You must have visited or, at the very least, heard of Barbajean in Dingli! It’s a step into this chique and stylish environment where the decor is the initial taste of flair you’ll get from this experience. From the cocktail list, to the changing menu, the vibes at Barbajean are super on trend, and Chef Patron Jean Dingli makes it his mission to fire up some hot dishes for that casual-yet-elevated dining experience.
As your eyes settle on the drinks menu, after a quick scan of the interior niceties that fill the restaurant, your server, bubbly as they come, will make their suggestions for the cocktail list and the wine menu alike – no matter your preferred poison, you’ll find it at Barbajean.
You’ve clinked your glasses and taken a swig, promptly, your server brings out the first sharing plate – Fried Sheep Cheese Ravioli with Basil & Tomato Salsa – the perfect opening bite. It tantalises your palate with salty fried texture, a smooth filling and an afterbite pick-me-up with the tangy basil and tomato dressing.
The herby and nutty oil that gracefully sits on the salsa adds a balance to the goat cheese which is light yet sturdy to the Mediterranean flavour profiles accompanying it. The fry is deep yet light and is further trimmed with the bright acidity of the fresh and fragrant salsa.
The concept at Barbajean is that of sharing plates, cascading to your table for every diner to experience the menu together. Sharing moments, discussing the dish and enjoying the environment as you sip, sip, sip. The pace is flowing, there’s no exceeding pause between dishes and portions generally serve one diner, so sharing between four (as was our case), requires a few dish orders.
Savouring a good portion of the Barbajean menu, each dish is prepared with this nouveau cuisine cloud that, tied in with the atmosphere and vibe, works so seamlessly with the expectation of this restaurant.
Choosing a restaurant is quite a critical factor on the frequent diner’s agenda, it all depends on what you want to experience as a guest.There’s a vibrant air here, and the food is always to quite a high standard.
The Pan Fried Halloumi Cheese, Local Honey and Roasted Hazelnuts, for example, is a dish that can easily go wrong. But here, it doesn’t. I’m not the biggest halloumi fan, and when you’re enthusiastic enough to opt for a carte blanche for a pure restaurant experience, you allow the Chef to deliver an uninfluenced experience, from them to you.
This halloumi dish was charred, so slightly stretchy, but still hot – so not squeaky – drizzled with local honey to counteract the saltiness of the cheese, and topped with roasted hazelnuts. The nuts added so much flavour complexity to the dish – and a hazelnut roasted wrongly can ruin a dish with its bitterness. The upper for this dish was fresh rucola, that perked up the flavour combinations a notch. Lemon zest maybe Chef, touch more spark?
Following that moment of realisation to halloumi appreciation, our table received a beautifully plated octopus dish that showcased the peculiarities of the protein, with the delicate nuances of the butter bean hummus. The robust flavour of octopus stood up so gracefully to the bean. Seasoned with roasted coriander seeds and crushed hazelnuts for that flavour pop, taking the charred octopus to an alter-cuisine, not really somewhere octopus goes, but judging by this dish, I think it should.
The piece de la resistance, the reason you go to Barbajean – where the joy of Chef creativity comes to life, is the Maltese Sausage Scotch Egg. Where texture and tradition meet in a crunchy exterior, insatiable egg, particularly the oozing yolk, and the supple meatiness of the Maltese sausage.
Texture is it here. The sausage meat is smooth and much to its cured-raw form, than its dry-cooked form. There’s not a whole lot of sausage – the exact ratio between filling, egg and exterior. Infallible, in my opinion. One of the best Scotch Egg I’ve had, and I’m a big fan, definitely the best locally.
Our savoury journey came to an end with the fragrant dish, that infused your senses with the aromas of fresh dill and the sea in the form of an up-scale Mediterranean pasta. Fresh al dente tagliatelle with chunky prawns, sauteed to a tender bite, salted naturally by the wonderfully foraged salicornia that works so gracefully with the sweetness of the prawn.
With room for dessert, sampling the Chocolate Fondant, Pecan Caramel and White Chocolate Ice-Cream was quite a treat. The ice cream was fresh and creamy and paired well with the thick fondant. A luscious note to end a delicious meal – but then again, the variety of desserts that come out of the Barbajean kitchen, are always on point – including the Imqaret with Vanilla Ice-Cream we tried that evening.
Overall, dining at Barbajean is always a pleasant experience, the menu is seamless, making the sharing concept flow really easily to accommodate a variety of guests, particular palates and friend groups alike. The vibe at Barbajean kicked off quite a trend in Malta, and for that credit also needs to be given.
Kristina Cassar Dowling
HORECA Reviews are based on the experience of the diners on their particular visit. The nature of these reviews is based on the publication’s expertise in the industry, but also highlights the reviewer’s opinions and preferences. The aim of HORECA Reviews is to showcase culinary talent, to give the hospitality industry insight on their patron’s experience and areas for improvement as well as to celebrate the strive for excellence within the sector.