In a country that spends most of its days bathed in sunshine – feeling a twinge of jealousy yet? – it’s only natural that al fresco dining is de rigeur in Malta. After a day spent diving or sprawled on a secluded beach, who, after all, wants to retreat to a dark interior come dinnertime? Instead, combine fine dining with a gentle evening breeze at the top al fresco restaurants in Malta. From the sun-drenched terraces at Rampila Restaurant and Baia Beach Club to the charming courtyards at Ciappetti and Ta’Frenc, these eateries will keep you out ‘till the early hours.
High-end Ta’ Frenc ranks among the top destination restaurants in Malta, both for its culinary ethos as well as its location. Occupying a historic farmhouse, the Gozo-based restaurant tempts diners outdoors with a balmy courtyard for dining and a fragrant herb garden for aperitif sipping. As for the cuisine, the bulk of the ingredients are locally sourced, including fresh produce from farmers in the Marsalforn Valley, meat supplied by a butcher in Xagħra, and vegetables grown on-site – even the salt is locally cultivated.
Family-run hospitality, locally sourced ingredients, and a lovely interior courtyard entwined with vine leaves and washed in sunlight: no wonder The Medina has been named Malta’s best restaurant. Situated within Mdina, Malta’s old capital, the little enclave was once a Norman residence. In winter, its fireplaces are warming, but those after sun would do well to nab one of those coveted courtyard covers.
Situated in the heart of Valletta, Rampila Restaurant hosts a generous terrace overlooking the historic city (while newer landmarks, including Renzo Piano’s City Gate, are also in sight). The terrace itself has plenty of history of its own: as part of the city’s 16th-century fortifications, this stony stretch used to house guns and cannons. These days, the spot is entirely more peaceable, with olive trees and a fountain – and is an ideal venue to linger over fresh seafood. For those after postprandial amusement, the restaurant complex also houses a separate wine bar and even a miniature museum.
Located at the water’s edge in Valletta, the stylish Harbour Club is a popular addition to the city’s dining scene – and those stellar views of the Grand Harbour are only part of the reason why. Once you’ve scored an in-demand terrace spot, the menu does the talking: it’s hard to resist Mediterranean-fresh plates like grilled grouper with braised chicory and white and green asparagus millefoglie with Parmesan cream. Or a few Negronis.
With its proximity to Sicily, Malta’s cuisine has a rich Italian influence and the sun-grown ingredients to go with it. Ristorante Da Marina, which opens out onto a balmy terrace overlooking St George’s Bay, plates up some of the best of it. For a relaxed seafood lunch with a cold glass of Pinot Grigio or creamy gnocchi just like nonna used to make, this scenic, sunlit oasis is ideal.
Wave aside the gimmicky façade of Dinner in the Sky to discover sophisticated haute cuisine served with the most breath-taking panoramas on the island. Enjoy vistas from Valletta to Mdina and the ocean beyond from a dining terrace raised 40 metres up in the air. The sunset slot is understandably popular – pre-order some sparkles to toast the most scenic – and original – al fresco restaurant on Malta.
Not merely popular for its Beluga and beef (which, of course, it does very well), Caviar and Bull’s sophisticated menu benefits from the culinary genius of celebrity chef Marvin Gauci. Take a table on the terrace and tuck into crispy black calamari or plump lobster popcorn while gazing out at the glitter of St George’s Bay.
Are you an art lover or culture vulture holidaying in Malta? Well, you’ll be pleased to find that this Mediterranean island may be small, but it packs a punch when it comes to art and culture. Here are six recommended destinations to add to your itinerary to experience the best of Malta’s art scene.