Ainsley’s Taste of Malta

Thank you, Malta & Gozo, for a fabulous culinary journey 😊🇲🇹

A big thank you to you all for watching Ainsley’s Taste of Malta – I hope you enjoyed the series and all the delights that Malta has to offer (I know I did!).

Big love to all the people we met and filmed with – such generous, welcoming people and a joy to work with. Thank you and I hope you enjoyed being part of the show. 😊

All the recipes from Ainsley’s Taste of Malta are up on my website – link in bio. I hope you enjoy trying them at home xx



Learn more about one of Malta’s most loved fruits: Bajtar tax-xewk

Bajtar tax-xewk (“prickly pear”) is a seasonal summer fruit that grows all over the Maltese islands. In the past farmers used the plant as a boundary planted near their field walls to keep intruders or other wandering livestock from entering their fields or between boundaries as a wind breaker.

According to many farmers this fruit is best harvested in the morning between August and September. During the peak of summer we can see the plant flowering with different magnificent colours which then would reflect the colour of the fruit.

Prickly pears are not just famous for their various colours but also for their health benefits. It contains magnesium, amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins C and B, beta-carotene, iron, calcium, potassium, and many other nutrients and is thus a good source of a considerable part of the daily need of many vitamins and minerals. Although in the old times it was also used as a fodder to pigs, the fruit is nowadays used for jams, liquors, syrups and also for cosmetics in Sicily.

Is-Suq tal-Belt: A historic covered market at Valletta’s core

Valletta is routinely referred to as a highlight by tourists and foreign expats getting to know the island. The sheer number of architectural gems, rich history and way of life in the capital city is appreciated by locals and foreigners alike.

While there are worries that Valletta is losing some of the rich cultural value it once possessed due to the closure of generations old stores and establishments, certain structures are a sign that refurbishment and renovation that respect the urban context can go a long way towards preserving Malta’s heritage, one being Is-Suq tal-Belt.

Situated right at the heart of the capital, the market, also referred to as the Covered Market, is a market hall that was first constructed in 1861 and is mostly constructed out of iron. Built in a Victorian style, the limestone exterior gives it a fine finish that fits perfectly with the rest of Valletta’s architecture.

Despite Is-Suq tal-Belt’s architectural beauty nowadays, the market and its building site have had quite a turbulent history, having previously been home to a square known as Piazza del Malcantone, which used to be part of a gallows parade of a guilty person, where they would be humiliated and tortured around Valletta, before being hanged in Floriana. Crops and goods were also sold in the square.

Afterwards, a marketplace in the Baroque style was constructed at some point during the rule of the Order of St John, yet this was demolished when the British took over Malta. Following that, plans for a covered market began in 1845, and the building was then constructed between 1859 and 1861, initially designed by Hector Zimelli, and completed by Emanuele Luigi Galizia.

The market then fell victim to bombs during World War Two in 1942, leaving a third of the building destroyed. While it regularly underwent repairs, including the construction of new floors, prompting it to thrive for a few more years, the building still fell into a state of decline.

However, after Valletta’s nomination for European Capital of Culture 2018, Government set out to regenerate a significant part of the capital city, including the market. Arkadia Co. Ltd was granted a 65-year lease of the building in 2016, and after around €14 million in investment, Is-Suq tal-Belt experienced heavy restoration, led by Italian architect Marco Casamonti.

Original elements of the building were preserved and restored, with sections of the building being converted into food markets, restaurants and stalls, leaving the upper level for cultural activities and events. Other parts which were added over the years were dismantled.

The market hall officially reopened to the public on 3rd January 2018, right on cue for Valletta 2018.

The building has a rectangular plan, featuring walls and arches made from limestone. On the other hand, the roof is comprised of cast and wrought iron decked in timber, supported with various iron columns. The basement and ground level of the market were inspired by the Mercado di San Miguel in Madrid, as well as the Boqueria market in Barcelona.

Its restoration has been applauded, however heavy criticism has been leveled against commercial tenants for putting up large signage blocking the building’s beautiful facade, while just last month the Planning Authority rejected plans for outdoor canopies.

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8 of the best places to get a traditional Maltese ftira biz-zejt

The ftira is a Maltese icon, there’s no question about it.

