During our five nights in Malta’s capital Valletta, we ate out and found food generally good and varied. However, portion sizes were huge, and we began sharing dishes, which with a bottle of wine and sparkling water, meant bills came to around €50 a night. We found service slightly underwhelming, although to be fair, service charges were never added or seemingly looked for. Our choices were down to personal recommendation or location.
Casa Sotto had a slightly out of the way location, and very limited outdoor seating on one of Valletta’s infamous sloping streets. At 6.30pm, we were lucky to get a table in the restaurant, which appeared to be a former tunnel with arched roof, and six small tables for two squeezed down each side. Pizzas were the speciality and although we’d not seen the size of them, opted for a shared Napoli, described as a Margarita with anchovies, and a mixed salad served with focaccia. It was a good choice, but the tiny table only just coped with the huge oblong pizza and salad bowl, so we kept our litre of Sicilian house wine and water under the table, and parked the oil, vinegar and pepper mill on the next-door table. By the time we left, the place was rocking and people without reservations were being turned away. It was one of our cheaper meals at €40, but I’d recommend booking.
Tico Tico offered Mediterranean mezze in Strait Street, a former sleazy strip now transformed into a trendy area, but as one of the narrowest streets in the city, it’s easy to miss. There were around half a dozen tables on the pavement but to combat the slope, pedestals were used to keep them level. We were going to sit inside the small bar, but it was dark, and with loud music and high tables and chairs, was more suited to a late-night drinking spot for youngsters. As it was still early, we had the pick of the outside tables, but it quickly filled up. The mezze menu wasn’t particularly cheap, and we assumed portions reflected this. Avoiding the rabbit bellies, we settled on two dishes: paccheri (pasta) with Maltese sausage, and anchovies on toast, along with a bottle of Spanish Albariño. Service was slow, but when it arrived, the food was excellent and plenty for two.
Eddies is a Maltese institution with a huge outdoor terrace, ideal for people watching. We used it a couple of times for drinks and enjoyed trying the local beer, Cisk, and Kinnie, a soft, fizzy drink brewed from bitter oranges and extracts of wormwood. We also ate there and over a predinner G&T, made the mistake of ordering two of my favourite mains because I couldn’t choose – fish and chips and lasagne. The fish was the star of the show, but two fillets even in fabulously crisp golden batter was a little too much. All around us pizza and pasta was being eaten as prices were reasonable and bookings were not required.
Cadena had a large terrace on the pedestrianised Merchant Street but seemingly little inside seating. Whilst we would have normally opted for the cheapest bottle of white, I splashed out €4 more for an excellent Maltese Sauvignon Blanc. Eating between 6.30pm and 7pm meant staff were not too busy, and our helpful waiter suggested having our shared salad Nicoise as a starter, and the calamari fritti to follow. The salad was huge and definitely enough for two, and the fritti crisp and golden. We finished with very good G&Ts, for the bargain price of €3.50 each, and watched as it got dark, tables filled up and people struggled to get served.
On our final night, we chose Sesame Dim Sum and Noodles Bar. It was not the best start when we weren’t able to sit at the table we wanted to, and then having got settled, we looked at the wine list. The cheapest white was an Italian Pinot Grigio at €24 with Maltese wine being significantly more. However, as it appeared to be the only Chinese restaurant in Valletta, we persisted and began with a happy hour G&T for €12.50 (2-4-1). We shared sweet and sour pork and chef’s noodles with chicken and dismissed a proffered side of rice fearing the portion size. The Pinot Grigio came in a huge ice bucket and as there was no room on the table, the waiter pulled up a nearby chair. The food was excellent, and the portion sizes just right, and it was a fitting end to our five nights in Valletta.