Temple Restaurant review: One 80 Kitchen & Lounge, Mellieha, Malta. June 2017
The town of Mellieha sits on a group of hills in northwest Malta and affords stunning views over Mellieha Bay, which includes Ghadira Bay – the largest sandy beach in Malta. A popular holiday resort for the last one hundred years, it also won European Destination of Excellence 2009. The construction of the St Paul's By Pass allowed Mellieha to return to life as a Maltese town and today it emanates pleasant affability, the feeling of being on holiday, a leisurely pace and a sense of timelessness.
However, timelessness does not mean dated and Rouvin Zammit Apap and Jesmond Vella – owners of one80 Kitchen & Lounge in Mellieha – are far too experienced in the hospitality business to sit back. True gourmets and restaurateurs to their fingertips, they are presiding over one of the best offers in Malta today.
Coming down into Mellieha you will experience the steep hill, hairpin bends and chiming five bells of the parish church and, immediately on your right, is one80 Kitchen & Lounge. Parking is easy and from the moment you step into the spacious and light reception, you know you have made a great choice. The impressively large restaurant is artfully zoned into areas for bar food, lunch or dinner, cocktails and private dining. To one’s left is a swoop of a terrace offering al fresco dining and 180-degree views up over the garrigue to the church or down to the sea and Ghadira Bay.
The innovative use of ceramic flooring and walnut cladding on the bar, the fringed fabric space dividers (reminiscent of flapper dresses and film stars) and very comfortable seating in both lounge and restaurant all work together – not just to look good but to ensure that diners enjoy every aspect of their forthcoming meal. Thoughtful touches from the red throws for chillier evenings to the fragranced freshening towels in their own branded containers all contribute to the feeling that you will be well looked after at one80 Kitchen & Lounge.
The restaurant also displays paintings by famous local artist George Fenech (1926 - 2011), whose main inspiration was the Mellieha landscapes. This provides a beautiful journey through Maltese changes across the years - both natural and man made.
We visited one80 Kitchen & Lounge on a shimmering hot Tuesday lunchtime and our waiter offered us a choice of seating. Being North Europeans we promptly headed out on to the terrace. The elevated area is cool and shady with plenty of room between tables and seating to ensure that, even at full capacity, you still have unfettered views. The polished perfection of the glass safety screens that unobtrusively enclose the area are just part of the very high standard of care and effort that goes into everything Rouvin and Jesmond put their name to, including the food.
Overall the menus are comprehensive, balanced and well thought out, encompassing the best of local produce. Arabic, Asian, Sicilian and Italian influences are deftly done to give new life to old favourites, along with some more unusual flavours and spices including lemongrass, carob jus and new foodie favourite, sumac. The only issue is deciding as there is so much choice.
For a light lunch, we took Jesmond's recommendation to start with the following;
Carpaccio of beef with shaved Parmesan and toasted pine nuts with a drizzle of truffle oil.
The best carpaccio needs to start with the best ingredients – and one80 possibly has the best beef in Malta. Exquisite wafer-thin slices of luxury with fresh sweet Parmesan, a satisfying crunch from the toasted pine nuts and delicate truffle oil made this a winner with us.
Smoked octopus carpaccio with watercress salad is another seemingly simple but special dish that manages to be strikingly pretty as well as delicately delicious. Smoking the octopus added a layer of flavour that was wonderfully unusual and fragrant. A scattering of pomegranate seeds and capers added texture and sweetness and the watercress salad complemented the flavours beautifully.
Cuttlefish, fennel, mangetout and snow pea salad with plum tomato passata our final starter was a concoction of tastes, textures and flavours that were individually amazing and, together, made for heavenly eating. A delicious smooth and light passata with a hint of star anise was topped with elegant slivers of mangetout, snow peas and fennel and intertwined with long silvery stands of the freshest cuttlefish. The simplicity of the ingredients showed the perfection of the execution of this light but filling dish. An additional splash of luxury was in the finely grated Bottarga (the roe/caviar of the tuna) dusting on top.
