28.10.17

Tal Petut in Malta


It was totally a pleasant coincidence and luck that we passed by Tel-Petut in Birgu (Vittoriosa) around 5 pm one evening of May in 2017. We were attracted to its private dining concept and local seasonal produce. And it was featured in my friend's German travel book. It was highly rated by the readers. I entered and booked a table with the young chef. It was a fantastic choice!


The set up is guest is served with numerous dishes of appetisers made with local fresh produce, mainly vegetables. Guests can taste the local sausages with chilli oil and red wine dip. It was exciting and special. Local cheese in olive oil was also among the appetisers.  After the sumptuous appetisers, big raviolis in tomato sauce were served.  Very nice!  All of these, no choice offered but excellent quality. We were very happy.





The only choice we had to make is the wine. Difficult!  Don helped us.  We would like to have longer aftertaste and changing taste.  His choice was good.  He is a fabulous salesman with a passion for bringing the best food to his guests. Don was enthusiastic to tell what we would eat. We were attracted to his introduction. He told other guests that the house where the restaurant was very old. I just cannot remember the number.  It should be over 100.


Two choices of main courses were offered: pork cheek and slow cooked chicken leg.  It was a no brain question. One of each for two of us. Both were nicely cooked and tasted great. Happy happy! The happy meal was ended with a dessert.




And the price was very good too.  At time, it charged €28 per person.  Wine may be €20 and a handful tip. We then hurried up to take the last or second last bus passing Birga back to Valletta.


On our last night we dined at Legligin, always full and highly rated. But I prefer Tal Petut with the abundant fresh local produce, creative dishes and the enthusiasm of the host.

14.10.17

Malta Food


We arrived Malta before 5pm on 2 May.  My travel companion was afraid that we might not be able to get to the island in case of any flight delay. So, we spent a night at Malta, not direct at the centre but a few bus stops away at Pieta. Our taxi driver took us a a moderate hill where our B and B was. After settling down our stuff, we went for a walk around and look for our dinner place.


Walking down the road to the main street, you can choose to dine at a top rated restaurant, Fumia. Since it was not opened up to 19.30 and we were not sure if there would be a table for us, we opt for La Vela Restaurant. The Antipasti combo was outstanding.  7 dishes of raw and cooked seafood were provided. Excellent value for €18 per person (two minimum).  It will fill you up.  Extra dish is optional. We were both impressed with the high quality of Maltese food the first night.


We headed to Gozo the next day.  The journey was long as the bus was not punctual and it went through the whole island from east to west. Once we arrived at Gozo we still needed to take a bus to Victoria and then another one to Xlendi. Well, we arrived at the beautiful place, did some shopping, went to the seaside to see the barren castle and then enjoyed sumptuous dinner with a great view of the cliff. Looking back is the Xlendi Bay dotted with lights.



Contrast to the popular choices of restaurants at Xlendi Bay, we picked a rooftop restaurant between the bay and our apartment, Ic Cima. Food and wine were superb.  We took salad, traditional fish soup (Aljotta), rabbit (Fenek moqli, typical dish of Malta) and duck.  Everything was perfect. We had a fantastic first day and night at Xlendi.





On another day we had a walk from the harbour back to Xlendi. We had a pause at Sannat. It was a quiet place not with much life in the afternoon. We saw only a sign for food, II Girna Restaurant.  Only an American couple was chilling there with their cold white wine. Since we were hiking through, we did not take much money with us. Guess what, with less then €20, we could have excellent seafood and mussel soup with bread.  Service, ambience and food were excellent! 









7.10.17

Malta and Gozo Practicalities


Malta is a country full of history, perhaps the earliest civilisation in the world. Inhabitants lived there already recorded at 5000 BC. Houses are predominantly built with the same limestone, globerigina. Expect to see honey coloured decadent houses, especially on Gozo Island. Houses in Valletta  are beautified with colourful balconies. We visited Malta in May 2017. Let me share some practical tips to make your trip in Malta most enjoyable.


Accommodation
Malta



In Malta we stayed at Harbour View B and B in Pieta on the first night upon arrival as we did not want to risk of missing connection to the Gozo Island in case of flight delay. The  room is simple, with a window but not a beautiful view. However, the terrace provides a great view over yachts parking at Pieta and a bit of Selima. The B and B is not accessible by the airport bus. The owner ordered pick up service for us at a price of €20. Breakfast was fine if it is one of your concerns. Many choices and you can eat as much as you can.


When we returned from Gozo to Malta, we stayed at Valletta. We stayed towards the end of St. Paul Street with a partial sea view from the red balcony in our lovely apartment. It is a memorable and pleasant stay in an old building which has been existing for 200 to 300 years. Just going down the street the nice atmosphere of living in the old town is then everywhere. Walking around there are endless gorgeous balconies.






Valletta has many undulating streets like San Francisco, Porto or Siena. If you live away from the Republic Street and towards the end of the town, it will be best to take the Republic Street as it is on the same level and then take the Archbishop Street to where you live to minimise going up and down with your luggage.


Valletta is the centre in Malta. Busses start from there and gets full easily. Even you live in the next town Floriana, it is not promising that you will get a seat or got on the busses. Yes, we paid more for living in the historical house and the convenience to the major tourist spots.  It really worths the money. 

Gozo

Victoria is the hub of Gozo Island.  Busses leave and arrive here.  There are supermarkets, fish shops and all kinds of stuff you need.  Stroll along the streets and enjoy the atmosphere.  Numerous coffee shops with nice pastries dotted the town.  You can slow down any time to take a break and treat your stomach well.

