Surrounded by sparkling Mediterranean seas, it’s little wonder that Malta is famous for
its delicious seafood. With limited space for agricultural farming, the country puts its
ample seafood supply to good use, and has done so for centuries. Learn more about Malta’s historic fishing trade with a trip to the most famous fish market on the island, where charming Maltese luzzu boats deliver the catch of the day directly to the stalls. From simple seaside restaurants to elegant eateries serving elevated versions of traditional Maltese dishes, follow us to discover the very best seafood in Malta.
The Sunday fish market in Marsaxlokk is the place to buy fresh fish and seafood in Malta. Marsaxlokk, a fishing village on Malta’s southeast coast, serves as the centre of the island’s fishing trade and the location where much of Malta’s fish is caught. Wander down to the harbour to admire the luzzu –the traditional, brightly coloured fishing boats – as they haul in their catch of tuna, swordfish and local delicacy, lampuki. The charming design of these boats has remained unchanged for hundreds of years, with eyes painted on the bow of the boat as a symbol of good health and prosperity.
As the boats are unloaded directly to the waterside market stalls, you may well spot a few eager locals hurrying to inspect the catch and haggle with the fisherman for the best price. Visitors can take their time wandering amongst the stalls, admiring the fantastic array of locally caught fish and soaking up this unique glimpse of Maltese culture and cuisine. Depending on the season, the varieties of fish available are likely to be sea bass, grouper, white bream and red mullet, in addition to octopus and squid, which are typically used for stews and sauces. After walking around the market, enjoy a seafood feast at one of the excellent restaurants nearby. As any local will tell you, Marsaxlokk is not only the best place to buy the freshest fish on the island, but also home to Malta’s finest seafood restaurants. For a Maltese seafood dinner with all the trimmings, Ir-Rizzu has being serving up fantastic, fuss-free seafood for over three decades. Originally opened by a local fisherman, this simple, no-frills restaurant is now run by his sons, and is a firm favourite.
Named after a specific type of Maltese fishing net, Tartarun is serious about its seafood. Also family-run, this is a simple restaurant with a menu that showcases the local catch alongside a selection of traditional recipes, as well as a few imaginative twists. Enjoy a starter of local octopus with lemon confit and crispy quinoa, or a pasta dish of black tortellini filled with local prawns and crab and served a fermented honey velouté.
Located in St. Julian’s, Barracuda is a fine dining restaurant with an emphasis on seafood. Founded over 40 years ago, the restaurant is housed in an 18th-century villa with perfect sea views. The selection of seafood carpaccio – which includes Mediterranean red prawn and barracuda – is a particular highlight, along with the chef’s signature bouillabaisse.
Across the waters in Gozo, Tmun Mgarr is another highly lauded culinary establishment and is counted as one of the best restaurants on Gozo. Its fish dishes are, of course, excellent, with the Day’s Catch the dish to choose. Settle in at a table on the pretty terrace overlooking the harbour and enjoy some sublime Maltese seafood.
At Caviar & Bull, a highlight that keeps regulars coming back for more is the Sea Bass Iceberg Flambée. The fresh fish is baked in rock salt at 200 degrees and prepared at the table for a dish that’s as theatrical as it is delicious. Those with a preference for crustaceans tuck into the freshest lobster on the island for a garlicy, buttery feast.
There are several Maltese seafood dishes that visitors must try. One of the most famous is made from lampuki (otherwise known as mahi-mahi or dorado), and a favourite in Malta. Lampuki can be caught between August and December, and although the fish can be cooked in a variety of ways, Torta tal-lampuki (or lampuki pie) is one of the most traditional dishes. A kind of Maltese fish pie, this delicious meal consists of a pastry case stuffed with herbs, vegetables and the lampuki.
Similarly, Aljotta is a quintessential Maltese dish that only uses ingredients either grown on the island or caught off its shores. This rich and fragrant soup is made with tomatoes, olive oil, locally caught fish and locally made white wine, and is a year-round favourite as the type of fish can be adapted to make use of what’s available at that time.
For a meatier main that’s still fresh from the Mediterranean, order Pixxispad Mimli, or grilled swordfish. If you’re visiting Malta during the summer months, you’re likely to spot swordfish on many restaurant menus, typically served as a steak and marinated in local herbs, olive oil, white wine and lemon juice before being grilled to perfection.