In 2016, French chef Claude Bosi closed Hibiscus in London. On the closing night, Maltese chef Andrew Borg, who had worked at the two Michelin star restaurant with Claude Bosi, decided to surprise his mentor and former boss and booked to go for the final dinner. It is what the young Maltese chef loves doing.
When he has the time, he is travelling in search of ideas and flavours and these experiences are starting to be reflected in Risette’s cuisine. Since the end of 2017, he is at the helm of this restaurant that is housed in one of Valletta’s top boutique hotels, Casa Ellul which forms part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection. Months after the opening, you can say the evolution has been impressive.
He has surrounded himself with a solid team which makes this restaurant one of Malta’s top food spots if not the best. Together with sous chef Kurt Micallef and pastry chef David Tanti, he has created an excellent dining spot making use of exceptional produce and using techniques and touches that make this restaurant a must visit in Malta.
The restaurant has been open for less than a year but the progress is visible and noticeable despite the fact that it was already excellent on the first visit. There is a certain harmony to the dishes, deep flavours, the use of fermented vegetables and a play on textures which work extremely well.
On a return back to the restaurant a few days ago, Andrew was in his element serving an autumn seasonal menu together with an interesting a la carte menu. We opted for the tasting menu.
With our aperitif, we were served fritters of pickled cabbage and pecorino. This was followed by a cauliflower veloute to start with and a warm Gillardeau oyster with ricotta and green herbs.
A perfectly seasoned fois gras parfait was served with fermented vegetables, a sauce ravigote on a toasted brioche.
My favourite dish was next, a venere (black) rice dish with black garlic and mussels was garnished with a smoked haddock cream and finished with puffed rice. The rice was perfectly al dente, the mussels perfectly cooked with the smoked haddock cream adding richness and balance to the dish.
For main course, Andrew served a fillet of veal with a fricassee of girolle mushrooms, celeriac, jerusalem artichoke and white truffle.
A dessert degustation followed which included a sourdough ice-cream cookie with oats, a pear tart, a millefeuille with salted caramel that was served together with a buckwheat cake and marmalade and a whiskey ice-cream.
Chef Andrew Borg has grown in confidence over the past year. When I had spoken to him some years back before he closed Black Pig he was working alone in the kitchen but was still pushing the boundaries even if he was aware of his limitations. There was no time for fermentation for example. Today, he has managed to take his cuisine to the next level. From the bread (sourdough and focaccia) that is served in the restaurant, to fermented vegetables, the sauces and the garnishes you can see there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes.
Kurt has trained at the Belgian legendary restaurant In De Wulf of highly talented chef Kobe Desramaults while David is a self-trained pastry chef who worked at the Lanesborough, a restaurant by Heinz Beck before following his passion and training pretty much on his own.
Given time, these three will go places.