ITTN’s Shane Cullen along with 8 members of the Irish travel trade flew to the Maltese Archipelago.
The group travelled on a four-night trip to discover what Malta and the neighbouring island of Gozo have to offer the Irish traveller.
With direct flights four times a week from Dublin, it’s easy to get to Valletta. Island hopping to Gozo is easy with almost 24-hour ferries costing as little as €5 return, it’s worth making the trip to both islands.
Mġarr in Northern Malta
The group landed at Valletta International Airport and was whisked away to the village of Mgarr. This was a twenty-minute journey through the centre of the island to reach a family-owned and run restaurant called Verbena.
Verbena Restaurant in Mġarr
The menu at Verbena offers Mediterranean cuisine with a strong Italian influence. Fish, meat and seafood are all on offer plus there is a multiple-option vegan menu (for mains and desserts). The dishes are crafted with fresh locally-sourced ingredients. Plus, their ethos is to avoid pesticides and plastic packaging as well as encouraging local young farmers by using them as suppliers.
The restaurant is very reasonably priced (ribeye steak at €24) and house wines start from €14 a bottle. Remember to try their family-made limoncello which was deliciously zesty and fresh.
Maltese food is influenced by its multicultural background with strong ties to both Italian and Greek cuisine. Remember, Sicily is a short ferry ride from Malta. Seafood is prominent on menus while a hearty rabbit stew is the national dish of Malta. Unsurprisingly, The dishes are packed with fresh Mediterranean flavours.
OKA’s at the Villa
Oka’s at the Villa is located in the historic 19th-century palazzo, known as The Villa, in what is one of the oldest buildings in the Balluta area. The restaurant’s name was inspired by the famous oak trees overlooking Balluta Bay. The restaurant details that this symbolises “strength, wisdom and endurance”. Located above this place is the 5-star Malta Mariott Hotel & Spa which I have had the pleasure of enjoying on another trip and would definitely recommend.
Oka’s at the Villa offers both lunch and dinner menus with superb service and fantastic flavourful food. It specialises in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. In addition, it offers all-day dining with uninterrupted views of Balluta Bay across impressive terraces and gardens. Despite the exceptional standard of the dishes, the place is also family-friendly and reasonably priced (if you want to whet your appetite, browse the menus here). There was a great atmosphere in the restaurant with trendy music setting the chilled-out tone.
Balluta Beach in St. Julian’s
The restaurant is situated along a bustling seaside promenade in the town of St. Julian’s. This is a lively spot for tourists. For locals, it is a busy fishing harbour. The attraction for visitors includes the old-world charm and stunning architecture. There is an extensive array of shops, an abundance of fine dining and vivacious nightlife. Plus, it is a mere 20-minute transfer from the airport.
The restaurant veranda overlooks views of the clear waters of Balluta beach below with stunning old architecture along the horseshoe bay. The iconic, neo-gothic Roman Catholic church, Knisja tal-Karmnu stands out at night lit up in the evening sky.
If you are looking for a higher view, the hotel has a luxurious rooftop bar with stunning scenic views of the lively St. Julian’s too.
Don Berto, Birgu Waterfront, Vittoriosa, Malta
Don Berto has an abundance of character and charm with vaulted ceilings, sleek lighting and a stunning terrace overlooking the waterfront and marina in Vittoriosa. Serving very appetizing Mediterranean cuisine, this is a perfect spot to relax and enjoy fine food, and a calm ambience and watch as people walk the marina and luxury yachts cruise past. It is family-friendly too (so parents can relax or at least try). Proving hugely popular, it is busy with a great atmosphere so I would recommend booking a table.
For lunch, I opted for a pizza this time around which was fabulous. The fresh mozzarella melting and the waft of fresh garlic is still making my mouth water (pizza prices ranged from €9 – €14). Last time I went for my favourite, a rib-eye steak with grilled Mediterranean vegetables (rib-eye was just under €30). Portions are generous and your euro will stretch that much further. It was faultless and as I said last time, and say again, I would eat there again in a heartbeat.
Ta’ Betta Vinyard & Wine Tasting, Malta
Ta’ Betta is a high-end vineyard located in the heart of Malta. This is high-end wine. This makes the wine lists of all five of the Michelin-star restaurants in Malta (prices start at €40 a bottle). It has an elevated terrace with commanding views of the long leafy rows of vines, and olive and fig trees. In the distance, the Maltese countryside stretches to the coastline. Sitting in the sunshine sampling fragrant notes of various wines is an experience in itself. Thankfully you certainly do not need to be an expert to enjoy it. Equally, the staff won’t judge you for your knowledge of wine (or lack thereof).
More on the Maltese Archipegelo
ITTN’s Shane Cullen travelled to Malta as part of a four-night trade fam in conjunction with Visit Malta and Visit Gozo, spending two nights on the island of Gozo plus two nights in Malta.
For more on the ITTN & Visit Malta/Gozo fam trip or to watch ITTN’s Visit Malta & Gozo Webinar with Peter Green, check out: