TRAVEL AT HOME: Rich plates for poor pockets
In general, the price of Maltese food is inversely proportional to how good it tastes (and how many calories it has). Just think: Twistees, pastizzi and hobz biz-zejt can all be bought with the spare change jingling in your pocket. With this in mind, di-ve.com decided to search our beloved islands to find the best places to enjoy cheap but quality Maltese meals in a typical Maltese atmosphere.
Farmer’s Bar - Mgarr
Just off the main road that heads down to Ghajn Tuffieħa, Mgarr’s Farmer’s Bar humbly occupies a corner of the street. I enter at about 10.15h in the morning, and as I eat my toast, customers are already stuffing themselves with forkfuls of timpana, lasagna and qarabaghli mimli (stuffed marrows) – whatever the bar has to offer that day (there is no set menu).
Opened in 1979, Farmer’s Bar was aptly named as it is the appointed meeting place for the cooperation of Maltese farmers to meet. The main home-cooked dishes it boasts are timpana, ross fil-forn (baked rice), spaghetti biz-ziemel (spaghetti with horse meat), qarabaghli mimli and imqarrun il-forn (baked ziti).
All main dishes, which are big enough for two, cost €4 on average, and I debated editing my “Te’ fit-Tazza” article see (http://di-ve.com/travel/travel-home-te%E2%80%99-fit-tazza-wa%C4%A7da-zokkor) as I sipped my half-pint of coffee.
As you sit on your chair, look at the black-and-white photographs of Maltese farmers around the room and listening to the hustle and bustle in the kitchen and the murmur of the television in the corner of the room, all sorts of characters walk in and out, the majority of whom are dressed in checked shirts. They ask for “the usual” and read the newspaper before gobbling down their meal and heading back to work.
Każin Banda San Lawrenz – Birgu
The possible struggle to find decent parking gives you the opportunity to stroll through the shaded streets of Birgu and get a taste of Maltese rural life. You pass elderly men sitting at their window listening to the radio, which is also sticking out of the window. You dodge past it so as not to lose your eye, and finally arrive at the pjazza (square) of Birgu, where a statue placed in the centre embellishes the view.
Każin Banda San Lawrenz lies on the perimeter of the sqaure, and if the snow-white, decorative, steel barriers do not catch your eye, the regulars seated in the porch will “catch” your ears.
The Maltese food served at this joint arrives in platters and is free of charge, served in the form of appetizers when you order a few (or more) drinks.
As you sit in the courtyard or on the porch and watch the movement below in the square, you can dig into qaqoċċ (artichokes), bebbux (snails), bite-size portions of baked rice and timpana, Maltese sausage, bigilla (a traditional Maltese bean dip), galletti (water crackers) and ġbejniet (goat’s cheese).
Maxokk Bakery – Nadur, Gozo
Even if you have not heard of Maxokk Bakery in Gozo, you have definitely heard of the traditional Gozitan “ftira” it produces, also known as “ftira with potatoes”, available for just €5.50.
Maxokk is a small 80-year-old family-run bakery that fills St James Street with the aroma of baked goods. The typically Maltese-sounding name is actually a phrase which means the same in English “Ma (mummy) – shock!”. Fused together to form “Maxokk”, this nickname was given to the family when their ancestor Pawlu was still a young boy who was playing with part of his bicycle when he got a small electric shock and shouted “Ma, xokk!”.
Although famous for their ftajjar with potatoes, Maxokk also serves normal pizzas and is a good enough reason to catch the ferry to Malta’s sister island.