Wednesday, 14 March 2012
Anglo-Maltese League, Valletta, Malta
Why is it that whenever I visit Malta's capital, Valletta, it is either Dubai hot or England blizzard-y and never just a nice day to walk around? Valletta is an amazing old city, full of winding streets and original 1960s shop fronts, mixed with a few modern horrors like Peacocks and Burger King. On my latest visit, I got caught in the biggest storm on record for 100 years- typical. Amazingly, I managed to seek shelter in a restaurant I last visited in 2009, the cosy Anglo-Maltese League.
What I love about Maltese restaurants is the fact they resemble those Italian bistros in the UK that seem to be slowly dying out thanks to food snobs calling them '1970s rubbish'. Checked tablecloths, Mateus Rose on the bar, decadent desserts and an assortment of artwork intermingled with souvenirs, traditional Maltese restaurants are homely and are the type of place you can easily while away 5 hours without being rushed. Despite its name, this restaurant isn't a stodgy old British Legion style dive, but how I have just described.
My mind was determinedly set on having a veggie wrap as I did on my last visit, but to satisfy my curiosity I flicked through the menu. Pastas, wraps, Maltese stews, roasts and free bar snacks all leapt out at me. If Gordon Ramsay was there, he would have commented that the menu was too long. Are they a steakhouse? Maltese cafe? Pub? It seemed they were taking too much on, which soon became evident...
The service wasn't as friendly as 2009- back then, a jovial chap served me who even gave me a potent coffee on the house. This time, the brusque waitress was desperately trying to steer us towards the all you can eat buffet on offer (yes, there was one of them going on too, fingers in too many pies) which was possibly an indicator to how overworked the kitchen was. This time, there was no potent coffee and just a sad Nescafe machine which churns out instant. How boring and unlike Malta, where 99.9% of the cafes, even the grotty ones, serve Proper Coffee made with beans. I settled with just having a water and my veggie wrap (€6), and The Carnivore went for a Beef Roast with a glass of wine for €13. We waited. And waited. The impatient German couple on the next table were tapping their watches and tutting. Not a good sign.
Over half an hour later, the food finally arrived. My wrap (top pic) was perfection and an improvement from 2009's wrap. The 2012 model was piping hot and filled with a rich Ratatouille, complemented with a deliciously crisp salad garnished with capers and olives. The chips were my favourite, the chunky steak cut variety as opposed to grease-laden, Mc Donaldsesque skinny chips. Unfortunately, they were disappointingly lukewarm, but I still threw them down my neck anyway. A satisfying, filling plate for a cold blustery day which would have went better with coffee.
The Beef Roast on the other hand resembled a TV dinner from Farmfoods, bar the roast potatoes. The beef was inedible and left The Carnivore crippled with stomach pains for at least 12 hours, tasted off and consisted of gristly bits. The peas and carrots were out of one of my pet hates, the dreaded 99p bag of frozen veg, as seen in Farmfoods and other low rent freezer stores in the UK. The meal's saving grace came in the form of the roast potatoes which were served in a velvety gravy heightened by aniseed. Some effort had gone into the spuds at least.
I'm really disappointed that I haven't been able to give this place a glowing review, as in my memory bank this was a hidden gem for me. It has so much potential- a chef who can rustle up some fabulous dishes, a cosy setting and a prime location. All it needs is to reduce that menu to half the size, get a decent coffee machine and it'd be the perfect city centre, non tourist-trappy bolthole.