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From Mayfair To Malta, Chef Is Serving Up Surprises At Valletta Restaurant And His Chicken Takes Three Days To Cook

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It only won its first Michelin Star a few months ago, but Valletta restaurant ION – The Harbour isn’t resting on its laurels and letting success get to its head.

Over a span of 100 days this summer, diners will be treated to extraordinary gourmet dishes prepared by renowned chef Alex Dilling and the Maltese team he is training during his stay here.

Dilling is no ordinary chef…

After working at the likes of Caviar Russe in Manhattan, a stone’s throw away from Trump Tower, and as executive corporate chef at the former Mayfair restaurant The Greenhouse, he has earned his place at the table of the global culinary elite. 

ION - The Harbour founder Mark Weingard (right) receiving a Michelin Star from Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo (Photo: ION - The Harbour)

ION - The Harbour founder Mark Weingard (right) receiving a Michelin Star from Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo (Photo: ION - The Harbour)

His travels have now brought him to Malta’s ION – The Harbour, to a restaurant that forms part of the Iniala Harbour House and which boasts spectacular views of the Grand Harbour.

That’s where the restaurant’s name comes from by the way – you can literally have an eye on the harbour while dining.

Your other eye will want to gaze at the food laid in front of you though because Dilling’s meals are a sight to behold.

Here are some examples of what you can expect, presented by ION – The Harbour at a recent grand meal.

1. An explosion of fishy goodness

If you’re a fan of caviar, you’re really going to want to try Dilling’s version of it. It may look simple on the plate – fish eggs in a jelly of marinated pink shrimp and topped with crème cru and a touch of ginger – but the combination of flavours will hit your tastebuds from several directions.

For the best experience, you’re going to want to dig your spoon from the cream, through the caviar and deep into the jelly.

2. Foie gras made to look like an absolute piece of art

Of course, foie gras is a gourmet staple in its own right, but when it’s rolled up in a ball, coated in black truffle and dipped gold leaf, it becomes something you almost want to take back home with you and place on a shelf.

It tastes even better than it looks though, and should really be eaten through small mouthfuls to make it last as long as possible.

3. Ċerna as you’ve never tried it before

Dilling has pledged to source his products from local artisans and fisherman where possible to bring to life a menu of new creations. Nowhere is this more evident than his take on the famous grouper (ċerna), which he blesses with vin jaune (a French white wine), adding a lovely frothy texture to the plate, as well as iberico ham and very carefully selected peas.

Even if you’re not a fish lover, you’re probably going to want to make an exception with this dish.

4. Chicken that seriously took three days to prepare

When you think about gourmet food, chicken is unlikely to be the first item that pops into your mind.

However, Dilling has embraced this challenge full-on, converting the simple poultry dish into a meal worthy of a Michelin-starred restaurant that many diners will single out as their favourite dish of the night.

His elegant take on the classic French Chicken Chasseur (or Hunter’s Chicken) literally takes him three days to cook. That’s a lot of dedication for a piece of chicken and the payoff is extraordinary.

5. A perfect dessert to round the meal off

No multi-course meal is complete without a dessert, and one of Dilling’s favourites to round it up is well-crafted balls of Araguani chocolate, made from cocoa beans from Venezuelan plantations and manufactured in France.

That net-shaped item surrounding the dessert is sourdough crusty Maltese bread, fusing flavours from across the world into a single delectable dish.

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A post shared by Alex Dilling (@adills1)

Dilling has said that working in the centre of the Mediterranean will help his cuisine evolve and that he’s been working on this Maltese project for months.

Well, the end result at ION – The Harbour clearly shows that a lot of effort has been put into making this a one-off meal you certainly won’t want to miss out on this summer.

The restaurant is offering both five and eight-course meals, depending on your level of hunger.

Add free-flowing wine, good company and a beautiful view of the sun setting over the Grand Harbour, and the Dilling experience has all the elements for a truly special night.

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READ NEXT: WATCH: Students And Robots Can Both Help Maltese Restaurants' Staffing Woes, Chamber Of Commerce Head Says

Tim is interested in the rapid evolution of human society brought about by technological advances. He’s passionate about justice, human rights and cutting-edge political debates. You can follow him on Twitter at @timdiacono or reach out to him at [email protected]

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