Perhaps one of the hardest questions to answer as a food writer in Malta is, “What’s your favourite restaurant?” To which I often reply, “Well, it depends what you fancy.” If you fancy being fancy, getting dressed up, you’re feeling good and you just want to be spoilt and satisfied through all your senses, my suggestion is Gracy’s Arts and Supper Club spearheaded by Chef Tom Peters.
Having tried two lavish tasting menus at Gracy’s, it’s fair to say that I’d recommend this chic-modern-up-beat restaurant to anyone who appreciates fine service, fine wines and fine food in a fine environment.
Expect to be wined and dined with the Head Sommelier Tuva Villa’s expert knowledge taking you straight to the good stuff with a glass of Delamotte to begin your journey. Soft and delicate with tight bubbles for a crisp mouthfeel; and the perfect catalyst for a concoction of flavours, textures and depth.
The canapés kicked things off with a textural element that crunches the millisecond it touches your lips, a gloriously browned millefeuille of umami divinity. Peters’ Mushroom Millefeuille was light and airy yet dense in mushroom richness, marscarope creaminess and of course truffle shavings for that level of class. A fine bite, and truly appetite opening start.
We all know taramasalata as this overly roe-based dip, often artificial and always disappointing. Gracy’s Taramasalata Tart is far from either. The first note to hit you is cucumber essence; refreshing and clean – quickly meshed with the fresh and fragrant dill that approaches your olfactories the movement you crack into the crisp tartlet. And as for the roe cream; it was luscious, muted and subdued – in other words far more delightful than you’ve ever experienced. If you’ve had better, I envy you.
Teased (evilly) on their Instagram, the Gracy’s kitchen met my every expectation with their Steak Tartare and Waffles. A soft yet crunchy waffle, dressed in a rich buttery film of bone marrow, served as the bed for a creamy and luxurious beef tartare. Cubed elegantly and topped with glimmering black orbs of caviar – salty and umami; the beckoning call of the sea and pairing of perfection.
The easier way to win my heart is through food. Tartare, one of the easiest passages to full besottment and adoration. Sandwich that fresh, beefy chop between bone-marrow-flavoured waffles and a casual dash of caviar and I’m done. Absolutely delicious.
Truly, the only way to follow a tartare is with more meat or an elegant fish – them, or bread and butter. But good bread and good butter; in the form of in-house sourdough and rye plus salted butter from the Loire Valley. After which, you can go ahead and follow by anything delicious; preferably Peters’ Salmon Tartare.
The salmon was chunked far larger than the beef, allowing the meat to remain turgid, creating an interesting texture; most probably altered by its marinade. Sweet notes are carried through the salmon that are perfectly juxtaposed against the salty and crispy capers that perk up the dish greatly.
Accompanying the elegant presentation were textural elements and fresh points that allowed the salmon its time to shine. Caramel notes in the croutons, a lime note is lightly noted in the creamy avocado, although very faintly while a prominent celery note, a sweet apple note, clean dill freshness and abrasive spring onion freshness each contribute to the overall palate of the dish.
Villa’s wine pairings worked wonderfully throughout the night starting with a Marko Gure Arbasoak for a nice earthy pairing and later a 2019 Podere Il Carnasciale ‘Ottantadue’ Valdarno di Sopra for a bold and well structured red later on with the mains.
For this course, the 2020 Patrick Piuze Chablis Terroir de Chablis. A clear cut, textbook Chablis, and one of my favourites with a faint straw aroma and long vibrant finish – to my untrained nose and amateur wine appreciation.
Following the savoury display of kitchen preparation, we were next presented with the mains for the evening. A vegan dish that packed a robust, rich, deep and inherently earthy flavour; the Potato Terrine.
Served with a Jerusalem artichoke ragù and pickled white onions to crown the supple layers of potato. Luxuriously dense but not heavy, wrapped in a jus of deep celeriac flavour. The Jerusalem artichokes are not sweet and creamy – because it’s not the bulb’s flesh that Peters made use of – the peels that made it as the vessel for this dish.
This sustainable dish not only avoids any animal products or bi-products, but also incorporates vegetable scraps and inexpensive ingredients like potato, celeriac (costly to a certain extent locally, perhaps) and onion – an ingredient showcased with gusto in this dish. Puréed for sweetness and pickled for a tangy and turgid bite.
A feature in our tasting menu for the dinner, one that was very happily received, was the Turbot. Fleshy and flaky with a slight pull on the perfectly cooked exterior of the flatfish. The glaze is magical – point blank.
The accompaniments to this fabulous fish included black grapes adding texture and bitterness with their delicate skin-on ripeness. A kitchen favourite; the cucumber, featured again pickled in a sweet brine for vibrancy. Bathing in a shellfish sauce; deep and rich – smoothly mingling with the soft herb purée.
The final savoury dish was a seemingly nostalgic presentation with a local and signature twist. Peters’ Rabbit Saddle presented Malta’s traditional protein two ways. The first as a saddle paired with pancetta and cooked to perfection, retaining a succulence that’s often missing in rabbit; further enriched with a bold rabbit bone sauce with hints of caramel.
The second, a Pomme Duchesse – cottage pie if you will but with rabbit; a ‘burrow pie’, if I may. Perhaps a nod to a childhood classic with added flair, umami and richness.
Desserts at Gracy’s are not to be missed; if not devoured alone, at bare minimum shared with the table. A Spanish sherry, A.R. Valdespino Oloroso Dulce VOS Solera 1842, sets off the savoury and moves into the sweet portion of the meal; slightly bitter, sweet on the nose and palate and perfect with rich dessert flavours, including chocolate.
The Chocolate Financier offered great contrast with the light and delicious chocolate base and the dense and sticky caramel ooze. But the star of the dessert course was the Bananas and Caramel – think Bananas Foster / Banoffee hybrid, but better.
Let’s work our way down… from the buttery top to the buttery bottom. A perfect quenelle of banana ice cream bleeds flavour as it infuses with the caramel – cracking into the slightly salty biscuit and sweet mascarpone – till your spoon clacks through the buttery base crust. Enter euphoria, waltz out and go back in for another bite as the full cream coats your mouth, relieving it only with the tartness Peters whipped in there somehow.
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.