Story and photography by Manos Angelakis
De Paule Avenue
San Anton BZN 9023
In 1920, Malta’s Villa Corinthia, an Italianate structure with a Corinthian columned entrance, was built as the private residence for a prominent Maltese. It was constructed in the classic Roman villa style, with an airy, two-story atrium in the center and a number of rooms opening off the atrium left and right. The building was purchased in 1959 by Mr. Paul Pisani, who converted the villa and its extensive grounds into a dinner-dance and wedding reception venue.
Today, it is a very distinct part of the Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa (see story in the Hotels & Resorts section), a 5-star luxury property. It is used as the formal, main dining restaurant of the hotel and for official functions – on the hotel premises there are also the Rickshaw Far Eastern restaurant, Pizza, Pasta & Co. in the garden by the pool, the Orange Grove Brasserie off the lobby where afternoon tea is also served, and the breakfast room on the second floor.
Executive Chef Stefan Hogan creates menus bursting with flavors, using sustainably sourced local produce. Maltese cuisine, in general, is the result of a melding of tastes of the foods preferred by the many cultures that occupied Malta over the centuries. We had both a formal lunch at the Villa Corinthia with the U.S. Ambassador to Malta, Mrs. Gina Abercombie-Winstanley; and our farewell dinner at the conclusion of our visit to the hotel and the island.
We started our lunch with sautéed Wild Mushrooms on garlic and thyme toasted brioche bread. A tasty autumnal starter; give me thyme and garlic anytime and I’m yours forever…
I loved the main course, red wine Poached Snapper, with braised celery, lentils and horseradish sauce. The snapper was beautifully cooked, moist and flaky, with the celery and lentils making a grassy and earthy counterpoint to the very fresh fish. The horseradish sauce was, in reality, a foam that imparted a bit of a kick to the mild taste of the fish.
Vanilla Panna Cotta, with blackberry sorbet and pistachio Breton, along with a cup of espresso were just enough of a finishing touch.
Wines were from the Meridiana Wine Estate. The winery creates both nice reds and soft whites that pair very well with Chef Hogan’s food, and are very close in taste to some of the Italian wines I like. I favored the white for lunch and I was not disappointed. It is called Mistral and is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, fermented on the lees, in new French oak barriques.
The farewell dinner proved to be a more formidable affair.
The starter was fresh Goat Cheese with roasted figs, honey and carob syrup. I love goat cheese and fresh figs, but unfortunately fresh figs were out of season, so dried figs poached in honey and carob syrup was a creative compromise.
The primo piatto was Rabbit, Chestnut and Mushroom Mosaic, with cabbage, onion compote, toasted brioche and wild thyme dressing. Rabbit seems to be a favorite Maltese dish, as it was served to us on a number of occasions, and wild thyme… need I say more?
The main, was roasted Sea Bass with Braised Fennel, vegetable ribbons and sea urchin emulsion. The aromas and tastes of the entire Mediterranean served to us on a plate!
We ended with a Warm Chocolate & Orange Tart with grenadine ice cream and blood orange sabayon, coffee and petit fours.
The wines were again from the Meridiana Wine Estate. This time I opted for a red and it proved to be a wise decision even though the main course was the Sea Bass. Melqart, as the wine is called, is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Fruit upfront, a tad jammy, with forest berry flavors and hints of plum and leather that are enhanced by maturation in barrique. It paired very well with the goat cheese and the rabbit and was not too tannic for the fish.
One final item: on our final afternoon on the island, Chef Hogan was trying a new pâtissier and he invited me and Mr. David Woodward, the Corinthia Palace General Manager, to taste the results of the young man’s creations. Except for the fact that the pâtissier was a tad heavy handed with the butter cream and sugar mixture, the fruit tarts and plated desserts were excellent. It made for a nice ending to one of our most interesting trips.
© January 2014 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.