Valletta foodie guide: where locals eat and drink
Eat Maltese meze in a stone cellar, watch locals play chess with cocktails in hand, buy goat ‘cheeselets’ at a Victorian market, and lick ice creams shaped like roses in Malta’s historic capital city
Looking for restaurants in Valletta? Want to know where to eat in Malta’s capital? olive’s editorial assistant Ellie Edwards shares her insider tips for the best restaurants in Valletta, along with where to find the best octopus tagine, ftira pizzas and salted pistachio ice-cream.
Looking for more restaurants to visit across the island? Click here for our full guide to Malta.
olive’s must-visits for foodies in Valletta
Noni – for a modern Maltese dinner
Valletta's Republic Street has been a hub of eating, drinking and merriment for over 250 years, and Noni, with its cast iron doors and stone vaults, is at the heart of it all. It's Maltese/Mediterranean cuisine, with a touch of French modernism – try rabbit confit croquettes; slow-cooked octopus tagine with marjoram oil; and te fit-tazza, a dessert of black tea and condensed milk mousse, served with lemon ricotta. To drink, order a glass of the island’s citrusy, straw-coloured Meridiana Chardonnay.
Nenu The Artisan Baker – for ftira pizzas
Run by Carmelo (also known as Nenu) and his wife Angela, family-owned bakery Nenu The Artisan Baker specialises in ftira, a ring-shaped, leavened bread often used for sandwiches, tarts and pizzas. Order a classic Karmni s-Sultana pizza, which comes with potatoes, tomatoes, anchovies and fennel seed; or go for a tomato-free base, topped with potatoes, pork belly strips, ricotta, rosemary and broad beans. Whatever you choose, it will be made with ingredients indigenous to Malta.
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Is-Suq Tal-Belt – for a cool lunch spot
This once-derelict Victorian building now thrives as a striking indoor food market. Spread over three floors (giant deli in the basement, selling everything from fresh fish to spices and oils; food stalls at ground level, offering tapas, pulled meat and gelato; and a chill-out space upstairs, where live bands sometimes play), Is-Suq Tal-Belt is the place to stock up on bottles of prickly pear liqueur; salmon poke bowls; and ricotta-filled pastizzi pastries (Malta’s national snack, made with flaky pastry).
Caffe Cordina – for a luxurious setting
Established in 1837, and facing Piazza Regina, old-school Caffe Cordina is worth a visit for the striking marble staircase and decorative domed ceiling (embellished by Maltese painter, Giuseppe Cali) alone. It comprises tea rooms, a pasticceria, a coffee bar and a gelateria; sit down inside or out, and waiters in black waistcoats will bring pretty patisserie to your table – try a pudina (Maltese bread pudding with candied fruit, walnuts and chocolate hazelnut cream) or kwarezimal, another traditional sweet made with a hazelnut crumble base, spices, honey and almonds.
Legligin – for Maltese meze in a stone cellar
Legligin, meaning ‘one who drinks a lot’, is a charming restaurant-cum-wine bar serving Maltese meze alongside a selection of 30-odd stellar wines. Squeezed inside the cellar of an original townhouse, its red shutters, stone walls punctured with holes (for wine bottles) and mismatching crockery give the whole place a rustic feel. Feast on breads with olive oil; homemade caponata with chunks of local sausage; arjoli (a rich blend of sundried tomatoes, olives, anchovies and capers); honey-glazed pork; and shots of limoncello.
Amorino – for pretty ice cream
Choose your cone size, then pile it high with as many flavours as you fancy at esteemed gelateria, Amorino. It’s all made with whole milk and freshly-picked fruit (they only use just-ripe ingredients), plus there are several organic and vegan options. Go for silky salted pistachio, cool coconut or refreshing lime and basil, and watch as it’s carefully sculpted into an ice-cream rose.
Hammett’s Macina – for a tasting menu
Marble tables, velvet sea-blue booths, brass furnishings and cool grey walls give Hammett’s Macina at the Cugó Gran Macina Grand Harbour hotel a luxury feel. A five-course tasting menu includes local burrata with foraged herbs; Ġbejna cheese (a traditional Maltese ‘cheeselet’, so-called because it’s little and round); and risotto made with nine-year-aged rice. There’s also a bar, serving over 100 different wines (including Marsovin Chardonnay from north Malta’s Wardija Valley) and cocktails made from homemade syrups – start the night with a Cugo’s, comprising of gin mare, basil syrup, rose water and ginger beer.
Café Society – for an authentic bar
This is the kind of place where locals play chess on the pavement tables outside. Squashed between other palazzo-style townhouses on beautiful, stone-stepped St John Street (which leads down to The Grand Harbour), Café Society is a cool-yet-cosy bar that serves both classic cocktails and craft beers. Perch on a stool and listen to live jazz, funk and retro tunes, while sipping an Old Fashioned.
The Harbour Club – for dinner with a view
Make the most of picturesque Grand Harbour views with a table on the sleek, sloping terrace at The Harbour Club. Seafood is a must at this French-influenced restaurant, originally built as a warehouse in 1712, so try the fish of the day with heirloom tomato relish and candied lemon zest; saffron risotto with calamari; or local red prawn carpaccio, all served in bespoke crockery made by local ceramicist Sue Mifsud. It’s just as mesmerising inside, where the golden-hued wooden floor once belonged to the deck of an old American ship.
The Mediterranean Culinary Academy – for a cookery school
Hand-roll your own cannelloni and then fill it with irkotta (like Italian ricotta, but made from fresh milk as opposed to milk whey), fresh herbs and lemon on A Taste of Malta cookery class at The Mediterranean Culinary Academy. You’ll try other Maltese specialties throughout the three-hour course, including bigilla (a broad bean dip) and salty goat’s cheeselets, and learn about how the island’s central Mediterranean location has helped shape its cuisine (guess who Malta inherited its love of tea from?).
Words by Ellie Edwards, March 2019
Photographs by Ming Tang-Evans and Ellie Edwards
For more information visit maltauk.com