The heart of Malta's thriving nightlife scene is St Julians which lies about half hour north of the capital city of Valletta. This is where the three main casinos are all located – Casino Malta, Portomaso and Dragonara – and the area is heaving with great places to eat out. With all amenities right on the doorstep, it’s no surprise that St Julians is the #1 destination for poker players. Valletta is also a great place to visit in the evenings with numerous great restaurants and bars.
We asked poker folk living on the island for their top restaurant recommendations.
Zest gets the thumbs-up from practically everyone – described as “Absolutely amazing Thai food”, this mixed fusion/sushi restaurant boasts some of the best Asian and Continental cuisine in Malta, including sushi. The varied menu includes Thai curries, Indonesian noodles, Singaporean seafood Laksas, Continental pan-fried Lamb and Japanese Teppanyaki. Attractive features include an open wine cellar and a sushi bar on the restaurant floor where guests can watch their food being prepared. Located on the first floor of Hotel Juliani, Zest has an open-air, terrace bar overlooking romantic Spinola Bay
Chapter One is another favourite. Recommended by numerous poker industry peeps working in Malta, Chapter One is a haven for people with a love for quality fresh food prepared with passion and a deep appreciation of the produce being used. Chef patron Hiram Cassar brings tradition and contemporary cuisine to the table, promising a unique feast of flavours and textures. Chapter One also boasts a warm family-run hospitality.
Steakhouse Lore&Fitch steaks is one of Steven van Zadelhoff’s top recommendations and it also gets rave reviews on Tripadvisor. Launched by two brothers from Sicily, Lore&Fitch attracts tourists and locals alike and booking ahead is vital. As well as its acclaimed steaks, Lore&Fitch also serves a wide range of salads, burgers and pasta dishes.
Hugo’s - if you’re hanging out in Paceville, it will be hard to miss the name “Hugo”, a now extensive entertainment empire, all launched by the indefatigable Hugo Chetcuti. There’s Hugo’s Lounge, Hugo’s Boutique Hotel, Hugo’s Passion, Hugo’s Pub, Hugo’s Terrace and Hugo's Pizza&Pasta. The latter is a great dining destination if you’re out with the family or friends. And it’s not your bog standard spaghetti fare either! Many of the dishes have a fusion twist and unusual ingredients like candied walnuts, yellow curry, coconut milk, ginger and oyster mushrooms, and there are some extravagant favourites as well, such as truffle cream, bacon roulades, Mozzarella fior di latte, and top quality Parmesan.
Peperoncini is a pretty restaurant in Balluta Bay offering first-class service and good quality Maltese, Sicilian and Italian food. Located in an old town house, Peperoncino was opened in 2005 by Miroslav Radonjic and Carla Peralta and has a very welcoming and friendly atmosphere. The inside dining area is decorated in a traditional yet stylish way while the small, charming outdoor terrace offers lovely views over Balluta Bay.
Zeri’s Restaurant is located in the heart of up-market Portomaso with spectacular views of the glamorous marina. Owner/chef Mark Zeri takes pride in his work, serving excellent food with a Mediterranean influence. It’s a fantastic location with food and service to match.
The Avenue isn’t fine dining, but it’s a busy, bustling restaurant and open until 11.30pm – so it’s a good option if you want somewhere to head after a stint at the casino. There is a wide range of starters, pasta, meat, pizza, fish, and vegetarian dishes, along with antipasti and soups. It’s good value and they also offer a useful take-away delivery service.
Estilo is open 24 /7 and is where players and dealers go to eat for a super-late dinner or early breakfast. It’s good for large groups and has an outdoor dining area as well. It’s good value with local and international dishes available round the clock. They also offer a take-away delivery service.
Beyond St Julian’s
With spacious terraces offering spectacular views of Valletta across the harbor – dubbed “one of the finest views of Europe”, Chophouse is another favourite with both Malta residents and visitors. The restaurant has a great choice of succulent steaks and fresh fish grilled on the its giant charcoal grill. Selected cuts of Aberdeen Angus and Scottona beef from Italy are dry aged in house. More than 200 different wines are stored in the huge glass-fronted cellar.
Legligin, located just a block away from the historic Manoel Theatre in Valletta, is a favourite with poker presenter Laura Cornelius and her boyfriend. Leglilin offers authentic Maltese cuisine and offers a tasting menu with 6-8 different small dishes. With its rustic, cosy décor, this is a romantic spot and a chance to try Maltese-inspired dishes such as stuffed peppers, Greek dolmades, tender grilled quail breasts, home-made caponata and Maltese sausage. Legligin is a Maltese word for glugging down a drink and the restaurant’s array of delicious wines are kept in holes in the walls; when you order a bottle, the owner quaintly plucks it out of the wall and serves it straight to your glass.