Malta Restaurant Review – Sunday 20th September 2015
We went to this restaurant, situated just off Bugibba Square, on Sunday evening for the first time. It seems to hold itself out as an above average venue with prices to match.
It has about 50 covers or so, mostly indoors. We sat inside and the room is attractively decorated with cement grey and white walls complimented by white tablecloths and white framed mirrors. It has a muted but classy atmosphere. It was full, so the ambiance was good and it generally had a warm and welcoming feel. The tables are quite packed in though, so you do feel that you are sitting a bit shoulder to shoulder with your neighbours. I felt slightly claustrophobic. The toilets were clean.
My overriding impression is of being rushed. There were four front of house staff and they all seemed keen (almost to the point of desperation) to serve us quickly. I guess they are trying to turn tables while they still have the chance this late in the season, but it didn’t make for a relaxed experience. I came away feeling I’d been in a race although, to be fair, it wasn’t as bad as being in a Chinese restaurant. The service was friendly and helpful, just a bit too full on.
The food was mixed.
LW had a starter of pea and broad bean risotto with salmon and preserved lemons. I tasted it and it was delicious and a welcome change from the usual mushroom or porcini risottos you normally find. She followed that with a whopping 400g rib eye steak which was good quality and cooked well. She ate about half of it and took the rest home for lunch the following day. It was served with sautéed potatoes and some very al dente broccoli and carrots.
I started with Thai fishcakes served with a chilli jam. They were okay but lacked the oomph or aromatic interest you expect from Thai dishes and I wouldn’t bother with them again. For my main I had a sea bass fillet on an olive mash. The mash was lovely. But the sea bass, which should have been the star of the show, was poor. The skin was limp and chewy. What a crime! The wonderful thing about sea bass is that you can so easily cook it with crispy skin. And its flesh was a little dry; it had been over cooked. And, sin upon sin, I found four very large bones in it. There is no excuse for that from a professional chef serving a smallish sea bass fillet. I’m sending the chef a virtual slapped wrist! For pudding I had dates rolled in pastry and served with honey and vanilla ice cream. Think fig rolls. But somehow they were bland and I actually added salt to bring out some flavour. (That’s not as silly as it sounds; think salted caramel.) Oh, and as someone who visits Sotto Zero fairly often for fabulous ice cream, I have to say Venus should source their ice cream from there rather than serving the tasteless white frozen cream they served me.
We had a pre-dinner drink each and a cheapish (€15) bottle of wine. With a tip it all came to €95. By Malta standards that is expensive, more than Lovage or Trabuxu or Mareluna and not far short of Tarragon. Was it worth it? No. But…., the ambiance is nice, and the menu a bit different, so they are getting some things right. Will I give it another try? Yes – if someone else is paying.