Of all the freedoms we’ve lost over the course of the past year and a half, it’s perhaps the ability to roam that’s proven one of the most challenging.
As humans, our instinct to seek out new places and experiences is inherent, so it’s unsurprising that stagnancy sinks deep into the bones. But now that borders are opening once more, opportunities to explore are on the horizon again, and for anyone keen to fully reignite the senses, the Mediterranean Island of Malta is a destination that offers something for everyone — a sparkling jewel perfect for easing gently back into travelling life.
Located just a three-hour flight from the UK, Malta boasts over 300 days of sunshine every year. In October, the temperature gauge rests around the balmy 25° mark, and throughout winter — while northern Europe is grappling with the onset of cold — temperatures rarely dip below 16°. It’s ambling-without-a-jacket kind of weather, ideal for wandering among the island’s ancient cobbled streets and discovering one of the many outdoor adventures that await. It’s fabulous for foodies, too, who find a melting pot of treasures to dive into, and a culinary heritage dating back 7,000 years to uncover.
Flitting between Arabic, Italian and Mediterranean influences, Maltese cuisine is a mouth-watering melting pot of flavours. From just caught, succulent seafood and tenderly cooked meat stews to an array of inventive vegetarian dishes and no end of naughty but nice sweet treats, entire days can be lost in the pursuit of gastronomic happiness. And there’s plenty of delicious wine to wash it down with, as Malta has rapidly become one of Europe’s most promising and exciting wine regions. For those hoping to slip back into easygoing but tantalising travel, this is the place to do it.
The arrival of the Michelin Restaurant Guide cemented Malta’s position on the foodie circuit. Now home to five innovative Michelin-starred restaurants, fine dining is more prevalent than ever. But there’s nothing ordinary about the gastronomic experiences at these venues, of course, with each renowned for its unique execution of dishes, unrivalled creativity and faultless service. De Mondion in Mdina, for example, is located on the top floor of the luxurious Xara Palace Hotel with beautiful views of the city below and, under the watchful eyes of Chef de Cuisine, Kevin Bonello, equal amounts artistry on the plate.
Then there’s Noni in Valletta, where Maltese and Mediterranean foundations merge with the attention to detail and panache customarily associated with French cuisine to create something truly magical. The restaurant itself has been a hospitality hub for over 250 years, so the dining experience here is curated but informal, in keeping with its dynamic, storied roots. Also in Valletta is Under Grain, a cellar-based restaurant known for its quirky nod to sewing. Tailor’s chalk is used to mark chosen dishes, for instance, and the menu resembles a sewing pattern. Vitally though, it’s all underwritten with an exemplary farm to table ethos that means fussiness doesn’t detract from the star ingredients.
Elsewhere and there have been two new additions to the Michelin Guide announced this year. Bahia is nestled among the serpentine streets of the small but stunning village of Lija. A chic bistro with stone walls and thick-cut wooden tables, the seven-course tasting menu or the vegan alternative are not to be missed. Finally, there’s ION – The Harbour, which was awarded a Michelin Star within just six months of opening. Boasting spectacular panoramic views of the sparkling Grand Harbour and a series of constantly evolving menus and guest chef appearances, this is one of the hottest culinary tickets on the island.
Fine dining aside and there are plenty of alternative options to devour, each offering an exclusive window into the intricacies of Maltese living, past and present. Take Diar Il-Briet — this family-run estate is home to silvery-leaved olive groves and swaying orchards, a picture perfect location that allows visitors to meander quietly among the soothing landscape while experiencing farm life first hand. And then there are island institutions like Nenu the Artisan Baker, who blends cooking with a Maltese history lesson and the opportunity to bake the traditional Maltese dish, Gozitan Ftira.
And for oenophiles, the feasting doesn’t end there because it’s easy to hop between the island’s handful of primary wine producers. From Meridiana in the north, which produces over 140,000 bottles of wine each year across 10 different labels, to Montekristo further south with its underground wine vaults, and Emmanuel Delicata in the east, a family-run business since 1907 that’s been awarded multiple international awards for it diverse wine blends, wine lovers are simply spoilt for choice. There are even vineyards on the nearby island of Gozo, just a short boat ride away. Try Tal Massar, the smallest vineyard in the Maltese Islands where vines are cultivated using natural processes only and the wines taste all the sweeter for it.
Making the first foray into travel post pandemic might seem overwhelming but for fully vaccinated (plus two weeks) UK visitors with a printed or NHS app certificate, getting to and from Malta is a smooth process designed to make visitors feel welcome, as is customary for the island’s famously friendly residents. One bite into a pastizzi, a savoury cheese or pea cake best enjoyed kerbside while enjoying the island’s sights, and memories of what’s been soon dissolve; one sip of fruity, delicate wine of the Girgentina variety and they disappear altogether.
Trailfinders Gastronomic Delights of Malta
7 nights from £649
Includes direct flights from London with Air Malta, 7 nights B&B at the 5★ The Phoenicia Malta, and private transfers
Includes a FREE night – saving over £200 per couple
PLUS Trailfinders clients receive a complimentary romantic dinner per couple per stay
Find out more at visitmalta.com
Call 020 7368 1200 to book
No offer code required