Malta is the number one LGBT destination according to the European Rainbow Index (scoring 94%), owing to the population’s respect for human rights and full equality in society. Combined with a rich history, culture and temples dating back over 7,000 years, and 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, Malta is therefore an obvious location for LGBT travelers. We at Vada Magazine have put together a Travel Guide, this part covering where to eat, drink and have fun, and part 1 covering what to see and do.
The food scene in Malta is varied, having had heavy influences from its previous British rule, being so close to the Italian island of Sicily, and trade across the Mediterranean. Amongst the mixing pot of flavours there are some local foods such as rabbit (usually in a stew), and a small but growing wine scene. We’ve rounded up a range of restaurants and food venues that offer the best selection to visitors.
Where to eat
64 Gun is one of the newest restaurants on the food scene in Valletta. Located just off Merchant Street, 64-Gun offers a cool sanctuary from the hot sun. A cavernous space on the lower ground floor unfolds through the chunky Maltese stone and modern glass front of the restaurant.
The menu is mediterranean inspired, but by no means traditional to any one particular country. We enjoyed some cheese and meats sourced from across the continent, mushroom and parmesan tagliatelle with a lot sauce and topping than an Italian would like – though we find an abundance of topping always a pleasure. Dessert options again take inspiration from France and Italy, with a semi-freddo, chocolate mousse and creme brûlée all our favourites.
A stone’s throw from the historic city of Mdina, in Rabat about a 20 minute drive from Valetta), is Townhouse No3 that focusses on locally sourced Maltese ingredients. Every dish on the menu has a percentage rating, and even this approach is extended to the wines on offer too. Baked gnocchi, balloting of chicken and the local catch all impressed. As did the British-inspired sticky toffee pudding, and the traditional Maltese Imqaret (a type of date fritter).
The walls of Townhouse No3 are lined with inspirational quotes, so should you find conversation running dry, simply glance up to remember that “A bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world” – Louis Pasteur.
Just inside the entrance to Valletta’s city gate is Rampila restaurant. For evening meals, reservations are essential, and we suggest requesting a table on the terrace, which overlooks the city walls. The menu is unpretentious Mediterranean food, and all the dishes we ate were well executed and reasonably priced.
Valletta Food Market on Merchant Street is the place to go if you want plenty of choice under one roof. The ground floor features outlets from well known Maltese restaurants, with shared seating – everything from pizza to pulled meat. On the lower ground floor is a chic supermarket, ideal to buy a few foodie presents (though for UK visitors, obviously not the many Waitrose-brand imports)
Caffe Cordina has an Instagram-worthy interior, showcasing its 175 years of excellence. Although the venue is always busy, as is very popular, we suggest finding a way to squeeze indoors to enjoy a tea or coffee, and possibly a handmade sweet or pastry, or two.
Whilst on our busy day trip to Gozo, we took a short break from the excursions to have a Gozo Picnic. Run by a local mum who makes up delicious picnic menus, Gozo Picnic has prices starting at 25 EUR per person. These can be delivered to a picnic destination of your choice, or your hotel room ready to take with you on a day out.
For those worried about any potential language barriers, readers will be relaxed in the knowledge that everyone speaks English to a certain degree, particularly so in the hospitality industry. Most places are able to discern between English Breakfast Tea and a Full English Breakfast.
Where to drink and have fun
Although there are many small bars (and the most popular can be found with patrons flooding out of them), there are almost no LGBT-specific bars in Valletta. Bars are open throughout the day and come alive early evening, often with a happy hour offering. We recommend walking down Merchant Street, with many bars, including gin bars, and a venue blasting out classics from ABBA – everywhere is very welcoming.
St. Julian’s is a resort-focussed coastal area of Malta, about 20 minutes drive north of Valetta. This area is buzzing with bars, clubs, restaurants, and late evening reps offering discount drinks into all the venues. The LGBT scene is very limited in Malta, but St. Julian’s is where travellers from the community can find the prominent gay bar – targeting gay men specifically: Michaelangelo Club Lounge, including a small and less-than-discrete dark room.
The ‘scene’ is focussed on club nights rather bars and clubs, perhaps given the population of Malta being only circa 480,000 residents. One Saturday each month is pop-fuelled Lollipop, with the next events on 18 May and 22 June in 2019.
Accommodation and transport
For our visit, we stayed for three nights in AX The Saint John Boutique Hotel, a 4-star boutique hotel in the heart of Valletta. This centrally located and recently opened property is ideal for visitors wanting to explore the capital city. As with many boutique properties, the entry-level ‘Comfort room’ size is snug, so we recommend a Deluxe or Superior room category for extra space. Accommodation here does offer good value for quality, service and room amenities.
The hotel has attached restaurant Cheeky Monkey, where a light buffet breakfast with a few hot a la carte options is served. A lunch and dinner menu are available. Given the hotel’s location close to the bars of Merchant Street, the bar at Cheeky Monkey offers a competing happy hour (2-for-1 offer) on cocktails, perfect for a couple of mid-afternoon Aperol Spritz.