In the last decade Malta has morphed from a nation still culinarily compromised by the legacy of British colonial cooking to a truly gourmet Mediterranean destination. It received its first Michelin stars in 2020, adding more in 2021, bringing the number of awarded restaurants to five – all of them serving primarily modern Mediterranean cuisine. All five were confirmed in the Michelin guide 2022. You can still get a great full English breakfast, or even a butty and beer if you insist, but you can also eat extremely well (without Michelin stars) for far less than in the UK.
So why not avail yourself of the region’s best with perfectly cooked fish fresh from the sea with just-off-the-bush capers and local white wine, or fresh lobster ravioli and sumptuous steak followed by ricotta cassata, gooey hot chocolate pudding or homemade fig ice cream. The Maltese love their food and they like eating out too, so the country is full of excellent restaurants, patronised by locals and visitors alike. Portions are often large, and nobody here wants to rush through a meal, so allow a bit of time, relax, and enjoy.
Below you'll find our most mouth-watering suggestions for where to eat around the island. We also have guides helping you plan a weekend in Valletta, the best places to stay, how to fill your time on the island (and what you can do for free), plus the best beaches and bars.
A romantic, historic setting meets modern Mediterranean food in this excellent restaurant tucked between the bastion walls of Valletta. Sit on the terrace (heated in winter) with views of the floodlit City Gate, the 450-year-old entrance to the capital of Malta. The food is traditional Mediterranean with a contemporary twist; delicious fish dishes and mouth-watering meats are artistically presented. And if you fancy a little break between courses, drop into the ‘Traditions and Crafts of Malta Exhibition’. A side-room relic of previous ownership, it’s an amusing, and surprisingly lifelike, animatronic street scene of life in Victorian Valletta (not to be taken too seriously).
Contact: 00 356 21226625, 0356 77216007; rampila.com
Best table: On the edge of the terrace
The perfect place to discover Maltese food as Mama used to make it, along with good wines, and a cosy, friendly atmosphere. In the cellar of an historic Valletta house, this restaurant is run by chef/owner Chris who serves up a delicious ‘Maltese Meze’. Beginning with tasters of traditional starters such as arjoli (made from sun-dried tomatoes, capers, olives and anchovies), local goats' cheese and homemade ravioli, it moves on to slow-cooked hotpots, fish and Maltese sausage. Round off with Chris’s own chocolates and a wonderfully citrusy limoncello, and it’s hard to beat.
Contact: 00 356 21221699, 00 356 79932985; facebook.com/Legligin/
An unassuming Dickensian shopfront leads to this smart but relaxed Valletta favourite, with white tablecloths and walls decorated with wine bottles and bottled vegetables. The blackboard menu of excellent traditional Maltese and Mediterranean dishes changes daily. There is always a mix of meat and fish, and usually a rabbit dish (much loved by locals). The slow-cooked lamb is fabulous and don’t miss Rubino’s rightly famous Sicilian cassata – made with ricotta cheese, not too sweet and utterly delectable. Service is efficient, knowledgeable and friendly. Awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand (for ‘good quality and good value food’) in 2020, 2021 and 2022, this is a place to return to again and again.
Contact: 00 365 21224656; rubinomalta.com
Ideal for a really good winter dinner, this cosy restaurant with walls covered in changing contemporary art (for sale) turns out skilfully-cooked and beautifully presented Mediterranean food. If you are eating here in summer, reserve one of the few tables outside on the pavement. The menu changes with the season and meals are freshly cooked in the kitchen downstairs. The carpaccio of octopus is particularly delicate and the fresh tuna salad delicious. The restaurant is run by the same people who own Trabuxu Wine Bar just around the corner, so the wine list is also extensive and well chosen.
Contact: 00 356 21220357; trabuxu.com.mt
Trattoria da Pippo
Hidden away in a cosy cellar just off Valletta's main street, Trattoria da Pippo is a much loved Valletta lunch spot popular with the capital's movers and shakers. In a relaxed atmosphere, da Pippo serves large portions of traditional pasta, fresh fish and Italian/Sicilian dishes that will keep you stocked up for the rest of the day. A great place to have lunch if you are planning on a light or late supper.
Address: Melita Street
Contact: 00 356 79474474; facebook.com/dapippovalletta/
In one of Valletta’s oldest houses said to have belonged to the city’s main Maltese architect (Girolamo Cassar), you'll find Guzé. This intimate restaurant serves consistently excellent food in an elegant but relaxed limestone-and-white-linen interior. Equally good are their perfectly cooked fresh fish dishes and the large value-for-money fillet steak. The carpaccio of sea bass and panatone are both (in their very different ways) subtley delicious and the hot chocolate pudding will pull any chocolate lover back here again and again.
