In a Maltese City Garden

At the Phoenicia Hotel they take luxury and food very seriously. Nick Harman goes into their garden to meet the head chef and to taste the Maltese difference.

Saul bounds away up the vegetable patch like a puppy in an apron, still talking to me over his shoulder. Then, after grabbing a few tomatoes off the vine, he comes hurrying back. ‘The freshness is fantastic,’ he said biting into one ‘and with the kitchen just over there it gets straight to the plate.’ Saul could be any keen cook enthusing over his vegetable plot, but this particular patch is a massive seven and a half acres in size. It’s the back garden of the Phoenicia Hotel, Malta and Saul’s the Head Chef.

The gardens are grand and have bird’s eye views over the harbour, especially from the luxurious Bastion swimming pool. These verdant acres have been many things since construction began on the hotel in 1939, including being bombed in the war and used as a children’s playground, although no one is saying which did the worst damage. Continue reading

When the boat comes in – another side to the island of Malta

The expression ‘when the boat comes in’ has a real resonance in the Maltese port of Valleta. Cruise ships the size of high-rise flats make this port a regular stop, disgorging around 3,000 passengers at a time. In high season up to six of these leviathans can all be in at once, that’s 18,000 wobbly-legged tourists all hungry for food, drink, sightseeing and souvenirs. It’s a big litre of the lifeblood of this town, a historic port, once a vital British naval base and home of the Knights of St John.

Behind the busy seafront though, away from the tourist spots that have made the town a bit of a byword for ‘costa’ style excess, there is another Malta visible. One where the Italian, British, Middle Eastern, Greek and Roman influences have created a unique place in the middle of an azure sea, and also an island that surprises the traveller who’s prepared to look beyond the clichés.

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