Restaurants Malta | Planetmona

Tuesday, May 26th


Restaurants Malta - Paradise Found

Paradise Found


There is no faffing around with suckling pig’s terminology: it is a little piggy that is still at its mummy’s titties. This one had left home with a rucksack and was pretending to be cool and getting drunk around Thailand. Mona Farrugia drops in at Valletta restaurant Salvino's.

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The people who dismissed Facebook as being a waste of time, only for idiots, then spent their entire time creating fake profiles and spying on people through it really and truly need to eat their own words with some butter on top. They had no idea what social networking is about, and, finding themselves out of their own comfortable depth, out of control, dissed it. The spin doctors found themselves being spinned.

Facebook is fantastic because it is democracy in its purest form, with an identity, exactly how we would like it but never get it. Point in fact is the amazing phenomenon of Boiler No 7, the character created by some really witty guy who personified the huge machine that…I don’t know. What does a boiler do?

In this case, in its fictional facebook format, it chats, it posts status updates saying it’s going to ‘bake figolli’ and in so doing plunges the whole country in darkness, and it drinks a hell of a lot of beer.  Most of the comments he gets are fabulously witty and I split my sides reading them.

Over the past month, Boiler No. 7 has amassed more than 6,000 fans, and, as he has pointed out not so succinctly, that’s more than Joseph Muscat or Lawrence Gonzi. Politicians suffer most with Facebook: they have tried to use old techniques, status updating really boring stuff which hardly anybody cares about, and treating it as yet another public relations stunt. It hasn’t worked. Even the traditional PR people are completely out of their depth here. That’s why it’s called New Media huns, and in grappling with it you’re looking a bit, well, old.

What does Facebook have to do with this week’s review, you may be asking? Well, Salvino’s was suggested to me as a response to a query by (are you a fan yet? Dammit be one – we’re still a hell of a long way from Boiler No. 7). Dominic, the guy who owns Dical House and who organises these fantastic foodie trips to Italy, not only said I should go, but actually offered to pay for the food if I was disappointed.

Now how do you quantify disappointment in restaurant reviewing? A less than 3-star rating qualifies, but what about if I find the place to be a balanced 3? In other words: good, but not overwhelmingly so. Good, but not so good that I’d want to return the next day – that would be a five. Good, but not so good that I’d consider returning in a couple of weeks: that would be a four. Salvino’s, to me, is just good. Boring, standard good. Decent.

The staff or owners at Salvino’s obviously follow planetmona’s status updates because they knew I was going. They did not mention anything, but on the Friday night we turned up, they added one and one and made two: if I was not a single foreign man eating on his own, or a foreign couple who made it to a veritably empty Valletta, then I must be Mona. And the guy in the suit sitting opposite me The Writer.

It was TW who objected mostly to Salvino’s. I liked the layout and the décor: it is warm but not cloyingly so. I found the staff to be attentive and in most cases, informed. The menu was interesting and the chef seems to have a penchant for good quality local materials. In spite of what everybody may think, I am the glass-half-full part of the couple. TW is most definitely the glass-half-empty-and-who-the-hell-drank-my-wine part. Salvino's served as a reminder.

‘Fish bouillabaisse?!’ he spluttered. ‘I know it’s a tautology honey love baby’ I told him, stroking his hair. ‘How can I trust a chef who doesn’t even know that?’ he continued, indignant as anybody can be after a week’s worth of hell (aka work). ‘Well, bloody hell, let’s see, no?’ That was me. Less patient. Hungry.

A bouillabaisse is a seafood stew. It is not a convoluted fish soup. It is not a fish soup which is ‘different from aljotta’ or with more refined materials. It is a stew. As such it is meant to be thick, the broth closer to a sauce, and the elements that lend to this thickening are the kilos of fish bones (which are obviously fished out before serving) and sometimes (lazily) potato. There are other elements which make it a Marseillaise and which I won’t go into at this point.

