The restaurant check list, Malta
In some of my previous posts I have mentioned that I am quite the foodie. This doesn’t mean that I’m an excellent cook, nor that I’m some kind of food expert. Basically I love food, I love to cook, I love to try different dishes, and I eat out quite a bit (although I’m trying to cut down on this to boost my home cooking.) I’m always up for trying out new places to eat in Malta.. I do sometimes get bored of the same places, so before going out to eat, you’ll find me on Tripadvisor carefully reading the comments.. or stalking restaurants on their Facebook page or website, whilst carefully examining their menus. I will recommend my favourite restaurants in Malta in my next post, but today I present to you my ‘restaurant check list’.
1. First impression & Interior
This depends on what sort of restaurant / bar / pub I’m at, but I usually look for places that aren’t too noisy, have good lighting and general interior design (new restaurants that make you feel like you’re sitting in a garage under harsh white light are becoming quite popular unfortunately) and places that are just generally nice to look at and that make you feel at home (even if it’s your inexistent dream home…).
Aside from having some of the tastiest ftiras in Malta, Gululu in Paceville has one of my favourite interior spaces. Really well thought out, unpretentious, and the right mix of traditional / contemporary, with beautiful natural light during daytime, and a warm atmosphere in the evenings. The last time I ate here we were given the best table, i.e. on the balcony, with fantastic St.Julians sea views!
2. General menu
So working in the design industry has turned me into a bit of an asshole when it comes to menu first impressions.. I carefully study its layout, colour, texture.. and later, the content & spelling. Nice branding makes me excited about what kind of food the place will have, but really it’s all up to the content. I look for restaurants that have quite a small selection of food. When they offer EVERYTHING, you start wondering how much of it is actually ready made / fresh..I love restaurants that have the menu of the day, where you can just order whatever they have prepared fresh that day. I’m not a fussy eater, so for me, it’s just perfect. I’m also impressed with salads that are not limited to: chicken caesar salad, greek salad, tuna salad, octopus salad and green salad. There are endless exciting salad combinations even if using just normal inexpensive food, so I don’t understand the craze with these ‘classic’ salads.
First of all, there is no reason why wine should be expensive in restaurants. Yes I’m willing to pay more for your food if your chef is more experienced and so food tastes nicer, but a bottle of wine is a bottle of wine! It tastes the same everywhere, just make sure that it’s not corked, and that the temperature and dates are right (normally white wine needs to be chilled, and red served at room temperature.. dates can be trickier but for generic cheap – medium wines, the newer the better.. certain reds get better with age). I’m no wine connoisseur but this formula usually works for me. Here’s a wikipedia reference if you’re not sure: “Master of Wine Jancis Robinson notes that only around the top 10% of all red wine and top 5% of all white wines can improve significantly enough with age to make drinking more enjoyable at 5 years of age than at 1 year of age.” (and yes Wikipedia is a perfectly reliable source if it agrees with you ) read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aging_of_wine
Gotta love Indian restaurants in Malta (and perhaps even outside of Malta too) who only charge up to 5 Euros for the corkage fee. Above is a picture of the lovely ‘La Mere’ in Valletta. A cosy restaurant that offers Maltese, indian and arabic cousine, all served with affordable wine.
4. The food quality
Obviously food quality is the make or break of a restaurant. The fresher the better, but sometimes the little things can go a long way. What I absolutely despise are restaurants who serve vegetables from the pack. I expect fresh vegetables everywhere, I don’t even cook frozen vegetables at home, so I don’t expect to find it a restaurant. Meat should be the right temperature (rare please ). Pasta should be al dente. Sauces shouldn’t taste like soup.. and of course the food needs to have flavour. Yes sometimes I mess up, or cannot be bothered to pay attention to flavour when I’m making something quick at home. At a restaurant, it’s unacceptable. Pizza that came from the freezer – no thank you.
Home made desserts are not hugely popular in Malta for some reason, so when a restaurant has a them, major plus! Freshly ground espresso at the end of a meal is always welcome.
You know what, I don’t mind if my waiters are too young and inexperienced, or if they drop my food / are slightly awkward etc.. I just want the food to be (more or less) on time, and the waiters to smile every now and then. Sometimes if the food arrives too early, this is also quite disappointing. People go to eat for the experience, not because it is a ‘need’ and I think this is something that restaurant owners seem to forget sometimes.READ MORE