Malta the jewel of the Mediterranean! Introducing my favourite watering holes and foodie hotspots!
Updated: Apr 17, 2020
After 40 years of travelling to the stunning Mediterranean island of #Malta I’ve grown to love it like a second home. I honestly can’t tell you how many times I’ve visited now but it has to be upward of 💯😃
The food of the Maltese archipelago is delectably delicious, and the local Maltese wines are absolutely divine, which I can well and truly vouch for 😆
As Malta is becoming increasingly popular as a short break destination and so very accessible thanks to an influx of low cost carriers, I thought I’d share with you my favourite foodie and watering holes on the island. There are a plethora to choose from, so the choice can be a little daunting for first time visitors. I hope my suggestions and recommendations help, I can truly vouch that all are very well tried and tested 😀
Here we go, in no particular order......….
First up is..........
George Borg Olivier St, St Julian's, Malta
Monday to Friday - 10am–11pm
Saturday and Sunday - 9am - midnight
☎️ +356 2311 2361
U Bistrot is a fairly new find, but what a find it is!
Nestled on the corner of the beautiful square at picturesque Balluta Bay, and sat just beneath the newly refurbished Le Meridien St Julians Hotel now rebranded as the Marriott St Julians. It’s a cosy establishment, but it also has the added benefit of a small number of pavement tables where you can while away an hour or so over breakfast, or a leisurely lunch, watching the world go by.
We visited on Christmas Eve, without a table booking but the manager was absolutely super and with some jiggling, managed to squeeze us in at 8.30pm. Marvellous! The restaurant was full when we arrived but the same guy who squeezed us in greeted us with a big smile.
The full menu was available as well as a festive menu, which was absolutely scrummy! Gluten free and vegetarian options are available for anyone with special dietary needs. We decided to share a couple of starters, and I’m so glad we did, as the portions were plentiful and even a little too much for the three of us.
We chose a pot of garlic mushrooms and bruschetta with garlic - both delicious, and they came accompanied by a lovely complimentary basket of warm Maltese bread with a divine homemade aubergine spread. We coupled the food with a crisp perfectly chilled bottle of local Medina Sauvignon Blanc, at a very reasonable price which was also very easy to drink 😁
For mains, I ordered the truffle artichoke fettuccine pasta special from the festive menu, Mum the sea bream special, and Dad the gammon and turkey special again from the festive menu. There is an open kitchen which I absolutely adore to see, everything cooked fresh and nothing hidden. When our meals arrived we were knocked out at the presentation, quality, taste and above all the again the huge portion sizes for the price! Silence is always a great judge of a meal in my opinion, and for the first few minutes you could have heard a pin drop at our table! Then we all simultaneously exclaimed, wow, mmmmmmm, oh boy this food is incredible! We enjoyed every morsel, what a wonderful chilled way to start our Christmas.
Don't you just love their tag line too? "It's all about U" Warmly clever! U Bistrot is now a firm favourite in my list of eateries and I really can’t wait to try out their summer menu later this year.
The Plough and Anchor Bar
261 Tower Road, Sliema, Malta
Monday - Closed
Tuesday - Friday 11am – 2pm, 6pm – 1am
Saturday - 6pm – midnight
Sunday - 11am – midnight
☎️ +356 2133 4725
The Plough and Anchor, or Guys Bar as we know it, is pretty special!
It’s our local pub, and a firm favourite, so much so my mum has a summer stool and a winter stool in there 😆 and its owned and ran by our dear friends George and his son Jean. It’s located at the St Julian's end of Tower Road which is the promenade that stretches all the way from Sliema to St Julians, and is just next to The Carlton and Plaza Hotels.
It’s also advantageously just a short stroll from U Bistrot! Exiting the restaurant you will see a beautiful church to your right, that’s where you need to head, past the church turn the corner and at the end of that row you will find The Plough and Anchor, it’s literally a 10 minute after dinner slow stroll, or a five minute power walk depending upon how thirsty you are 😆
The name Guys Bar originates from when George’s Dad the late great Guy ran this fabulous watering hole. (You can see a photo of Guy next to me in the photo below) In the back room, there’s a wall full of memories, featuring photos of the good times had here by the various patrons over the years, and yes we do feature 😅
If you love or are intrigued by anything maritime, and are partial to a rare whiskey served with a smile then this is absolutely the place for you!
The bar opened its doors way back in 1978, and I think my parents found it circa 1980 😁 Bearing in mind I was only 10 then, it took me a wee while to sample any of their wares 😆 For a petite pub there is nothing that the Plough and Anchor doesn’t stock, they have a staggering 56 optics, and on top of that have everything from tummy settling Fernet Branca, Frangelico liqueur, Aperol Spritz, a large selection of local and foreign beers and local wines, oh and an even more staggering 200 whiskeys to choose from! 🥃
I know from experience the huge range of drinks George and Jean offer as when I eventually reached the age to be able to partake in their wares, I decided to try out all of the bottles I had never heard of 😁 and there were a lot 😆 which has now led to my love of Campari and Passoa ❤️
Another major plus is that all of the drinks are extremely reasonably priced too! The Plough and Anchor attracts an eclectic mix of customers, from fellow tourists, to millennials who are more than happy to travel across the island to enjoy the rare spirits on offer, to the locals of all ages who adore it. There is one TV which screens the more popular football games, and the music is really cool too, all classic pop and rock. It’s not unusual to witness a little dance off taking place when the pub is really busy, to which I have been a party to from time to time 😆🙈
You can take a stool at the bar, our favourite place to sit, or take one of the comfy tables, plus there are an additional two tables outside if you want to watch the world go by or have a cigarette. Like us, the Maltese have adopted the no smoking inside rule.
Honestly you’ll love it in here, I promise, I can’t tell you how many evenings we have laughed and smiled and danced away the hours in here, it’s our first stop as soon as we land 😊
Oh and before you leave, remember to check out the glass cabinet next to the door as you can pick up a Plough and Anchor T-shirt to proudly wear (as my Dad does) as a memory of happy times!
136 Archbishop St, Valletta, Malta (a 1 minute walk from Grandmasters Palace)
Monday - Thursday 12–11pm
Friday - Sunday 12pm–1am
☎️ +356 7905 2522
We’ve popped into this little English watering hole in Valletta for years, long before it became “famous”.
It’s located in the centre of Malta’s capital city #Valletta, a previous European Capital City of Culture and is our local here when we visit. A trip to Valletta wouldn’t be the same without a pint in “The Pub”. Yep you did indeed read that right, a pint 🍺 As you all know I’m a fizz girl but it just isn’t fitting to have anything other than a pint in here. Once you visit, you’ll understand why!
You can find The Pub nestled on Archbishop Street which is a cut through linking the main shopping street Republic Street and Merchant Street. Historically it’s a favourite with the navy who dock mere steps away in the magnificent Grand Harbour and the armed forces. I once spent a very moving and humbling Remembrance Day Sunday in here, reminiscing with retired English military personnel, and those still in service, it is one of the most memorable afternoons in my life! Mainly because they got me really sloshed and I had an early morning flight the next day which was ever so slightly painful, but so well worth enduring the pain for, for all the new friends we made and the brave tales we were told 🥴😆
Inside there is an abundance of service memorabilia and a huge signed Union Jack adorns the ceiling.
Ok, so how did The Pub gain it’s fame?
Well...........it was the very last watering hole of legendary British actor Oliver Reed who at the age of 61 died in the corner following a massive alcohol binge in 1999 whilst filming Gladiator on the island!
In fact you can purchase a T-shirt which lists his fatal last round of drinks, my Dad and Gene both have them, they’re legendary. On his last night on this mortal coil, Ollie downed over eight pints of lager, twelve double rums and half a bottle of whiskey, and won an arm-wrestling contest against a number of members of the British Royal Navy crew from HMS Cumberland, insisting on paying for their entire round. Which leads me on to share with you one of Oliver Reeds famous quotes on alcohol “I don’t have a drink problem,. But if that was the case and doctors told me I had to stop, I’d like to think that I would be brave enough to drink myself into the grave” 😱 Rather prophetic eh?