Contact: 00 356 21239686; guzevalletta.com
A traditional Valletta bakery converted into a family pizzeria, Ta’ Nenu is the place to eat ftira, Malta’s traditional pizza, especially if you are travelling with children. Ftira tend to be thick crust with toppings including local specialities such as capers, Gozitan cheese, olives, and sometimes fish, meat and/or potato. Italian pizza is also available, as are a few non-pizza traditional Maltese dishes (though they are a bit more expensive). The entrance is over a glass floor looking down on the original baking ovens and a tableau of the bakery as it was perhaps a hundred years ago.
Contact: 00 356 22581535; nenuthebaker.com
In need of sustenance between sights? Café Jubilee will almost certainly fit the bill. The décor is fun: old newspapers cover the walls along with advertising posters at rakish angles. On the ceiling is an upside-down table and chairs offering a different perspective (no alcohol required, though it is available). Café Jubilee is open all hours and serves three meals a day as well as snacks and drinks; it is restaurant, café and bar, offering everything from a croissant to homemade Mediterranean pastas, coffee to cocktails. A place to cool down in summer or warm up in winter – it is almost whatever you want it to be.
Contact: 00 356 21252332; cafejubilee.com
Reservations: Not necessary
Valletta’s Victorian covered market has been converted by contemporary architects into a buzzing food hall with a bar in the centre and outlets for all kinds of food around the edges. Grab your grub from any one of the kiosks and settle down at congenial communal tables. The choosing is almost as much fun as the eating, with everything from fresh Mediterranean fish to Neapolitan pizza, tapas to Turkish and of course burger and chips. For pud, try the local speciality date pastries or irresistible Venchi Chocolate ice cream.
Contact: 00 356 22103500; issuqtalbelt.com
Reservations: Walk-in only
Grand dame of Valletta cafés, Caffe Cordina sits in the heart of Valletta's pedestrianised centre, between the Grand Master’s Palace and St John’s Co-Cathedral. Here Valletta meets, greets and watches the world go by over coffee, ice cream, a bowl of pasta, glass of wine or a pastizz (Malta's traditional snack – a pasty filled with local cheese or peas). Most people come here more for the company and ambience than the food. The spacious interior (heated or air-conditioned) feels like a Viennese coffee house and has a display of Cordina's handmade sweets and pastries. The café also sells Maltese specialities packed for travel both in the café and online.
Contact: 00 356 2065 0400; caffecordina.com
Reservations: Walk-in (or sit outside)
Trattoria AD 1530
An Mdina go-to for everything from a long leisurely lunch to a quick pizza or Maltese platter, a chatty coffee or family ice cream to a romantic dinner. Umbrella-shaded tables sit out in the quiet square behind Mdina's cathedral. The interior is warm and welcoming, with a wine cellar and checked tablecloth feel. Named for the date the Knights of Malta arrived in these islands, Trattoria AD 1530 is the casual dining little sister of the Michelin-starred de Mondion restaurant in the neighbouring Xara Palace hotel. Food is well cooked and plentiful, and includes good salads and vegetarian options. Families are very welcome, with high chairs provided.
Contact: 00 356 2140560; xarapalace.com.mt
Reservations: Recommended but often not necessary
This multi-award-winning haute cuisine restaurant is a place for a special treat. Stiff white tablecloths and waiters in full bib and tucker add to the fine-dining ambience at the top of the boutique five-star Xara Palace hotel. The food is intricate without being fussy, and French with a local Mediterranean/Maltese angle. In summer, book one of the few tables ranged along the narrow terrace for panoramic views across the island. On summer weekends, you may even get a free firework display from one of the nation's many festas.
Contact: 00356 2140560; demondion.com
Prices: £££ (and some)
Best table: On the narrow terrace (in good weather)
A large, long established restaurant within the fortifications of Mdina. Two vaulted stone chambers, originally built as gunpowder stores in the mid-17th century, now provide the atmospheric setting for a broad choice of food and drink. The Mediterranean main meals are well prepared and artistically presented, or you can just drop by for a bowl of pasta, or a coffee or glass of wine. Families are welcome, as are groups, and there is a small grassy area on the bastion walls (though without a view) for al fresco dining in summer. If you miss a mealtime, Bacchus serves some food all day.
Contact: 00 356 21454981; bacchus.com.mt
Reservations: not necessary
Slima, St Julian's and Paceville
This smart waterside restaurant specialising in fresh fish and carpaccio sits right on the edge of Balluta Bay in the popular resort area of St Julian's. Occupying an 18th-century seaside villa, the conversion gained the architects an award from Malta's National Trust. The interior is calm, elegant and historically in keeping with the wealthy family drawing room this once was. Whether through a window in winter or from the terrace in summer, dine with close-up views of the bay – sparkling or stormy, it is always a pleasure. Previous guests include Orlando Bloom, Guy Ritchie, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Claudia Schiffer.