Not sure what to expect? Well, the traditional Maltese version is the pinnacle of Mediterranean sandwich making, refined to a tee. This notwithstanding the fact that you’ll get something different wherever you go. And, even if they all taste different, they are always delicious.

Ftira is actually a Maltese flat bread. The actual sandwich, loosely described as a tuna roll, will generally include tomato paste, olive oil, tuna and a variety of other Mediterranean ingredients such as olives, capers, sun dried tomatoes, Gozo cheeselets, pickled vegetables and fresh salad. You can also have it with Maltese sausage and egg, of course. Whatever you go for, it is the bread equivalent of heaven.

Substantial yet light to the bite, it can stand alone, as a full meal, or pass off as a quick savoury snack on the go. Here are some ftira institutions you need to know about to curb that emergency ftira fix.

1. Buchman’s Snack Bar – Gżira
Widely accepted as the best ftira on the island, Buchman’s unashamedly boasts about it, with a sign claiming just that outside their front. Why ever not?

2. Duke’s Snack Bar – Msida
Made to include your specific requests (many of the others also do, to be fair), at Duke’s, using the magic phrase b’kollox will get you an impressive sandwich for all the right reasons.

3. Serafino Straws – Sliema
Not often venturing into Malta’s villages due to the multitude of attractions in Malta’s most popular tourist hub? Then, try a true taste of Malta in the heart of cosmopolitan Sliema at Serafino Straws.

4. Olympic Bar (Xufi) – Mosta
Taste your traditional custom-made ftira while soaking up the sunshine with a view of one of Malta’s most popular attractions: the imposing Mosta dome at the classic Xufi.

5. Andrew’s Snack Bar – Birkirkara
Renovated but still traditional, and still a favourite stop for the Maltese worker, Andrew’s upholds its classic ftira reputationa nd remains one of the top.

6. Mgarr Farmer’s Bar – Mġarr
Known for good traditional food in sumptuous portions, the Mgarr Farmer’s Bar, offers a ftira which does its part to live up to the reputation of this place.

7. Sea View Cafe – Mellieħa
One of the best views on the island accompanies one of the best ftiras on the island at the Sea View Cafe – a visit here is a must if you’re visiting the north of the island.

8. Hamrun Kiosk – Hamrun
Try something different which will certainly not disappoint. At Hamrun Kiosk, you can find a ftira which has been transformed into a delicious steak sandwich.

BONUS: Mekren’s Bakery – Gozo
Believe it or not, the Gozitan version of ftira is entirely different. It resembles a pizza of sorts, its bread base covered in thinly sliced potatoes, onions and similar Mediterranean goodies BEFORE it is put in the oven! The only way to go is to try both the Maltese and Gozitan ftira for yourself. Try one of the best Gozitan ftiras available at Mekren’s bakery.

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Seafood sensations with a view at Valletta’s new rooftop lounge

Perched atop the 5-star Rosselli AX Privilege boutique hotel on Merchants Street, Valletta, the newly launched Over Grain is set to redefine the rooftop dining experience in the capital with its innovative seafood concept. Boasting sweeping views over Valletta, this open-air lounge offers a stylish atmosphere that combines golden sunsets, relaxing lounge music and delectable cuisine, bringing a fresh perspective to seafood dining, where every dish is a sensation for the senses.

At Over Grain, seafood takes centre stage, reinventing classic staples and challenging culinary expectations. Led by the Michelin-awarded kitchen brigade behind Under Grain, Executive Chef Victor Borg crafts a menu of small plates, platters and mains that showcase succulent oysters, mouth-watering shellfish and delicately prepared caviar. The surprising star of the menu is the lobster burger, a unique twist on a beloved classic. This unexpected combination breaks stereotypes, offering a sophisticated take on the burger tradition.

Over Grain has also established itself as a premier cocktail bar, earning a reputation as one of the finest in the capital. Indulge in a handpicked collection of premium wines and champagnes, expertly curated to complement the bold and fresh flavours of the seafood-focused menu. In addition, the bar offers a range of cocktails. Sip on exquisite liquid refreshments while enjoying a playlist of chill-out music that sets the mood for an evening of relaxation and indulgence.

