Over the past few months and years, food trends have shifted towards the made-from-scratch and know-what’s-in-your-plate attitudes. It’s a pretty exciting time for foodies to experience anything from the comforting and always-loved traditional to the creative cuisines that fool the eye and surprise the palate.
I was eager to check out The Cliffs restaurant in Triq Panoramika (Panoramic Road) Dingli. I’d heard that they offer interesting food and are embracing the surrounding bounty by serving food obtained from the fields (and presumably, sea) of the area. As I write this I am not able to access their website to confirm this fact and the rumour that I heard about the staff employed also being entirely from Dingli. It’s an interesting concept in any case, as long as it works.
Let’s get to that immediately. The staff is helpful and it shows that they are trying to make your experience pleasant, however there is room for some improvement in this area in my opinion. I was slightly put off by the way some of them were dressed in worn out clothes that appeared to me unsuitable for such a job. Not that I expect every waiter on the island to be in starched whites, far from it; but it doesn’t take much to look more presentable either. The service was overall good, although some of the staff seemed a little tired and forgetful. It happens to the best of us, but a brief smile and apology wouldn’t go amiss either.
Now the food : The Cliffs is a breath of fresh air. I enjoyed my first experience and was eager to return. The menu contains well-know and loved dishes but here they have been given an endemic, earthy character and a titillating local twist. The ravioli with borage flowers were particularly remarkable in their detail – with ricotta on the inside of the ravioli and the tanginess of citrus peel, nuts, olive oil, caramelised onions, parsley and borage flowers on the outside, it kept me interested till the very last bite. My friend had a trio of bruschetta to start with – Maltese bread with definitely fresh and homemade pastes that melt in your mouth.
I couldn’t wait for the main dishes as I enjoyed the view outside thanks to the clever design of this building, where you could enjoy countryside views from virtually every seat during the day. If the weather is good you also have the opportunity of sitting outside.
The decor on the inside makes you feel like you’re half trespassing in a museum where the bathrooms have been ever-so-slightly abused of. This didn’t surprise me since the restaurant houses one of the few restrooms for semi-public use in an area popular with locals and tourists alike for hikes and long walks. They weren’t filthy, but there was also room for improvement here.
Back to a more appetising topic – the mains – I ordered the grouper and my friend had duck breast. Both presented impeccably with innovative sides, a fact that pleased my foodie side to no end. My grouper was moist and tasty, balanced upon a potato cake (points for not presenting baked potatoes or fries for this dish in particular) and delicate julienne vegetables, surrounded by a fragrant broth. The flavours complemented each other very well.
On my second visit I also tried the carrot cake; it was good albeit not at its freshest and the portion was large. I would gladly go again for coffee and cake.
Suitable for: Aside from lunch and dinner, I can imagine that The Cliffs is popular for mid-morning breaks (it opens at 10:30am, closed on Tuesdays) and tea time too, with its choice of cakes, teas and coffees it provides good respite from a countryside vertiginous walk on the cliffs.
Prices: reasonable; on the more affordable end for a restaurant of this type.