Lately it seems like all I’ve been hearing about is the Elephant Shoe brunch. There are many wonderful brunch places around, of course, but this one does have a tendency to come up in all food-related conversations.
I had only been to the Valletta restaurant once, and that was for the launch of my book Katya: Easy on the Tonic. It was really the perfect venue for such an event, with beautifully gregarious (and generous) hosts, but now it was time for me to try the real deal and to visit Elephant Shoe for brunch.
The restaurant is co-owned by Jesse Caruana, of Two Buoys fame, and Kurt and Glenn, both of whom were present on the day I visited. I tend to form an opinion pretty fast as soon as I walk into a restaurant, by doing the sneaky thing and gauging the vibe from other guests. Judging by the full tables, animated conversation and gorgeously presented fare I was seeing, the Elephant Shoe brunch was going to be one for the books.
Elephant Shoe brunch options
The menu at Elephant Shoe is as creative as they come. On the day we visited, there were festive specialities with names like Merry Ducking Christmas. I do love me a wittily name concoction, and whoever names the dishes here definitely gets douze points. I mean, Salty Towers for the fish ‘n chips and Torri Tarja for the frittata? Genius.
Thankfully, this isn’t a case of all style and no substance though. I confess to feeling a bit wary of places that go to such an effort with the trimmings, because it’s very rare that the same effort is found in the actual preparation and flavours. This definitely wasn’t the case at Elephant Shoe.
So – onto what matters, the menu. Don’t present me with four basic dishes and call it brunch please. Spoiler alert, they didn’t. The options are excellent, and you’ll find what you’re after whether you favour a sweet or a savoury tooth. There’s hearty stuff like mini steaks, waffles and sandwich towers, light snacks and proper lunch options like gnocchi and lamb kofta.
The Elephant Shoe brunch dishes all have a creative twist, so for example the Paswitch is a luscious combo of flaky pastizzi crust, chorizo, peas, feta and scrambled egg. The doughnut comes with bacon dust. The steak comes with chimichurri sauce and is served with sourdough bread.
I opted for Merry Ducking Christmas, and I promise it wasn’t just the name that got me. The December specialty is a wonderful concoction of pulled duck, brie, mixed berries and veg served with sweet potato mash. The sweetness of the berry and the sweet potato bring a very satisfying contrast to the richness of the duck and the crispy crust. This one’s for those who enjoy a dash of sweetness even with their main food, and it’s filling AF. Though, to be fair, that’s true of most of the dishes at Elephant Shoe, from what I saw.
I also nabbed a taste of my dining companions’ WAP (Waffles Are Perfect, take your mind out of the gutter) and the mix of mushrooms, halloumi, poached eggs and the mystery ‘pinky promise sauce’ was utterly glorious. So was the Paswitch, incidentally. Next time round I’m determined to try the Hot Mess. With a name like that you can’t go wrong.
The sweets menu
When it was dessert time, there was one item that really really screamed my name – Equality Street, which is a triple-layered chocolate pancake with caramel cream, walnut crush and a “lucky pick” of Quality Street chocs. But this sounded like a full meal in itself, so it’ll have to wait for my next visit.
Instead, I opted for the Christmas Cherry Cheesecake, which was as close to perfection as anything in this world can be. This isn’t presented like your regular cold cheesecake, with separate base and cream. Instead, Chefs have done something very clever by fusing the cake with the cheese in one sumptuous, gooey mix.
The sweet section is not part of the regular Elephant Shoe brunch menu and is displayed tantalisingly by the serving counter. Not gonna lie, I had one eye on it throughout the entire meal. On the day we visited there were also brownies, a strawberry cheesecake, muffins and a few other options. The choice was incredibly difficult, but the Christmassy decor on the cherry cheesecake was impossible to resist.
My verdict? The Elephant Shoe brunch is one of those few places that actually live up to the hype. Service is good and genuinely friendly. The menu is extremely well-rounded. Your tastebuds will be seduced, oh-so-sweetly. And you won’t leave hungry. I do believe it’s currently the best brunch place in Valletta and a very strong contender for best in the island, fullstop.