The walls of this simple bar are now covered in pictures, newspaper clippings, and impromptu tributes to the late great Mr Reed. Neat fact, The Pub is listed at number 5 on MSNBC’s list (an American cable news channel) of the top ten legendary bars around the world. How awesome is that! Other bars included in the top 5 are the legendary Harry’s Bar in Venice and the infamous Blind Beggar in Whitechapel London, (another pub where I’ve spent another memorable afternoon with my Mam but that’s another story 😆) this is where London gangster Ronnie Kray shot rival George Cornell as he sat at the bar. Making number 5 in amongst such prestigious company is an awesome achievement. You will often find people all vying for the opportunity to sit in the infamous spot, to take a photo with an arm around an imaginary Mr Reed.
Along with various local and foreign beers, you can partake in a nice glass or two of local wine, or one of the many spirits available. The toilet is located upstairs, prepare yourself, remember this is a bar heavily frequented by servicemen 😁 But I think it’s actually one of the coolest parts of this bar in my eyes and adds another layer of character.
There are also a number of high tables and stools outside as inside again is rather small, there are only 4 tables and a couple of stools at the bar.
Even without the fame this was always an awesome little bar, for me a highlight of any visit to the capital, and please do remember “Dogs are always welcome, people are tolerated” 😆
Next a little hidden gem...........
Bottegin Palazzo Xara at the L’Isle Adam Band Club
19 Triq San Pawl, Rabat, Malta
Monday and Friday- 11am - 11pm
Tuesday - Thursday 9am - 11pm
11am - 11pm
Saturday - 8.30am - 11pm
Sunday - 8am - 11pm
☎️ +356 2145 4538
Fortified Mdina is a #UNESCO World Heritage site and the old Capital of Malta, it truly is a must for anyone visiting the island but in peak months gets ridiculously busy. What most people don’t realise is that neighbouring Rabat is equally as beautiful but being just off the beaten tourist track, provides a more relaxing and authentic experience in comparison to the hustle and bustle of Mdina with its increasing tourist groups and cantering Karozzins. It’s literally only a very pleasant five minute stroll away from the gates of Mdina and the bus terminal.
It’s here in Rabat that you will find, enchanting narrow winding streets, full of traditional buildings all displaying the most colourful and spectacular Maltese balconies. There are also age old statues, and the most magnificent churches! Additional attractions include the Wignacourt Museum, The Catacombs and St Paul’s Grotto.
Firstly I think I should explain the history and importance to each parish of their band club. Band clubs form an essential part of the Maltese festa culture. Since the sixteenth century, Festas (feasts) and processions in honour of each villages patron saint have been accompanied by a band, which these days is a full brass band. (For more information on a village Festa please read my blog My first visit to Malta
Whilst under British Rule Malta was hit severely during WW2 and suffered extreme hardship. Its during this time that the band club was established so more prosperous members of the community and business community could help to provide musical instruments for those who couldn’t afford them but were keen and willing to learn and play and instrument during the parish Festa's.
Today each parish has its own band club which forms an important part of community life, know locally as 'Il-Kazin tal-Banda,' the clubs are a meeting point for parishioners, a little like our social clubs.
You could very easily pass the L’Isle Adam band club which houses the rather special Bottegin Palazzo Xara. It’s located on the same side as St Joseph’s Church a little further up that road heading towards the Church of St Paul. It’s located on the corner and you can’t miss the beautiful blue balconies.
When you enter its just like stepping back in time to an older, simpler, and more glamourous era. The interior is breathtakingly classically beautiful, and you will be greeted by the mellow sounds of jazz playing softly. The food in here is super and can be a little quirky at times, I once had a delicious hamburger soup, it was sooooo good! The menu is varied, and extremely reasonable. There is something for everyone, but if you aren’t feeling overly peckish the dessert cabinet is amazing which you can couple with one of the many teas and coffees on offer. Gluten free and vegetarian options are available too as well as options for the young ones.
