Malta gets the three-star treatment at Aziamendi 100

Aziamendi 100 gives Malta her first taste of three Michelin star dining for a limited time of 100 days. 

rachelzc
Rachel Zammit Cutajar
20 August 2014, 1:03pm
Aziamendi 100 at The Civil Service Sports Club in Valletta
Aziamendi 100 at The Civil Service Sports Club in Valletta
Aziamendi 100 is a whole bunch of firsts for Malta and that, in itself, is worth talking about. Malta’s first pop-up restaurant, Aziamendi 100 is the brainchild of Briton Mark Weingard. Mark lived an interesting life, escaping death on three occasions – the 9/11 attacks, the 2002 Bali bombing and the 2004 tsunami in Thailand – before setting up the luxury hotel, Iniala on the island of Phuket in Thailand.

During the lull in tourist season, when business at the hotel is slow, Mark takes his staff overseas and sets up a pop-up for 100 days only. Having moved to Malta 18 months ago, Mark decided on Malta for their 2014 project, opening the doors to Aziamendi 100 at Michael’s at the Civil Service Sports Club in Valletta on 10 July.

There are days when the harsh deadlines that come with working in the press are all made worthwhile and getting to check out what the hype is all about sure was one of them. So on a warm July evening we headed into the city, having skipped lunch to make sure we enjoyed every mouthful.

As you step through the doorway into the incredible Baroque building that is The Civil Service Sports Club, you are greeted by friendly smiles from Thai and Maltese staff, with general manager Behzad Davarkia looking on.

Restaurant manager Behzad Davarkia
Restaurant manager Behzad Davarkia
They show to you your table, whether you intend on dining at the Iniala Gastro Lounge downstairs, the gastronomic restaurant on the first floor, or the cocktail bar upstairs on the terrace. We settle at a table in an old Maltese balcony, overlooking St George’s Square, listening to the sounds of the fountain and children playing in the water, ready for the nine-course meal ahead.

Three Michelin star chef Eneko Atxa
Three Michelin star chef Eneko Atxa
The menu was designed and created by Three Michelin Star chef Eneko Atxa, and put together on a daily basis by Chef Alex Burger. From the Basque country in Spain, Eneko is rated number 26 chef in the world and is the youngest ever Three Star Michelin Chef at 37. However rather than design a menu using Basque ingredients and techniques, the Aziamendi 100 team have taken the time to get to know Malta and the ingredients found here and designed a menu that uses the very best of what Malta has to offer, with a three-star twist.

One course that comes to mind is a Mediterranean tartlet made with sweet, oven-dried tomatoes and Parmesan, served with an ice cream made from local gbejniet. Taking the local fenkata to three-star level was a rabbit and orange dish, made smoother, richer and altogether yummier with a buttery foie gras centre.

Local ingredients mixed with Basque techniques are evident in some of the dishes, one of which is squid noodles served with a chicken broth. There is no wheat (or rice) in this dish. The noodles are actually made from the squid; paper-thin strips of squid that feel like noodles, mixed with the chicken flavouring, gives a paella sort of flavour, with the mixed seafood and poultry flavours.

Other interesting dishes include an Eneko special, foie gras ashes served on crystal bread. The delicious smokiness and creaminess of the foie gras is nicely complemented by the crunchy crystal bread (a fine crispy crust, very light and airy dough with a gentle taste) and then paired with a Sauternes for sweetness.

You have few choices when you get there – a six-course tasting menu or, if you want to go the whole hog, the nine-course version. You can also choose whether you would like to go for regional wines, world wines or their ‘ultimate experience’, with wines matched to each and every course.

This isn’t something you would choose to do on a weekly basis – even if it is for only three months.

Foie gras ashes served on crystal bread
Foie gras ashes served on crystal bread
However, there is just cause for a regular outing to Aziamendi. The Iniala Gastro Lounge the gastronomic lunch consists of eight dishes for just €29 and in the evening check out the seafood bar, where you can indulge in fresh oysters, carpaccios and tartars all washed down with the very best bubbly.

The Iniala Gastro Lounge downstairs
The Iniala Gastro Lounge downstairs
Whether you intend on dining or not, make some time to sit on the terrace on the roof and indulge in a cocktail (or three), the likes of which have never been seen on the island before. Mixologist Albert Garcia Mozley will charm you into spending many an evening on the rooftop with some innovative cocktails - my favourite was a vodka-based cocktail, made with egg whites and garnished with truffle oil and black pepper. As this was the last cocktail we had, my memory is more than a little bit fuzzy – the perfect excuse for a repeat visit!

Mixologist Albert Garcia Mozley
Mixologist Albert Garcia Mozley
Is it expensive? At €79.00 for the six-course tasting menu and €109.00 for the nine-course version, and more for wine, yes, a little, but you don’t expect to drive off into the sunset in a Bentley when you’ve paid the price of a Volkswagen Polo, do you? Was it worth it? I would say most definitely so. A new experience pairing local ingredients with fine dining twists, phenomenal hospitality and cocktails is well-worth going over the limit for. If you haven’t yet made your way to Aziamendi 100, then what are you waiting for? October will be here before you know it, taking Aziamendi 100 back to Thailand.

Aziamendi 100

The Civil Service Sports Club

113, Archbishop Street, Valletta

Tel: 9990 0100

Web: www.aziamendi100.com

Find us on Facebook: aziamendi100

rachelzc
Rachel Zammit Cutajar graduated in economics from the University of Malta...