Before I boarded my plane to Valetta no one warned me that I should bring my stretchy pants.
Never mind a bikini – they’re what you’ll really need after visiting all the incredible restaurants in Malta and Gozo. It turns out the island’s foodie scene is absolutely out of this world with little gems hiding around every corner. But with so many great spots to choose from, where do you even start?
I took it upon myself to find out in what turned out to be one of the most lip-smacking, trouser-button-popping weeks of my life. As you may know I’ve been a vegan for about a year but recently been flirting with the idea of re-incorporating fish into my diet. I’d be so happy to go into details about that decision in the comments below or a separate blog post.
But for now, let me just say that the seafood dishes I got to try were some of the most delicious meals I’ve ever eaten. Ever. Whether you’re a fresh shellfish lover, local produce enthusiast, a vegan or a carnivore there’s something for you on this magical island. During my weeklong trip to Malta with Jet2holidays I got to visit lots of great spots and I can’t wait to share my favourites. Grab a snack and let me take you around the best restaurants in Malta and Gozo…
1. Rubino, Valletta
Rubino is one of the oldest restaurants in Valletta. It was opened as a confectionery back in 1906 by a man named Vincenzo Rubino who’d come over from Sicily. His Italian heritage left a deep mark on his eponymous restaurant and quickly built up its status as a Maltese landmark.
The menu at Rubino’s changes daily, but you can expect to find everything from local specialties like ilsien bil-brungiel u kappar (ox tongue with aubergine and capers) to fresh produce cooked simply to accentuate its natural taste.
But having started out as a confectionery, the restaurant does dessert like nobody else on the island. It draws inspiration from the rich cultural heritage of its past proprietors. Its cassata siciliana is a cheese-based pastry which hails from Italy, while the imquaret – dates wrapped in deep-fried honeyed pastry – pays homage to Malta.
Must try dishes: pan-fried prawns (€24), cassata siciliana (€9)
2. Diar Il-Bniet, Had-Dingli
Farm-to-table eating is a social movement each of us can champion every day. But while it’s certainly possible to buy your groceries at a farmer’s market, knowing where all your food comes from isn’t easy. That’s why I really respect and appreciate restaurants that fully commit to food traceability, telling customers exactly where their ingredients originated from.
In the case of Diar Il-Bniet, all the produce they use is grown and cultivated in their own fields. They keep their menu seasonal, their recipes traditional and the result is hearty meals with minimal ecological footprint.
It doesn’t stop there though. The restaurant’s wine is made with indigenous Maltese grapes, their bread delivered daily from a local baker who has been in business for half a century and don’t even get me started on their olive oil. It’s made with organically grown olives that come from the restaurant’s 800-year-old trees!
Must try dishes: torta tal-irkotta (€10), carob syrup tea (€2.95)
3. Noni, Valletta
Typically I would save the best for last, but just in case you don’t read past the first few paragraphs I need to share what ended up being one of my favourite restaurants in Malta. This is one you should absolutely not miss.
Noni’s uniqueness isn’t just reflected in its menu – you can feel it from the moment you walk through the doors of 211 Republic Street. Over the past 250 years the premises have transformed from a residential building to a shop to a jazz bar to, finally, this classy restaurant.
Chef Jonathan Brincat cut his teeth in a Michelin-star restaurant in London as well as far away Australia. But today he runs Noni alongside his sister Ritienne, serving up five star dishes at reasonable prices. A true gem!
Must try dishes: hobz biz zejt seared tuna (€12), peaches with basil granita (€5.50)
4. Wigi’s Kitchen, St Julian’s
When I first sat down at Wigi’s Kitchen and flicked through their menu, my expectations were fairly low. Fried calamari with chilli sauce, grilled beef – it seemed meat-heavy and basic. But as soon as my food arrived I had to, quite literally, eat my words.
Wigi’s food is simple, yes. But the dishes are kept uncomplicated simply to let the high quality ingredients shine through. The small family-run restaurant focuses on using nothing but the best. Their fresh produce and fish all come from Gozo, keeping the affair local and seasonal.
That ethos is reflected in the service and decor as well. The atmosphere is completely fuss-free which made me feel completely relaxed and at ease. Wigi Kitchen’s location in St Julian’s also provides a stunning backdrop and the opportunity to enjoy Maltese nightlife after your meal. Although if you’re anything like me, you’ll just end up in a blissful food coma and be in bed by 10pm…
Must try dish: fried calamari – honestly, trust me! (€10)
5. Commando, Mellieha
Just like Noni, Commando is a restaurant set in a historic location and headed by a Chef with Michelin-star training. Damian Ciappara is following in the footsteps of his great grandfather who served the local community meals and refreshments back in the 1930s, during the war. His hospitality earned him many loyal customers from the Royal Marine Commandos who were stationed at a nearby camp in Ghadira Bay. The army’s love of Damian’s ancestor’s cooking is what eventually lent the restaurant its name.
