Dining in Malta: Noni*

We’ve been on a last-minute vacation to the Mediterranean island of Malta for a week, which we concluded with a dinner at Noni. This trip was so last-minute that I had not done any research and I wasn’t even aware there were restaurants with a Michelin star on Malta. This year is actually the first year that Michelin has published a guide for Malta and there are three restaurants with one star. Due to Covid, Malta is much less crowded and we were able to get a table. Although Noni has a Michelin star, the restaurant’s decor and staff are informal so it fits very well with a relaxed vacation vibe. The tables are located in a nice cellar. The restaurant is run by the chef Jonathan Brincat and his sister Ritienne Brincat as the restaurant manager. We opted for the tasting menu (75 euros for 6 courses plus appetizers and petit fours) with the wine pairing (45 euros for 6 glasses).

The ‘snacks from the kitchen’ started with this cucumber and watermelon soup, with a great balance in flavor.

The ‘oreo’ is stuffed with tuna (and probably colored with squid ink). The fritters are made fom chickpeas.

The final snack was tuna tartare with prickly pear juice and strips of a mild green pepper.

All of these snacks went great with a traditional method sparkling wine from Malta, made from Chardonnay. The wine itself was very good with a great minerality to it. The wine was brut, but had just enough dosage to work with the watermelon and prickly pear. 9/10

I didn’t photograph the excellent bread, but it was very good.

First course of the menu: fresh goat cheese with figs, fig leaf, hazelnuts, and verjus. Verjus is a condiment akin to vinegar that is made from unripe grapes. It played an important role in this dish to balance out the flavors, as the goat cheese itself was more creamy than pungent. The shape of the plate made it a bit difficult to get some of the verjus in each bite, but otherwise this was a very nice original dish. It was paired very well with a Sauvignon Blanc from Alto Adige. 9/10

Next was “local potato nosotto”, a play of words by the chef as it was small cubes of local new potato, cooked as risotto with prawns. The textures and flavors of this dish were perfect: the potatoes al dente and the prawns juicy and tender. The broth had just the right amount of prawn flavor so that it supported the potatoes rather than overwhelmed them. This was paired well with a Vermentino from Malta. When the wine was first poured in seemed less interesting than Vermentino from Sardinia, but the dish really brought out the flavor of the wine. 10/10

Sea bass with chard, fermented capers, and beurre blanc. I would have liked the sea bass to be slightly less cooked, but it certainly wasn’t dry and this was another very good dish with a lot of flavor. It was paired with a Pinot Noir from Alsace. It was a Pinot Noir in a creamy style (similar to Pinot Noir from California) that worked very well with the fish and the beurre blanc. Sometimes red wine is served with fish as a gimmick, but this was really a very great pairing. 8/10

Beef sirloin with mushrooms and a sausage roll. The beef was cooked medium rare and tender. Another great wine pairing with a Bordeaux blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc) from Malta. This was the only dish where I didn’t understand the connection with Malta — the beef was even listed as USDA. But it was still a very good dish. 8/10

The beef was served with potato cakes with fennel seed, very nice.

The pre-dessert looked better than in the photo when it was served — as I only remembered to take a photo after I had already attacked it with my spoon. This orange blossom sorbet had an intense orange flavor that worked very well with the local dates. It was paired very well with a sweet Syrah from Malta. 9/10

The dessert was black truffle ice cream with praline and smoked vanilla. I really liked the black truffle ice cream and it was wonderful in combination with the smoked vanilla. It was paired well with the same sweet Syrah. It amazed us how two such different desserts could be paired so well with the same wine. 10/10

Coffee or tea was accompanied by petit fours.

The food was excellent, with the nosotto as the highlight but all dishes were good. 9/10 for the food.

The wine was even more surprisingly good. The pairings were all perfect, which rarely happens even at three star restaurants. The staff explained that they taste the dishes with the wines together to decide on the pairings, and that approach really pays off. And apart from a good pairing, they were also great wines. The only thing that could be improved is the serving temperature of the red wines, because ambient temperature in Malta is a bit high for reds. I am only talking a few degrees here. 9/10 for the wine.

The service was very good as well. The pace of the menu was just right, and the service was flawless. The service was very friendly (and not too formal at all, as I already mentioned). 9/10 for the service.

These are marks that I would usually give to restaurants with two or three Michelin stars, but they are very well deserved. It was unexpected that we were going to Malta, and more unexpected to eat at a Michelin star restaurant. But even more unexpected was how good this was. I’ve predicted stars before, like for Bord’eau and Schanz (both of which were upgraded from one to two stars soon after I predicted they would be). I would not be surprised if Noni were to get a second star within a couple of years. It is not only good but also outstanding value for money, so don’t miss eating here if you go to Malta.

6 thoughts on “Dining in Malta: Noni*

  1. What a great price for such a lovely meal. The fresh goat cheese course is beautiful, how was the leaf made? It’s exquisite! When the wine pairing is good, it really enhances the experience! I’m glad you had a good experience because the last one in Holland was a total failure. How many bottles did you bring back with you😉?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a lovely and unexpected degustation meal description at both a place unexpected and a time similar. Have rarely seen you give such high marks – it obviously was a happy and satisfying night 🙂 ! The menu presents both differently from some of the famed restaurants to which you have been before and seems incredibly well-priced ! Glad you were able to partake of such when, for instance, all similar establishments in SE Australia are closed or trying to keep alive serving take-away food . . . most of us have been unable to eat out safely for many months , , , best and thanks . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ecco perchè da un po’ non ti si sentiva! Bella Malta? Non sono mai stata, ma sono molto attratta (anche per Caravaggio). Questo è un ristorante stellato che potrei permettermi, lo ricorderò. Grazie, e bentornati 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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