During our recent visit to the beautiful Knights Templar island of Malta, Charlie Bone, the chef and owner of Il-Horza, invited us to visit his tiny but highly regarded restaurant. We asked the cab driver to drop us off some distance from the venue and enjoyed the short stroll across the pompous squares and through crooked alleyways of Valletta, Malta’s capital.
We were offered to choose between the more elegant, slightly more spacious ground floor room, and the more rustic, basic, but very cosy basement, which is just a few steps down the stairs from the entrance. We chose a table in the basement, because we loved the ambience.
After short deliberation, we opted for bone marrow (€9) and the chef’s daily selection of Antipasti (€9) as our starters. As main Ms B chose local fish of the day (sea bream, €23.50), and I couldn’t resist the ribeye of veal served with local veg and roast potatoes (€23).
We couldn’t believe our eyes, when the starters arrived: so much food!
I hadn’t had proper bone marrow since our visit to Plachutta in Vienna a year ago and thoroughly enjoyed the well-seasoned dish which went great with the fresh bread we had been served earlier. Perhaps even more impressive was the selection of Antipasti: some of the finest cured ham we’ve had in a long time, super-fresh, juicy mozzarella, and some delicious pesto and basil.
Additionally, we were served four bowls. The octopus stew was my favourite. I liked the texture of the octopus and thought it went nicely with the relatively acidic, strongly spiced, tomatoey stew. Ms B’s favourite was the chickpea stew. The meatballs were virtually smothered in relatively mild, but flavoursome tomato sauce, just as they should be. We also enjoyed the crunchy fish cakes.
Charlie stopped by at our table several times over the course of the meal. He loves talking food, but equally talking any other topic and adding an anecdote here and there. It’s clear that this man has found his calling. He explained to us how Il-Horza is usually focused on fine dining with a French touch, but that the menu was radically adjusted to better accommodate travellers’ expectations during the ‘European Capital of Culture 2018’ year. The preference is currently on comparatively basic, traditional Maltese food.
The mains arrived, and I couldn’t have been happier with my veal steak. It’s difficult to get an expertly prepared veal steak, and I realised right away that this thing on my plate was one of those. Exceptionally juicy, soft, and tasty. Ms B was clearly rather pleased with her sea bream, too.
When we were asked if we’d like a dessert, we were planning on declining, because our starters and mains had been rather generously sized, leaving little space for more. The waitress recommended sharing one portion of Maltese Cannoli (€6.50) and promised that it was a small portion, even for one person. They turned out to be delightful and we had them with an Amaretto (Ms B) and an Averna (me).
We know we’ll be back for another meal during our next visit to Malta, perhaps as soon as next year. 5 out of 5 in our book.