Monday, 19 March 2012

Cafe Tivoli, Hamrun, Malta

Everyone who knows me or reads my blog knows how much I like traditional, old school restaurants that have been around for years. Angular furniture, excessive glass frontage and desperation for tips just don't do it for me. And don't you just hate it when places disguise bog-standard food with fancy, meaningless names? Pan-fried, hand-cut and melange are some of the words I hate, along with non-Spanish restaurants calling any small dish a 'tapa'. Plus what's all this recent over-usage of the word 'pulled'? Pulled ham, pulled pasta- what does it mean? One of the things I love about Malta is the way it shies away from the 21st century and charmingly seems to be in the late 1970s, early 1980s. Old cars, old shop signage from long gone firms, no massive supermarkets and more independent stores and most importantly, not a single Star**cks!

The charming village of Hamrun is packed with old fashioned charm and every nook and cranny reveals a foodie treat. Whether it is a Pastizzeria- purveyor of delicious pastries, pasties, sausage rolls and lasagnas, working mens' clubs with a Maltese twist or pizza parlours, there is something here for everyone. Why, even the die hard Brits abroad can get egg and chips here! I went to Cafe Tivoli as it reminded me of my much loved Salvo Caffe in Edinburgh, packed with 60s charm, a charismatic host and steaming plates of pasta. Tivoli is a fantastic slice of life in a Maltese community, packed with the joie de vivre of the cafe from the film Amelie with a hint of Mediterranean zest straight out of Cinema Paradiso. The smell of freshly ground coffee filled the air and by jove it was potent!

On my 2 visits, I enjoyed Penne Arrabiata (5 Euro) and Vegetable Tagliatelle (7 Euro), while The Carnivore chowed down on one of their huge Angus beef burgers with all the trimmings (burgers between 4-7 Euro). The portions were absolutely huge and can definitely feed two people. The Arrabiata was packed with potent chillies, perfect for Vindaloo lovers and I was happy to see the pasta was Al Dente and not sloppy like most cafes outside of Bella Italia. The veggie tagliatelle was both a feast for the eyes and tastebuds, as the daring chef used a mixture of ingredients you wouldn't think would complement the pasta. Using a tomato pulp as the base and Malta's favourite vegetable the marrow as the main ingredient, cashews, peppers and onions were added, along with some olives. This eclectic mix made for a unique pasta sauce- never be too scared to take a risk with your foodie imagination!

The Carnivore gave the Angus burger top marks too, the generous portion of chips and green salad being the icing on the cake. For smaller appetites, the selection of Maltese pastries is a must too.

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Hi Vindaloo Kings and Queens!