Contact: 00 356 21331817; barracudarestaurant.com
Best table: In summer – on the edge of the terrace above the sea. In winter – by a window overlooking the bay.
This welcoming, family-run restaurant occupies a traditional Maltese bakery. The original oven is still here, and old-fashioned baking utensils decorate the warm orange walls. Ta' Kris means Chez Chris and chef/owner Chris serves up delicious traditional Maltese and Mediterranean food in a relaxed atmosphere. His traditional 'Dad's Famous Bragioli' (sliced beef stuffed with minced beef and slowly cooked in red wine, tomato and herb sauce) is indeed famous. Book early: this place is popular with locals as well as visitors. It's not somewhere to go in a hurry, but I have always found the food – all cooked fresh – worth a little wait. Children are very welcome and high chairs provided.
Contact: 00 356 21337367, 00 356 79337367; takrisrestaurant.com
A relaxed, buzzy, family-friendly pizzeria right on Balluta Bay in the popular resort area of St Julian's. In summer, book early to enjoy your pizza overlooking the water. In winter, get a window seat – the perfect spot whether it is calm and sunny or blowing up a storm. There’s plenty to look at inside too – the kitchen is open and children are encouraged to watch their pizzas being made. The wide choice of toppings should keep everyone happy and there are pasta and seafood dishes too.
Contact: 00 356 21344875; piccolopadre.com
Browse, choose, pay and eat. This trendy café on the Sliema waterfront offers a wonderful display of freshly made food in glass cabinets. It is a breath of fresh air for vegetarians and those in search of variety. Maltese tastes are catered for but so too are more global palates with Mexican bean cakes side by side with Thai fishcakes. The delicious savoury dishes are complemented by vast slices of irresistible cake (they even do gluten-free and diabetic versions). There’s wine too. And whilst you are welcome to sit over your meal, you can also grab it and go.
Contact: 00 356 21337177; mintmalta.com
Reservations: Walk-in only
Il-Mithna means the mill, and this excellent restaurant is housed in a 17th-century stone windmill built by the Knights of Malta. The freshly cooked Maltese and Mediterranean food comes with extra culinary twists. Deep-fried breaded local goat’s cheese (gbejna), for instance, is served with honey, grilled ciabatta and fresh strawberry chutney. Il-Mithna also has an award-winning wine list.
Contact: 00 356 21520404, 00 356 7947 8896; mithna.com
Best table: In suitable weather, book a table in the little courtyard outside.
This is the sort of over-the-top national restaurant you would normally expect to find full of tour groups, but it is more often packed with Maltese enjoying their own traditional cuisine. Families pile in for vast Sunday lunches and there are frequent Maltese Folk Music nights. Ta’ Maria has been run by the same family for more than 50 years, the food is 100 per cent Maltese, and the long menu includes all the local specialities from fish soup and fresh local cheese pasta to beef bragioli, and thick Maltese sausage. Everything comes in traditionally large portions too (just as the food-loving Maltese like it), so arrive hungry.
Contact: 00 356 21434444 ; tamarija.com
This basic-looking local Maltese restaurant in the village of Mgarr (Mgarr Malta, not Mgarr Gozo) is rightly famous for its rabbit dishes and other Maltese home cooking. Not everyone is a fan of eating rabbit but here it is really flavourful and served in the traditional way with in-their-shell peanuts to follow. Il-Barri’s Maltese bigilla appetiser (a sort of butter bean hummus) is a favourite too. Check out the not-too-sweet homemade puds if you have room. Come early for lunch; this restaurant offers more than food. The basement leads into a World War Two shelter where the restaurant’s owner was born, spending his first weeks in the newborns' nursery in this 125m tunnel hand-cut into the rock.
Contact: 00 356 21573235; il-barri.com.mt
When the Maltese want to eat fresh fish, they head for Marsaxlokk. This is the island's largest traditional fishing harbour, full of colourful wooden boats that still throw out the nets each day. There are plenty of restaurants cooking up the catch, and Tartarun (named after a particular Maltese fishing net) is arguably the best of them. Come here for warming traditional Aljota (Maltese fish soup) and perfectly cooked fresh fish – simply grilled, with capers and white wine, or on a tangy green salsa. The only downside is no outside seating – so best in winter or when you need a hit of air-conditioning. Or anytime – if the food is your top priority.
Contact: 00 356 21658089, 00 356 99177258; tartarun.com