The Harbour Club’s tenth year anniversary celebration came with an offer that’s nothing if not gutsy. A full three course meal at one of Valletta’s best restaurants and, rather than being presented with the usual bill at the end of the meal, you pay what *you* believe is the worth.
Dangerous, in Malta, as the comments beneath the promotional Times of Malta write up revealed. While appreciating the reality of financial constraints, it remains a truth that many still don’t get the distinction between cheap and cheerful, and fine-dining. Or maybe, it’s just that people prefer not to get it, because honestly guys, it’s not rocket science.
Reading comments that clearly show a lack of respect for the art and for the actual ingredients is mind-boggling. You go to a certain type of restaurant to enjoy a culinary experience where the dishes build a narrative and take your senses on an immersive journey. The Harbour Club falls squarely within this category and you can read one of my earlier reviews about what makes it one of the best restaurants in Valletta.
The Harbour Club is a night out, a reason to dress up and find a dining partner to while away the evening with good conversation and memorable food. Just like Noni’s, Risette and ION Harbour, it is a place where you take your time to appreciate and savour every little morsel placed in front of you.
For anything else, such as a quick meal because you don’t feel like cooking, there are plenty of other good places available. But comparing the two different experiences just doesn’t make sense.
During this event, the regular à la carte menu was offered. Guests started off with a selection of Amouse Bouche’s and the excellent freshly homemade bread. When even the bread is a point of conversation during a meal, that is when you know that the evening will be special.
This specific event ran over three days and we attended on Thursday. The turnout on a stormy night was excellent and restored some of my faith in local food appreciation. The Harbour Club is the kind of restaurant where the focus is very much on quality ingredients and creativity, and the result is felt in every dish.
An evening at a fine dining restaurant very much goes beyond the food. For me it’s a bit like theatre, and I like to be wooed with visuals, story-telling and complementary flavours. The Harbour Club has created a beautiful journey whereby all dishes take inspiration from specific Valletta landmarks. Each dish comes accompanied by a tale that weaves the history of the landmark with the ingredients that form the base of your chosen dish.
I chose Merchants Street for my starter, a fluffy risotto with asparagus and a soft ġbejna melting its heart. The accompanying card delved in the history of Sir Temi Zammit and the impact of his discoveries on the gbejna industry.
I followed it up with Strait Street, a hearty concoction of glazed pork belly, spiced carrots and pomegranate juice. The pomegranate juice adds a zing that balances out the crunch of the pork. The accompanying card told tales of the wine, women and song in Strait Street of yore.
Finishing off was the Harbour Club’s famed St Ursula Street, a coffee brioche doughnut served with spiced caramel banana and toffee. This one is truly inspired and one of the biggest highlights for any sweet tooth.
My partner was equally taken by his Liesse Hill (pumpkin gnocchi served with gooey pork ragout) and Mediterranean Street (beef sirloin with spelt and bone marrow stuffed onion and pancetta among other things). We were guests on this particular night, but I would have found it difficult to nail down a fitting price for the meal. The dishes here are so much more than a sum of their ingredients, showcasing not only Chef’s creative approach but also the passion and attention to detail that goes in each component.
At the end, I always ask myself whether the meal was memorable enough to make me remember it and talk about it with other fellow foodies. Was there anything special that stood out and that marks the restaurant out from other places? The Harbour Club fulfills all these criteria and then some.