As much as I loved my hotel, the fab Corinthia Palace, I drew the line at their lunch prices. 8 euro for a sandwich? I wasn't born yesterday! Last time I looked, cheese and bread was no way worth 8 euro. Always the culinary adventurer, I decided to go on a trek of the surrounding area. Thankfully, I didn't need to trek too far. Directly opposite the hotel was the opulent Villa Madama.
A mix of palatial, lounge bar and gardens, Villa Madama provided the perfect location for a perfect Mediterranean lunch break. Upon entering the restaurant, you are enveloped in an ornate entrance hall, the chandelier catching your eye. I thought I was in a stately home at first. Then you pass through the lounge bar; ultra-modern with flatscreen TVs and white couches. However, as I wanted to make the most of the Mediterranean heat, I headed for the beautifully landscaped gardens, where I sat in the shade of lemon and lime trees. Perfect.
The menu was a delight for veggies and carnivores alike. I opted for the veggie take on the Traditional Maltese Ftira, the difference being tuna was substituted for roast veg. This sandwich was a feast of taste and texture- fat juicy capers, crisp grated carrot, salty Gozo cheese, warm aubergine on fresh salad...mmmmmm heaven.
Here's an undignified close up of me stuffing myself with Ftira!
The dessert selection was overwhelming- rich cakes, traditional Maltese ricotta specialities and sumptuous pastries stood there temptingly in the display case. After much deliberation, I settled for good old strawberry ice cream to cool me down in the blistering heat.
If you happen to be staying at my hotel, please give the pool bar a miss and pop by at Villa Madama. To sum it up-it's half the price; double the atmosphere and triple the taste.
After the glowing review I gave Villa Madama 2 years ago, I was excited to return. However, it was a case of never returning to a good place twice as the second time around is always disappointing. Two years is a long time in the restaurant world, especially in a place that relies heavily on tourism and going through a recession. It doesn't give restaurant owners the right to cheat their customers though...
Villa Madama was closed and cobwebby when I arrived back in Malta but on day 5 of my holiday, it mysteriously opened. Looking forward to having a potent coffee and fabulous Ftira, I bounded in like an excited puppy. It was like the Marie Celeste. Cobwebs and a layer of dust, accompanied by a smell not dissimilar to a second hand bookshop greeted me. As I made my way to the cafe, not a soul was in there, strange as it was lunch rush hour time. The white couches were now grey and covered in dust and it was starting to get in my throat- never mind the sandwich, it was a side order of antihistamines I needed! As I was a bit dubious about the food, I chose an Americano which thankfully was as potent as ever. For some strange reason, the prices of the drinks weren't displayed but the norm in Malta for an Americano is €1-1.50. When I asked to pay, the owner charged €2. This may sound normal to my Dubai friends, but for Malta this is a complete ripoff. Villa Madama is not even in a tourist area, so that doesn't explain the high price. Little did the owner know that I was the person whom he thanked, just 2 years ago, for writing a kind review about his place.