On my last visit I chose the prawn and lemon risotto - it was mouth-wateringly tasty 😋 My parents chose good only fish chips and mushy peas, which both enjoyed immensely, crispy batter and hand cut home cooked chips, what’s not to love eh. We washed this down with a lovely chilled bottle of one of my favourite local wines, La Torre Girgentina - a refreshing off dry white with aromas of pears and melons and a sweet floral undertone, it’s unusual, but heavenly. Well, they do say in Malta “The world is fine as seen through wine” 😁
I truly encourage you to give this restaurant a try, you’ll love the food, the extremely friendly service, coupled with a wonderful ambience, and you will leave with a warm fuzzy feeling ( no that’s not the effects of the wine 😆 ) and memories which I promise will stay with you for a long, long time.
Next up, drum roll.....................
The Sun in Splendour
Ross Street, St Julians, Malta. (Just up from Portomaso Marina)
Hours - open from lunchtime until the early hours.
☎️ +356 2137 3387
The Sun in Splendour is a British pub which you can find in St Julians, just steps away from the Hilton Hotel and Portomaso Marina.
Our good friends Donald, Charlie and the whole team here are just awesome, service comes with the biggest and friendliest of smiles, everyone is made to feel so very welcome!
There is a wonderful cosy interior with a fabulous Beer Garden out back. The walls of the pub are adorned with every football scarf you can think of and some cool memorabilia, look carefully and you’ll find a signed photo given to Donald whilst Sean Bean was on the island during the filming of Game of Thrones.
There’s also half a dozen or so tables outside with brightly coloured yellow umbrellas again where you can watch the world go by chilling in the shade. You can catch your favourite football game here on one of the many screens, (there’s a large projector screen down in the Beer Garden) games shown include Premier League, Europa League, UEFA Champions League and FA Cup. There’s also Karaoke in the Beer Garden at weekends too.
In the bar there is live entertainment every Monday with all time favourites and special requests played and sang by Ernest (our dear friend Ernest Baldaccino). Ernest and his wife Angie are just the loveliest couple, and listening to Ernest belt out classics like Hotel California, Proud Mary and Mustang Sally is truly the highlight of our holiday! He’s just amazing and boy can he play the bass guitar!
There’s always a lot of laughing, smiling, singing and dancing going on, and I just love how everyone mixes together and has a good time. Remember to get there early on a Monday though if you’d like to get a seat, as fans like us settle in for the whole night 🎶 💃
You’ll love the huge selection of drinks on offer here, and the prices are incredible! To give you an idea, offers available throughout January are,
Bucket Corona (5 Bottles) - €10.
Bucket Becks (6 bottles) - €13
And if you like a bottle of the old “journey into space” Newcy Broon, that’s Newcastle Brown Ale for none Geordies 😆 it’s on BOGOF, at just €5
You can enjoy a wide selection of cocktails too for less than €4, and a bottle of local wine for less than €10! Drinks are available from the bar, but Donald and team are so attentive that they will also serve you at your table. Oh and enjoy the complimentary nibbles with your drink, traditional Maltese “Galletti” water crackers with cheese, and an assortment of crisps.
At Christmas I always look forward to receiving my lovely gift of a Sun in Splendour calendar - its such a lovely thoughtful touch which keeps me smiling until my next visit!
Bring on the summer and my next visit to the Sun in Splendour which of course will be on a Monday night 💃 🎸 🎤 😃
Now my last but by no means least recommendation...……….
The Phoenix Restaurant
Within The Phoenicia Hotel, The Mall, Il-Furjana Floriana, just outside the walls of Valletta.
Monday, Thursday and Friday - 7–10:30am, 7-10pm
Wednesday - 7–10pm
Saturday and Sunday - 7–10:30am, 12:30–3:30pm, 7–10pm
☎️ +356 2122 5241
What words can I use to best describe The Phoenicia Hotel in Valletta? 🤔
The best fit would be, opulent and regal with a delightful old world charm, with more than a touch of the romanticism of a bygone era 😌
Steeped in history and boasting the most magnificent décor coupled with stunning views, this hotel has been recognised as one of the city’s most revered architectural treasures since 1947. It’s set within seven-and-a-half-acres of landscaped gardens and is just steps away from the historic entrance to the capital and it’s ancient fortified walls. Previously known as Le Meridien, following a long closure and refurbishment The Phoenicia rose majestically again around 15 months ago, like a golden Phoenix rising from the ashes.