Staying in Valletta we chose the boutique four-star AX The St John, which was centrally located in the pedestrianised Merchant Street and a stone’s throw from the sights and several bars and restaurants. The 17 rooms were located in a 17th-century former merchant’s residence, with supporting facilities like reception and the restaurant based in the 25 room, five-star Rosselli, a couple of doors down. We wondered if this would be an issue, but it wasn’t.
On checking in at the Rosselli, we were offered water, juice or prosecco by the concierge, Levan, who was dressed in the flamboyant style of Austin Powers with a pale blue velvet suit, and silk cream cravat. He invited us to sit and finish our drinks before taking us to our room and whilst chatting, we discovered he was Georgian. As we’d just returned from a tour of the South Caucasus, we were offered two further glasses of prosecco to take to our room. Despite staying for five nights this was the only time we saw him, so perhaps he was a figment of our imagination.
Room 405 on the fourth floor was large and well-appointed with a huge king size bed which could be made into two singles, each with their own duvet. There were bedside tables, lights and charging points and fancy overhead lights and air conditioning. The room was superbly equipped with large wall mounted TV, small desk with tea and coffee making facilities including a Nespresso coffee machine, complimentary water in a carafe, an empty fridge, wardrobe with robes, slippers, ironing board and iron, and two chairs. Five steps led up to another door and on looking at the fire escape plan, it appeared to be an interconnecting family room.
The bathroom was huge, but with a relatively small shower cubicle but the shower was easy to operate with powerful hot water. Toiletries were provided and towels were said to be changed only if left on the floor, and although we hung them every day, they were always changed. Although there were a couple of hooks, a towel rail would have been useful bearing in mind the amount of space, but it was very light and bright and there was a good hairdryer which could be plugged in next to a full-length mirror in the bedroom.
Breakfast, served between 7.30am and 10.30am, was a novel, if slightly impractical and overwhelming a la carte affair. There was a choice of freshly squeezed juices or smoothies, yoghurt served in a bowl, and assorted cereals. A continental selection followed, laid out like afternoon tea on a three tier stand with beautifully cut fruit on top, cheese and cold meats in the middle, with rolls and pastries on the bottom. Eggs were then available, and having been served a mountain of scrambled egg on my first day, we subsequently shared an omelette or had a poached egg. Speciality coffees or a range of teas were provided ad lib, but the piece de resistance for us, was a glass of fizz. At the beginning of our stay when the weather was unpredictable, it was served inside, but towards the end, we ate on the terrace.
Between the AX The St John and Rosselli, was the hotel’s Cheeky Monkey Gastropub with large pavement terrace. With an enticing happy hour with 2-4-1 cocktails between 2pm and 7pm, it also attracted non-residents. Prices were reasonable and as hotel guests, we were entitled to a discount of 10%, and often started or finished our night there.
There were two eating options: simple bar food, like burgers and fish and chips, in the Cheeky Monkey, or fine dining in the Rosselli’s Michelin Star restaurant, Under Grain. In the latter, the tasting menu would set you back €125 per person with an optional wine pairing at €75, whilst three courses on the a la carte menu were €95. Needless to say, we opted for a middle ground, and ate out during our stay.