Xlendi

If you will spend some days on Gozo Island, I will recommend you to stay at Xlendi. It has dramatic straight steep cliffs. The beautiful scenery gains a high score. In addition, it is quiet. We did not live at the very centre. It does not have as many high buildings as in Marsalforn. It is accessible by bus 306 and 330. If you miss 306 which is run hourly or the bus company skips the running of 306, you can take bus 330 which departs a few minutes later.  It runs on a different route and arrives the last station of Xlendi. 



Another reason of staying in Xlendi is it is the focal point of hiking trails, further to the spot where the landmark Azure Window previously stood proudly or walk from the Harbour L'Mgarr to Xlendi. Both ways you can enjoy walking over the cliffs with stunning views of steep cliffs as high as over 140 meters over the sea.


Apartment rental is more common than hotel in Xlendi.  We enjoyed the space, freedom and feeling home at Villa Bronja. It is away from Xlendi Bay which is crowded with multi-level buildings. It is spacious, simple and equipped with some basic seasonings. There is a dining table with chairs in front of the apartment. Flowers blossomed at the main entrance. The owner often replied within a short time in case we needed any assistance. If you would like to cook at home, you can stock up stuff at the only mini market in the street turning to the Bay. Free delivery if you buy more than €20. We saved the efforts of bringing 12 litre water, breakfast and dinner stuff uphill to our apartment. 



If you prefer to stay in Marsalforn, you can go to Victoria with bus 310 running every hour (can run late) or direct to the Harbour each 1.5 hours.



There are plenty of restaurants on Gozo Island. We tried ic Cima in Xlendi. It oversees the Xlendi Bay and the food was lovely. One salad, fish soup, two main courses and a bottle of red wine cost around €65.






Transportation
Airport Bus
Four airport busses run to different places. X1 goes to the Harbour. X4 will take you to Valletta. It runs every 30 minutes during the day. The journey takes about 25 to 30 minutes if there is no serious traffic jam. When you leave from Valletta to the airport, be there early to be able to get on the bus. Bus will depart earlier if it is full. 

Always try to get the X airport busses to and from the airport. Other airport busses can be risky. We took airport bus 201 from the Temple xxxxx (mid of the bus route) to Rabat. The bus started from the airport but did not appear at the temple stop 25 minutes 
after  the scheduled time. We were walking to the next station then it appeared. We missed it. The next bus was also delayed for 30 minutes. 

Transportation to the Harbour in Malta (Cirkewwa)
There are various routes. We took bus 41 from Pieta. No seat was available when we got on. The journey took about 1 hour 20 minutes as the bus stopped frequently going through the island. One benefit is you can tour Malta without paying the touristic round the island busses. Another perspective is the journey takes eternity. So, better to take a seat at the terminal station. 

In general, busses departing from the end station is punctual. If you are waiting at the mid of the route, be prepared that it will be delayed. The only exception we experienced is bus 306, from Xlendi to the harbour Mgarr. It always arrived a few minutes earlier. 

Bus drivers on Gozo Island are very friendly and kind. Bus drivers in Malta are more stressful. 
Whether on Gozo or Malta, busses run on a hourly based frequency. Some popular routes run every 20 to 30 minutes. Please be patient as busses often delay and not run the most direct route but throughout many places with numbers of detour. 

If you will go to Gozo Island, ferry is running every 45 minutes. The journey takes around 25 minutes. Bus 301 will take you from the harbour Mgarr to Victoria which you can take another bus to your final station. If bus 301 is full, you can hop on bus 323 which also goes to Victoria but takes longer time. Upon arrival at Gozo, we were approached by various taxi drivers. We ignored them and could easily got on a bus to Victoria. If you need a taxi, you can take reference of prices to various places posted on a notice board at the harbour. Try not to pay more than you should. 

Bus Tickets
A bus ticket costs €1.5. It is valid for two hours. It is sufficient to travel with one ticket to places on Gozo Island as the journeys are normally short and busses are punctual. But two hours may not be sufficient on Malta if you need to change busses. Best is to buy a 7-day ticket (€21) to enjoy unlimited travel both on Gozo and Malta.

Shopping for food in Valletta
It is both difficult and easy to shop for daily necessities in Valletta. Difficult is there is no supermarket in the city. The property price is soaring high in Valletta. Not many residents live in the city. My experience of sitting at the church service at the St Paul Shipwreck Church, the majority of the attendants are aged residents who may have been living there when the price was lower. As the city has few residents, one cannot expect a supermarket. And at time of our visit, the market in the Merchant Street was under restoration. 









But don't worry too much. Small grocery stores dotted the city. You can buy vegetables, pasta, milk, breakfast food or frozen meats easily. At Fresh Direct you can have abundant options of fresh vegetables. But the owner was snobbish and absent minded.  She forgot my rosemary (paid) and might have put it in another client's bag.  Gigi's Store is big. You can shop necessities. 









For fresh meats, I shopped at a butcher shop located in the corner of St Nicolas Street and Republic Street. Alternatively, you can try the one not far from the square of the Palace Armoury and State Room. Beware that stores often have mid-day pause.  They close a few hours and then reopen until 7pm or 8pm. For emergency (if you must shop in the hours which other stores are closed), you can shop at the Wembley Store at the beginning of Republic Street.  A small butter cost around €2.5 in May 2017.



For fresh seafood I tried a fish shop not far from the bus station at Victoria (Gozo). Mussels for two persons cost only €3. I spot another one in a street back of the Victoria bus station. In Marsaxlokk we bought prawns from a shop called Rita's Fish Shop on a street located at the back of the top rated restaurant Tartarun