The menu is a celebration of seasonal local produce and the rich Mediterranean flavours that make Maltese cooking so comforting. From fresh fish and seafood to sun ripened vegetables and rustic pasta dishes, even the pickiest eaters will find a dish they enjoy.
But there’s another, perhaps even greater, reason to visit this restaurant – its location in the picturesque seaside village of Mellieħa. Just a stone’s throw away from the centre of town, Commando is housed within a 300-year-old stone building that lives and breaths history. Even if you only have time for dessert it deserves a spot on your Maltese culinary bucket list.
Must try dishes: roasted pumpkin salad (€10.50), homemade mquaret (€6.50)
6. The Village Kitchen, Naxxar
The restaurant’s name initially made me think of Village People, the crazy disco group from the US. But there’s nothing wild or crazy about its food – just simple dishes done well. But that’s not to say it isn’t fun. They don’t shy away from innovative cooking techniques, like the smoke-infused salmon which is literally brought to you in a glass dome filled with applewood smoke.
What I particularly liked about this restaurant was their keenness to cater to any and all dietary requirements. If you have a food intolerance The Village Kitchen is a great bet. On a more eclectic note, their music playlist was the most brilliant feel good mixtape I may have ever heard. Maybe there was a touch of the Village People after all…
Must try dish: lobster pasta, fried seafood assortment
7. Boat cruise, Grand Harbour
Alright, this one isn’t really a restaurant. But it was one of my favourite experiences in Malta and it involved food so I figured I’d let you know about it as well. Instead of exploring Valletta on foot and an empty stomach, why not do it from the water with a little picnic spread?
Although the boat journey isn’t focused on Malta’s culinary scene, it does serve up some local specialties. My favourite was the bigilla, a mixture of broad beans, garlic and green herbs like parsley, mint and marjoram. Served alongside a view of Valletta’s skyline it may just go on to become one of your favourite meals of your entire trip.
8. Ta’ Mena Estate, Gozo
Now the time has come to say goodbye to Malta and take a trip to nearby Gozo. On this smaller island, the focus on keeping things local is even more pronounced and Ta’ Mena is the embodiment of that philosophy.
This is one for the real foodies who want to not only taste delicious food, but learn how it’s made as well. The bad news is that you can’t just walk in and have a sit down meal. But the good news is that they’re happy to open their doors for bigger groups if you speak to them in advance.
Along with my friends Sophie, Mel and, yes, Sophie I got to learn how gbejniet, a traditional sheep cheese, is prepared. The estate’s owner also talked us through the process of making kunserva. This concentrated tomato paste is something you will find in every Maltese person’s (Maltesers’?) pantry. It tastes salty, earthy and according to the staff at Ta’ Mena it can last for thirty years if done right!
Before I take you to our last pitstop I need to give this place a special shoutout for just how local they keep their menu. They literally have an entire garden, a vineyard and farm – complete with peacocks and ostriches – on site taking the expression farm-to-table to a whole new level.
Must try dishes: sheep cheese, kunserva tomato paste
9. Ta’ Philip, Gozo
Ta’ Philip is run by Philip Spiteri who is – get this! – the brother of the man who showed us around Ta’ Mena. Clearly prioritising good food is part of the Spiteri DNA and it shows in how they both run their businesses.
The restaurant is all about keeping things local and traditional. Their ingredients are sourced from nearby farms and their dishes cooked using a wood-burning oven. That’s what good food is all about – supporting your community and literally enjoying the fruit of your labours.
Good service and hospitality is something I quickly came to expect in Malta, but Philip truly takes pride in what he does and it shows. Perhaps that is why his restaurant attracts so many celebrities. As you walk in you’ll be greeted with a wall full of familiar faces, from Sharon Stone to Meghan Markle, posing alongside Philip himself. And if the food is good enough for British royalty…
Must try dishes: homemade ravioli (€8.50), pan fried octopus (€19.95)
How To Get To Malta and Where To Stay
I flew to Malta from Manchester, a comfortable three hour flight. Jet2 flights to Malta leave from several British airports – aside from Manchester there is Belfast, Birmingham, East Midlands, Glasgow, Leeds and Newcastle. For those flying from the capital they have also added regular Jet2 flights from London Stansted.
The company can do a lot more than secure your flights, there’s also the possibility of booking a package holiday. These are nothing like the package holidays I went on as a child. Depending on your budget you can find anything from more basic affordable options to luxury hotels.
I absolutely loved staying at The Saint John Malta with Jet2holidays – a quaint boutique hotel in the heart of the historical walled city. It was converted from a merchant’s residence to a stylish contemporary space with lots of character. I loved all the quirky little touches around my room. But if you’d like a larger upscale hotel (with a highly Instagrammable rooftop swimming pool!), then check out Jet2holidays offers for The Palace Malta.
Disclaimer: I was hosted by Jet2Holidays and Visit Malta on this incredible trip. But as always all opinions and photographs are my own, with the exception of Noni whose images I sourced from their website.