So, the soup at Salvino’s is not a stew and therefore not a bouillabaisse. It is a very good, very clean, very deep, very mellow, orange-red soup with loads of very good seafood in it. I had the pasta with local prawns and spring onions. The sauce accompanying this was extremely good, from the same family of stock as the fish soup had been, the prawns sometimes big and fat, sometimes small, but always sweet. There was a roughness to the dish when it should have been delicate. The strands of pappardelle were too fat for the sauce, yet it eventually grew on me and I grew to appreciate it.

TW had chosen suckling pig. There is no faffing around with suckling pig’s terminology: it is a little piggy that is still at its mummy’s titties. This one had left home with a rucksack and was pretending to be cool and getting drunk around Thailand. That is not to say it was bad, but incorrect terminology gets my goat (and pig) and of course, it gets The Writer’s even more. Our entire herd was gotten with badly-chosen words for the occasion.

My wild boar was boring and not minimally wild in spirit. I asked if it came with sauce, but no, the chef seemed to think that the meat was so fantasticulous that it could take coming to my plate naked. It was of good provenance, but it still couldn’t. We were told that they used a loin, but there was so much bone (loin is from the back of the animal: bone is expected but you still can’t eat it), there was very little meat. It had loads of pepper on it and texturally, it was fine – seared quickly and violently, practically ai ferri. Still, honestly, with a supplier like Zammeats, I could have made it at home, which is not exactly what I want to be paying 18 euro for.

TW was, by now, really riling about two things, and ladies and gentle-ladies, he was right. First of all the potatoes, which were meant to be sautéed. They were cut into cubes (no I don’t get it either) and just tasted awful, not boiled, not roasted but seemed to have been salamandered to high heaven. ‘I have to agree with you’ I told him, and not just to placate him. ‘This kitchen is lacking pride. If this restaurant were packed and these were a panic offering, I’d understand, but they’re serving seven people. Those potatoes are lazy. I would never have let those things past the pass’. This chef had though.

Another huge bone of contention for the writer was the owners. Yes, from what we could figure out, the owners – at least I hope it was them at this point – were sitting at the first table, right behind us, listening distance from our conversation. ‘Good owners do not need to be supervising their staff like this’ TW told me ‘or treating their restaurant like their own personal dining room’.

I have to say I agree with him a hundred percent and not just because he’s my husband. They weren’t doing anything wrong per se, but this behaviour is definitely not right either. It is demeaning to both chef and staff. ‘Maybe they come very rarely’ I told TW. ‘Oh no’ he replied ‘Look at them, they’re always here’. Again, I had to agree: their very casual, very ‘this is nothing special’ body language and the man’s constant phone messaging, screamed ‘taking for granted’. And if they don’t treat their own restaurant as ‘special’, how are we meant to?

My crème brulee had a perfect crunchy top but was otherwise too thin, lacking egg yolk. TW’s cheesecake was awful and again, the chef should not have let it get out. It did: all three quarters of an inch of dry biscuit base, thin line of supposed ‘cheese’ and cloying, artificial cherry topping of it. TW left most of it there. ‘Is there anything wrong with it?’ the waiter asked him. TW surprised me by standing up for his culinary rights ‘Yes’ he replied ‘It’s quite awful. The base is too thick and it’s generally not very nice’. ‘Thank you sir’ the waiter said, taking it away.

Did they take it off the bill? Like hell they did. They didn’t even offer a liqueur later post coffee. So, another rule of restaurant service: if you don’t give a crap about your customers’ reactions, if you don’t plan to do anything about the fact that they didn’t like the food, then don’t feign caring; do not ask.

So Dom, darling, what will it be? Are you paying or not?

Additional Information


Address 32, Archbishop Street,
Town Valletta
Country Malta


Cuisine Bistro

Contact Details

Contact Number +356 21246437
Contact Number +356 79485741




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Mona Farrugia
February 15, 2011
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