The rooftop setting in the heart of Merchants Street provides an enchanting backdrop, adding a touch of magic to the dining experience. As the sun sets over Valletta, patrons can bask in the panoramic views. From this vantage point, it’s easy to spot the graceful cupola of the nearby Church of the Jesuits, rooftops of historic townhouses and palazzos that have graced Valletta for centuries and take in the harbour that stretches towards the sea. This rooftop ambience sets the stage for a serene atmosphere, making it the perfect choice for romantic evenings or celebratory gatherings.

As part of the Grain Restaurants family, Over Grain upholds a reputation for exceptional service and attention to detail. The knowledgeable staff ensures that every guest is treated to a memorable time, from the moment they step through the door until the last bite or sip. The inviting and sophisticated ambience, coupled with live music on Thursdays and Saturdays, elevates the overall atmosphere, creating an unrivalled dining destination in Valletta.

Over Grain opens its doors from Wednesday to Saturday, welcoming guests from 7.30 pm until 12.30 am. Guests have the freedom to choose between a complete dining experience or drinks at the bar. Food orders can be placed until 10.00 pm on Wednesday and Thursday, and until 10.30 pm on Friday and Saturday, ensuring ample time to savour the culinary delights over sensational views.

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Renowned Chef Francesco Mazzei to serve up Italian classics at Villa Corinthia

Corinthia Hotels Limited on Monday announced that Villa Corinthia, the restaurant at Corinthia Palace in Attard, will be taken over by renowned Italian Chef Francesco Mazzei in June.

The culinary expert will be bringing a taste of Southern Italy to the restaurant up until autumn, serving a menu of some Italian classics together with a number of signature favourites.

The announcement comes just a few weeks after the restaurant closed for refurbishment, and is set to reopen at the start of June.

Mr Mazzei was brought up with a deep-rooted passion for food, being a regular presence in the family kitchen. His first experience in the culinary world was when he worked at his uncle’s gelateria where he mastered Italian cakes and gelato by the age of nine, before taking on his first chef role at the age of 14. Over the years, he has been recognised as “one of the great Italian chefs”, having worked in five-star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants across Europe, Asia, the United States, and the Middle East.

Commenting on the news, Mr Mazzei said: “Spending time in Malta has been a goal of mine for several years, given its rich history and proximity to Italy.” “Partnering with the iconic Corinthia Palace is a very exciting project,” he added.

The menu will contain a selection of “colourful antipasti, a fritto misto featuring seafood and seasonal vegetables from the Maltese shores and soil, and a show-stopping Orecchia di elefante”. The dishes will be rooted in Italian tradition and flavours, yet Mr Mazzei and his team will also draw inspiration from local seasonal produce to create a “memorable and modern dining experience”, Corinthia Palace’s management remarked.

Corinthia Palace first started out as a restaurant, opened in 1962, in a century-old restored country villa. The hotel was constructed in the villa’s gardens just some years later, and was inaugurated as Corinthia Hotels Limited’s first hotel in 1968. The hotel contains 147 rooms, and boasts dining, meetings and spa facilities to complement its accommodation offering.

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The Malta International Food Festival
The Malta International Food Festival is a free street food festival with a focus on inclusivity, hosting a culinary of delicacies from all over the world during Malta’s most popular food festival. Same place, different tastes. Taste the authentic Asian cuisines, the fresh Mediterranean delights, best of Europe and genuine Gozitan delicacies. Your perfect night to discover new tastes, brewery stands and special wines for a tasting experience, all rhythmed by a special set of live musicians right beneath the majestic Xewkija Parish church. Dessert lovers will also not be disappointed with an overwhelming choice of sweets and home-made ice creams, to name just a few, they are spoilt for choice.
The way it works is easy. Entrance is free of charge; patrons will have to purchase tokens and redeem in any food they desire.
The Malta International Food Festival will be held between 13th and 17th July 2022 in Valletta, while the Gozo edition will be on the 5th and 6th August.
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The Third Edition of the Malta Michelin Guide

The new Michelin Guide recognises the outstanding restaurants, breadth of cuisine styles and culinary skills found in Malta, Gozo and Comino. Established in the late 19th century, Michelin has maintained its benchmark of international food for more than 120 years, recognising some of the greatest restaurants in the world.

Located in the heart of the Mediterranean, Malta is establishing itself as a gastronomic destination which serves up a wide range of dishes influenced by the many civilisations that made these islands their home. In a bid to embrace the long standing and diverse culinary history of these islands, the Malta Tourism Authority has been championing local, sustainable gastronomy that tips its hat to traditional methods within the context of a modern and buzzing restaurant scene.

