great food meets exceptional service. After working in the kitchens of five-star luxury and gastronomic establishments in Malta, Jonathan moved to London to work under Michelin-starred chef Gary Hollihead at the Corinthia London. Upon returning home, he opened Noni, where he now serves tastefully reinterpreted Maltese dishes accented with classic French touches.
Tucked away in Valletta’s Merchants Street is Rosselli – AX Privilege, a restored Renaissance palazzo housing Under Grain, one of Malta’s finest gastronomic gems. To the backdrop of the restaurant’s elegant vaulted cellar, diners are invited to delight in executive chef Victor Borg’s France-inspired cuisine.
Only five months after opening, Under Grain became one of Malta’s first Michelin-starred restaurants. Amid an ambience of informal luxury, the restaurant brings its flair for reimagining tastes and textures through bold cooking techniques to life. With a philosophy focused on creativity and attention to detail, the ever-evolving seasonal menus feature premium quality ingredients prepared using innovative cooking methods. Maximising flavour by enhancing the natural taste of hand-picked seasonal produce, while presenting its colours and aromas at their sensory best, lies at the core of Under Grain’s cuisine.
THE DE MONDION RESTAURANT
Located within The Xara Palace Hotel Relais & Châteaux in Mdina – Malta’s old capital – de Mondion boasts some 180-degree views of the island. Within the walls of a converted 17th-century palazzo, the restaurant realises its philosophy of offering diners unforgettable experiences. This notion is carried through every detail, from the initial dish inspiration to the final preparation and the accompanying wine pairings, selected from its 500-bottle- strong cellar.
Seasonality and the use of local ingredients where possible guides de Mondion’s menu, which has both à la carte and multi-course tasting options. The restaurant also has its own garden on the property, where it grows and experiments with different vegetables, herbs and fruit.
“As a chef, I am always on the hunt for new techniques and ways to present local produce whilst allowing the main ingredients to shine,” says chef de cuisine Kevin Bonello. “An example of this is the Mtahleb snail ragout, which is a signature dish at my restaurant. This was a recipe that my mother used to serve us as kids that I refreshed. I made it more suitable for the times while always being mindful of showcasing the local snails that have a truly unique flavour and texture.”
Find out more about Malta and its spectacular offerings at www.mta.com.mt.
Images © Bahia; ION – The Harbour; Brian Grech; De Mondion