In the property world the key words would be location, location, location; and whilst this post is not about property, these guys have a lot going for them in these terms too. It is situated opposite the Grand Master’s Palace, facing St. George’s square fountains in Valletta. Let’s face it, your food is going to automatically taste a tad better if you’re looking at something beautiful. Or is it just me?

(And does that mean that your dinner improves if you’re eating with a beautiful person? Hmm.)

I visited twice recently – both times with a group of 20 or so people. The thought of such  large tables mostly brings up memories of disorganisation, messes in bills, orders left out and so on. Admittedly it’s not the most straight-forward thing to deal with and though I have no experience in catering I am sure that there’s a lot of orchestration going on. Our table was outside and there was always a waiter or two buzzing around without intruding too much.

At Malata – only the tiniest of glitches on one occasion (most likely caused by one or two people changing their order). Kudos.

The gnocchi with prawns are light and airy as described, the flavours delicate. An excellent starter, but the larger portion ordered as a main is not for big eaters. I cannot find it in the online menu at the moment, but I would recommend the starter portion if you’re going for a heavier fish or meat main.

The chicken pâté is probably the best I’ve ever tasted – though I am not a pâté person. Smear some on a chunk of fresh Maltese bread and let it overtake your taste buds. This is a delicious start to your meal.

The greatest indulgence was to be had with their Tournedos Rossini, an Irish fillet cooked to your liking (and they get it right) topped with foie gras (pictured above). There’s this controversy to think about as regards the foie gras, but that goes beyond the scope of my blog. If that isn’t enough to put you off though, go go go for it as it is quite impressive. They’re not skimpy with the foie gras. I usually prefer my fillet as plain as possible, perhaps with a sauce on the side – but I’ll make an exception for this one. You’re likely to ask for extra bread to mop up that Calvados sauce after you’ve dipped anything possible in it. Yes. The main dishes are served with crispy steamed vegetables and roasted or Gratin Dauphinois potatoes, both of which are divine.

I went for the Madagascan Vanilla Crème Brulee for dessert. Again, another crisis related to my choice so I try to enjoy every spoonful. Delicious and creamy but not too sweet and the portion size is generous enough to share if one were so inclined.

The prices are average to slightly above average, the ambience charming (it’s Valletta!)and the service energetic – an overall great combination. On Tuesdays and Fridays there’s a Jazz band playing, not your any run-of-the-mill band either. Just, you know, cherry on the cake. And coincidentally I was there on those days 🙂

L’Artist restaurant (Tigne Street, Sliema) feels like you’ve walked into someone’s living room and demanded to be fed. Gone are the pretences; this is the unique Mediterranean ambience we love. Enveloped in Miro and Dali-like artwork, it can best be defined as cosy and welcoming, despite it being a stifling August evening.

The reputation of this restaurant precedes it and on hearing that meat is the way to go in here, I’m already dreaming about a juicy ribeye. The fact that I get told that the chef will love us when we order two rare ones just adds to the anticipation. I’m already impressed. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to taste what else they’re good at.

My friend and I order starters to share. The first, pictured below, is a Fritto di Mare. Light, fresh and coated very lightly in herbs, accompanied by a sweet chili sauce and a mixture of olive oil and balsamic vinegar  – my only observation was that it consisted mainly of prawns, with a couple of calamari rings thrown in. And the chili sauce is probably of the store-bought variety. I can’t complain and I won’t. I salivate as I write, though.

The second starter is Gbenja en croute. This is described as “Fresh Maltese goat’s cheeselet topped with cherry tomato and basil, wrapped in filo pastry and oven baked”. They should have added that it is made with love.

Ladies and gentlemen, the moment we’ve been waiting for. Our ribeye steaks and grilled vegetables arrive (don’t forget you need to order these, the potatoes/salad/veg aren’t included in your meat dish automatically). I test the aubergine – the details are important. That test passed with flying colours. A good portion and some variety thrown in there too.

The pièce de résistance – a juicy ribeye cooked as requested (something that ought to happen more often, but doesn’t) with a touch of kosher salt and a slight heat I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

Accompanied by a crisp Sancerre that was kept cool and perfect throughout. Pampered with friendly service and a couple of witty comments thrown in. Happiness.

Suitable for: a first date, a 158th date, an intimate night with a friend or a couple of your closest.

Prices: very reasonable for the quality of food and service that you get.