The five restaurants which have retained their one-MICHELIN Star status are: Under Grain, Valletta; Noni, Valletta; ION – The Harbour, Valletta; De Mondion, Mdina; and Bahia, Balzan, which retained its Michelin Star even after moving location from Lija.

A new Bib Gourmand joins the selection, bringing the total number of ‘Bibs’ to four. Grain Street in Valletta is from the same stable as MICHELIN-Starred restaurant Under Grain and serves great value sharing platters. The three other restaurants that retained their Bib Gourmands are: Terrone, Birgu; Rubino, Valletta; and Commando in Mellieħa. These restaurants all represent the very definition of a Bib Gourmand: good quality, good value cooking.

Gwendal Poullennec, International Director of the MICHELIN Guides, said: “Thanks to the increasing optimism surrounding Covid-19, many people are starting to think about travel and holidays once again. The beautiful islands of Malta and Gozo should be on everyone’s list. Five MICHELIN Stars, 4 Bib Gourmands and 22 recommended restaurants mean there is plenty of choice when it comes to eating out”.

Besides Grain Street, inspectors found three other restaurants worthy of a place in the MICHELIN Guide. Marea in Kalkara is a cool, contemporary restaurant with a tiered terrace overlooking the Grand Harbour, and its kitchen mixes Mediterranean food with Japanese influences. AKI in Valletta is a stylish basement restaurant with an Asian-influenced menu. As for Rebekah’s in Mellieħa, it is located in a former farmstead and specialises in hearty Mediterranean flavours.

Poullennec went on saying: “All 31 restaurants recommended to our readers are varied and individual and reflect the very best that the islands offer. Some are traditional, others are contemporary – and thus they truly represent the two sides of Malta that make it such an appealing destination”.

Quality needs to be the order of the day. In the past years, thanks to the perseverance and dedication of our local hospitality sector we have experienced an increase in restaurants that obtain a Michelin star status. The gastronomic sector plays a crucial role in the Government’s vision of making Malta a hub of tourism excellence in the Mediterranean. The road to achieving this goal is an ambitious one but together we can make it happen,” outlined Minister for Tourism and Consumer Protection Clayton Bartolo.

The Chairman of the Malta Tourism Authority, Dr Gavin Gulia, added: ‘This is once again another step forward in our continuous endeavours, whereby, as an Authority, we are continuing to give due importance to the holistic quality of our tourism product, which we are achieving through various restoration and regeneration projects, targeted marketing, and partnerships such as the one with Michelin, to mention but a few. We are proud that for the third consecutive year Malta has its very own Michelin Guide and on behalf of the Authority I would like to thank all those involved in this sector for being instrumental in making Malta’s Gastronomy stand out, as one of the things which tourists look forward to exploring, when they visit our Islands.”

The full 2022 selection for Malta is available on the MICHELIN Guide website and on the App, available for free on iOS and Android. 

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Heritage Malta Taste History

This week we headed down to Vittoriosa to learn about Heritage Malta’s Taste History initiative. Clive Cortis explains to us this fairly new concept that is being introduced  to Museums on the islands.

After thorough research extracted from a vastly documented evidence found in Malta from the days of the corsairs, Taste History managed to reproduce the recipes and food stuffs used in the past and bring them to life.

This activity is lead by a professional team of curators and chefs that have come together to recreate the paupers’ frugal snacks, the corsair’s celebratory dinner, the Grand Master’s wine list, the Inquistor’s lent dinner and the Merchant’s decadent dessert, bringing about results that are as surprising as the flavours which have been brought back to life. An opportunity for guests to taste Maltese and Mediterranean history. This journey can be enjoyed at the Maritime Museum or the Inquisitor’s Palace, both found in the Three Cities, the original location of the corsairs or in any other Heritage Malta site. The Taste History team are urging the general public to join expert historians and fellow learners and immerse in the changing tastes of history in 18th century Malta.

This experience is exciting and interesting as a traditional dinner or lunch event and is being extremely well received by all that have experienced the journey.

Malta is renowned for its history and we are very proud to share it with all our guests as we greet them on our islands and passionately recount the myriad of stories the island holds so dearly.

Let's go that extra mile!