“Gourmet food shops featuring artisan cheeses, rich hand-made chocolates, local wines and hand-crafted local beer” will be hard to to resist for most foodies – especially if they are new to Malta and haven’t even tried pastizzi yet.
The three-hour tour will set you back €65, but in between the extended history lesson from the informed guide and the actual food, it might just be worth the price. And considering the amount of quality eateries in Valletta, you are practically bound to have a good experience.
One of the oldest and most typically ‘Valletta’ stores in the city, Tal-Ħwawar is the tour’s first stop. A herb, spices and essences specialist, Tal-Ħwawar will set the mood – and smell, and taste – for the rest of the tour.
Our group was mainly made up of foreigners, with most of them Americans or Europeans. A couple of American women were very keen on trying some Maltese food, and talked about cooking techniques with experience. The group seemed up for a fun foodie tour, and the boisterous tour leader began dishing out knowledge dating back hundreds of years.
Our next stop was one of the most authentic little cafes in Valletta, Ġifen Bar, to enjoy a typical Maltese breakfast – the iconic pastizz and te’ fit-tazza combo.
The tea came – as it should – with condensed milk, and as we ate, we were given some more historical knowledge from the tour guide.
It turns out condensed milk became popular in Malta among the British as it was seen as a safe way of avoiding undulant fever, which was commonly found in unpasteurised milk. The more you know.
The tour guide continued with the historical tidbits as we walked down the spindly St. Dominic Street.
Telling us to “burn our history books”, the tour guide gave some interesting anecdotes about some of the later Grandmasters.
Apparently, one of the main reasons there are so many balconies in Valletta was due to the Knights’ infatuation with Arabic harem windows. The Knights of the time, being as vain as they were, wanted to emulate these windows and one-up their enemies… and each other.
Nenu The Artisan Baker
Nenu is renowned as one of the top bakers in Valletta, so it made perfect sense to go there to try both the ftira as well as their famous pizza.
After entering and meeting a descendent from the eponymous Nenu, we were taken into the kitchen to see how Maltese bread was made.
The tour guide religiously praised the glories of Maltese bread like few have done so before.
Saying Maltese bread was among the best bread in the world, he talked about the importance of air bubbles in Maltese bread, how the hard crust and soft interior form, how a loaf needs five hours to rest before eating, and how essential it is to kneed the dough with your hands.
He grabbed a freshly-baked loaf, and, telling us to look out for the bubbles, cut it straight down the middle to reveal… a loaf with no air bubbles. Unlucky, but still a beautiful loaf though.
The tour guide and bakery owner then explained the reason behind the Maltese tradition of families taking their Sunday roasts to be cooked by the local baker.
Turkeys were common back in the day, but they were often too big to fit in the domestic oven. Eventually, people starting bringing their turkeys to the baker’s ovens – and the cooking style stuck for years.
After some more Maltese bread worship, we left the kitchen and were taken to our tables, where a white sesame seed roll awaited us.
It was accompanied by a simple tomato-based dip with parsley, and a Maltese garlic dip.
The tour-goers nibbled at the bread as we watched a video about the founder of the Nenu brand. As far as beverages went, a couple of the Americans chose the less-beaten path and opted for Kinnies to go along with their white sesame, and were happily surprised with the bittersweet flavour of the Maltese soft drink.
Soon after, three beautiful pizzas were placed in front of us: a vegetable pizza with anchovies, a goat’s cheese pizza, and a pizza with Maltese sausage, onions, sun-dried tomato, capers and cheese.
The Maltese sausage pizza was quite the treat – the flavour was overwhelmingly Maltese, with the bright capers and distinctive Maltese sausage flavours really making this a memorable pizza.
Most of the tour-goers were loving the goat’s cheese pizza, which had a strong flavour that would probably be hard to find outside of the island.
The lightness of the vegetables combined with the saltiness of the anchovies rounded up the trio of pizzas to leave a very satisfied group.
All the while, the tour guide spoke about the unique qualities of Maltese tomatoes and garlic, and other Maltese produce that the tour-goers should look out for in their culinary adventures.
King’s Own Band Club
The King’s Own Band Club in Valletta is a classic każin: you never know if you are going to find a banda, a billiards competition, or a group of tourists eating the affordable fare there.
It’s also a great place to get into the Maltese vibe and try some typical local dishes. Things like bigilla and rabbit are eaten in a relaxed setting, as they are meant to be.
The central location is also perfect – one second you are in the hustle and bustle of the main road, the next, you are sat inside an authentic Maltese eatery.
One of the more premium stores in Valletta, Chocolate District brings style to the beloved treat. Offering a massive variety of chocolate, including super fancy Michel Cluizel chocolates, this is the perfect place for a sweet dessert.
What’s really cool about the place is the sheer choice before you. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, brace yourself: it’s going to be very hard not to over-indulge.
If you are new to the island, love food (and history, of course), and haven’t visited Valletta yet, then this might be the perfect tour for you.
A friendly and informative tour guide, a nice variety of Maltese treats, and some unbridled history to go with it – what’s not to like?