Moreish fresh bread and cheese was served as an accompaniment and, together, this could have added up to a very good lunch on its own as all portions were to the usual, generous Maltese standard. However, we were there for a full three-course lunch and so, undaunted, our next courses included:
Spaghetti with clams, prawns and Bottarga shavings
Rummo pasta is one of the best pastas in the world and, when perfectly cooked and tossed with fresh clams and prawns in a light oil and topped with Bottarga, then lunch doesn't come much better. We all noticed that we three salt fiends did not once reach for the condiments as the meals were perfectly seasoned.
House-made beef, pork and marjoram sausages with house-made tomato chutney was a joy of a dish. one80's chefs are experts in the art of balancing taste and texture. The sausages were firmly packed to give beautiful consistency and keep their size and shape whilst cooking. The tomato chutney deserves to be bottled and sold under the one80 name as it is as far from ketchup as you can get whilst doing the job brilliantly. The delicate star anise flavour just appearing was an intriguing addition. Lastly, the twice-baked Sicilian cheese, criss crossed with griddle marks and with a slightly smokey taste was a delicious surprise and perfect accompaniment.
Chickpea and sweet spices falafel, aromatic lamb koftas and hummus
Falafel, the traditional Arab vegetarian fritter, is a great source of protein and, made one80's way, is just delicious. Crispy on the outside and hot and fluffy on the inside, the chickpea-only recipe adds a certain nuttiness and texture to the falafels. Ginger, cinnamon and allspice add heat and sweetness. The lamb koftas – cigars of lightly spiced meat with hints of fennel, cumin, sumac and harissa, were perfectly grilled and all served with a pot of thick garlicky hummus.
No self-respecting diner leaves the table without pudding and the dessert menu at one80 is a pleasure to read, let alone work through: Apple crumble tart with cinnamon ice cream is a delight. The firm sweetness of the apple with the crunch of crumble made this dish a winner for us. Regardless of whose national dish you believe apple crumble to be, this Maltese version is one of the best we've tasted in a long time.
Strawberry millefoglie with vanilla ice cream was a confectioner's picture-perfect pudding. Maltese strawberries should be world famous as they are exactly like the ones you had as a child: luscious, sweet, bursting with flavour – nothing like the forced ones available in so many countries today. Layers of delicate flaky pastry with poached strawberries oozing juice nestled between crème pâtissière and was served with fresh strawberries and house-made ice cream.
The Wine List
Choosing wine should always be a pleasure and Jesmond's knowledge and expertise add to the experience at one80. There is a large selection from every wine-producing region worldwide, as well as many very special wines for those who want to experience the offerings and vintages of the finer producers. Unusually for Malta, in our experience, there is also an excellent selection of wines by the glass, including the premier wines such as Barolo and Châteauneuf du Pape. This is available through using the Coravin system, which allows access to the wine without pulling the cork.
The wine list is divided into sections designated by colour and appeal so if you are looking for a light and fragrant rosé or a full-bodied red, it is all beautifully laid out for ease of choice.
A quality selection of Champagne and Prosecco is also available – by the bottle or the glass and last but certainly not least is the 'Cave'. A temperature-controlled glass room containing Premier Cru and Premier Grand Cru wines which will delight even the most rarefied palate.
We chose to drink Maltese wines with our lunch: a Palatino Merlot, a Marsovin Rosé and the Meridiana Fenici Chardonnay – Vermentino-Viognier. Each wine was a joy and the 175ml glass was generous enough to last the whole lunch, bearing in mind we were all driving.
The restaurant is a delightful mix of bar, café, lounge restaurant and private dining and it does it all beautifully. Service is discreet, efficient and friendly. Mellieha is well-known across Europe as a holiday destination and the highly professional team at one80 are multilingual, knowledgeable and efficient as well as truly loving what they do.
It was a pleasure to have lunch at this very welcome addition to Maltese dining and we are all looking forward to our next visit.
one80 Kitchen & Lounge
30, Triq Il-Wied Ta' Ruman,
+356 2152 1637
Published TEMPLE Magazine 2018
Copyright: Temple Concierge Ltd.
Images Copyright: Temple Magazine and One 80.