Luscious sophistication in the heart of Paceville

OIA takes Isabelle Sammut on an artistic journey, right from the aesthetics of its décor to the food and drinks that are not just beautiful to look at, but also divine in taste

In the midst of one of the main side roads of St Julian’s stands OIA gastro bar, a gastronomical delight which brings that something extra to the hustle and bustle of the nearby clubbing district of Malta.

OIA gastro bar, which opened its doors just over a month ago manages to pull off the right balance between the buzzy vibe of its surroundings with a more subtle and classier atmosphere…which is why it was the perfect location for my weekly date night with my significant other.

OIA easily catches your eye with its urban décor. It is semi-industrial with its tall chairs and hard wood tables; but also tropical with very warm undertones.

As we walked in, we were immediately greeted by the lovely staff who made us feel welcome from our very first drink to the last bite of dessert. We opted for a table outside on their terrace, since the weather permitted us to sit outside in the breeze as we enjoyed the background music and ogled at the menu. Their drinks selection is phenomenal, apart from the selection of over 30 beers to choose from, ranging from Belgian, German and Italian- their cocktails are definitely superior to most in terms of quality. As a cocktail-enthusiast, I found myself marveling at the list of original cocktails that all include spirits which are infused in house. Inspired by the traditional cocktails, OIA’s drinks add an experimental but flavorful twist.

I opted for the Chilly Rita, which (as the menu rightly points out) is the hot and spicy sister of the Margarita. It is made from a chili-infused tequila, and it is not for the faint hearted. Other interesting cocktails on the menu and for those bacon-loving people out there- included the Bacon Bloody Mary, made from home-made Bacon infused vodka. For the more moderate drinkers (like my boyfriend) there are milder cocktails such as the original Cosmo OIA which is like the normal Cosmo but with a raspberry twist, as well as homemade lemonades.

Selection of lemonades
Selection of lemonades

When it came to the main act (ie: the food) we were equally in for a treat. For starters, we decided on having their famous scrocchiarella. It was extremely hard to choose from the different toppings, as they all sounded glorious- but finally the truffle and cheese options won. As a whiff of tartufo came wafting in our direction, and the serving board with its generous portion of scrocchiarella with its melted stracciatella di bufola, crispy fresh rucola and cherry tomatoes was placed on our table, we gave each other a metaphoric pat on the back. The portions were very filling, and the crispy yet chewy focaccia base was definitely one of the best things that we have ever tasted. In fact, we couldn’t help but feel that slightly bit sad when the last piece very quickly vanished off our plates.

The chef, Justin Schieda then served us with the most exquisite salad as a middle dish, which included home-made sun dried tomatoes and a fluffy and light basil sponge that melts in your mouth, leaving a taste of basil goodness.

For the main course, we took the opportunity to try the meaty options and since we both couldn’t decide between the duck and the pork, we decided to share both plates. The duck tandoori is a sight to behold, with tandoori spices, mango puree, raisins and a touch of edible flowers. The duck was warm and melted instantly our mouth, leaving a sweet yet savoury taste. The pork, also an artistic dish, included cauliflower puree, shavings of cauliflower and cauliflower couscous along with home-made Kimchi. As the chef enthusiastically explained to us, the pork is first cured and then soused in house, a process that takes approximately 60 hours.

24 hour sous vide pork belly - Kimchi & cauliflower textures
24 hour sous vide pork belly - Kimchi & cauliflower textures
Tandoori duck breast
Tandoori duck breast

Full to the brim, and satisfied with our dining experience, we shared a coffee-cake with a chocolate glaze, which was the perfect ending to the perfect evening.

OIA takes you on an artistic journey, right from the aesthetics of its décor to the food and drinks that are not just beautiful to look at, but also divine in taste. To top it off they also offer free parking, which is a blessing in a place where finding parking is usually a nightmare.

For exceptional food and drinks, great vibe and welcoming atmosphere OIA is definitely the place to go to. Head there on a Friday, when they host live bands with different music every week. Oh, and it just keeps getting better: apart from showing live sports, they’ve recently introduced a 40% happy hour (from 18:00-20:00) on all drinks and bar bites! OIA is open all day, everyday.

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