Maltese chef Michael Cauchi needs no introduction in Malta. Famous for his former restaurant Il Re Del Pesce, today the chef works together with his son Daniel at Michael’s in Valletta.
When I was younger (and still living in Malta), the chef was a household name on this small Mediterranean island. He used to be on television showcasing his fish dishes, for which he was renowned even at a time when food was not as in vogue as it is today.
Since that time, he has worked in various kitchens on the island but none more important than Aziamendi’s 100 day pop-up restaurant two summers ago.
Michael and his son Daniel were involved with Eneko Atxa and his team who set up the pop-up restaurant in a historic building in Valletta known as L’Hostel De Verdelin, after Fra Jean Jacques De Verdelin, a nephew of Grandmaster De Verdalle.
On a recent visit to this restaurant, we really loved the freshness of the food, the clean flavours, the presentation and also the restaurant itself with its inviting open kitchen.
The approach at this restaurant is modern though there is an evident respect for seasonal ingredients which you can find in Malta at this time of year.
I was won over as soon as I looked at the menu. The starters in particular were all intriguing. My wife and I opted to share two starters.
The first was an excellent dish of smoked eel, mussels and braised seaweed. The flavours combined perfectly to make for a really interesting starter.
The other was a red mullet dish which was served with fennel and fresh peas which are currently in abundance and incredible sweet. It was combined with a prawn bisque sauce which married perfectly.
Given I had just arrived in Malta and there was spaghetti with rizzi (sea urchins) on the menu I could not resist ordering this for my main course. Readers of Food and Wine Gazette will know that this is the dish that I miss most from Malta. It was simple but perfectly executed.
My wife ordered rabbit which was served wrapped in pork belly accompanied by a carrot purée and mushrooms and a port jus. Again the combination of flavours worked perfectly.
The cassata siciliana to finish our meal was the perfect ending to an excellent lunch.
Valletta has its fair share of restaurants but this is a really welcome addition to the capital. The open kitchen and the setting of the restaurant make it one we would highly recommend if you are visiting Valletta.