Sometimes not knowing what’s to come at a restaurant is just as insightful as a detailed menu highlighting the establishments finest produce and technique. Tonight a Tasting Menu sat before us, glorious in its every course, detailed, delicate and delicious – there’s not much more to desire from a meal in a MICHELIN Mention Restaurant.
Peculiar in location but a level above in interior detail and attention, Rebekah’s in Mellieha is a haven where art takes place. The old rustic farmhouse style makes every local smirk ever so slightly, leaving non-locals or visitors to our isles entirely enchanted by the narrow corridors, authentic architectural features and purely local essence. A private room in the back hosts intimate dinners while the outdoor dining area in the courtyard will take that local’s smirk to a full-on beam. But perhaps if you’re more aligned to the visual arts of oil on canvas, local artist Debbie Bonello will light your way as her scenic works adorn the limestone walls of this quaint yet grand restaurant tucked away in Mellieha.
Rebekah’s is headed in every aspect by Chef Patron Andrew Vella, a culinary master whose attention to detail is second to none. It’s terribly hard to decide which Tasting Menu I’ve been so honoured to try out, is my actual favourite – but perhaps writing this here statement will indicate to the more apt readers, that Rebekah’s ranked rather high on my list.
Our evening started as Front of House server Mirko informed us that Chef Andrew would like to present his Tasting Menu for the night. We sat back, enjoyed our surroundings and without hesitation embraced the evening of crafted menus, both food and wine – because yes, a Wine Pairing would also embellish this culinary journey at Rebekah’s.
A sparkling Chardonnay, with its crisp fruity notes and tight knight bubbles prepared our palates for the French Oyster. Inherent with Chardonnay qualities, the dry wine with high acidity and hints of passion fruit and mango paired gracefully with the calamansi dashi citrus notes dressed on the mollusk. Adding in depth and flavour, the supple crème fraîche hangs onto the notes of butter and cream found though the Malolactic Fermentation (MLF) found in the Saronsberg Chardonnay.
The texture on the dish is surprising at the start, but ultimately perfect in every aspect. The crunch of the hazelnut bouncing off the slippery oyster, meaty in all its saline goodness, the creaminess of the crème fraîche and the freshness of the chive all work together in harmony.
While texture was mind-boggingly pleasurable, the prowess of this amuse bouche was in its aroma. Nuttiness, tanginess and minerality swarm through your mouth with a hint of Asian flair noted in the dashi. Remember this was only our first bite of the night.
A swig of sparkling Chardonnay and the following amouse bouche in sight became our next victim. The Parmesan Gougère, served with local gbejna, a piquant pear mustard and the bold notes of Pecorino.
The light burnt cheese crust is instantly appealing; meshed into the light, buttery, smooth and slightly flaky pastry. The sharp and accurate Pecorino breathes depth into the bite while the sweet pear element is so rewarding. The smoothness of the gbejna interior is unfathomable: tangy, smooth, rich and delicate – a one bite wonder.
Now what’s a diner to do when their wine glass is empty, their appetites’ whet and their expectations already soaring sky-high? Prepare for the first course… of course.
A medium plus acidity Chenin Blanc inherent in its white stone fruit and pear attributes paired marvellously with the Prawn and Celeriac opening course. Featuring elements of sweetness, earthiness and nuttiness, this dish was a good contender for the favourite of the night.
The celeriac was pickled to perfection, astringent and crisp, relying heavily on the sweet and creamy profile of the local red prawns, luscious and rich in all their glory. The neutral part of the dish was the cauliflower, smooth and lush, thick but creamy, and the perfect bed for the aforementioned glory to rest upon. Nutty quinoa pops elevate the dish while an inherent porcini umami creeps in for the after taste.
But the element on this dish that brings the harmony of all flavours together, while integrating the Château de Varennes Savennières Blanc 2019 pairing; is the tomato water. A robust connection of salty and sweet; embodying the concept and execution of this dish.
The next course took us to a ravioli realm that resonated with the soul. Chef Andrew’s Valencay Cheese Ravioli were lush and pillowy, the goat cheese filling velvety. Paired with a Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, chilled to the optimum temperature for full white peach aroma and oak barrel smoke; the sommelier at Rebekah’s knowns his pairings and understands that the texture of the wine must compliment (or juxtapose) the textures of a dish.
Here the soft texture of the 2020 Wildeberg Coterie Sémillon – Sauvignon Blanc glided across the tender pasta dough, mingling with its creamy interior and smooth, sweet-yet-deep leek sauce. Every sip of wine helps to bring out the dish’s acidity; perhaps triggered through the addition of black olives and sumac; each of which brings an astringent, aromatic and light note to the pasta course.
The third course saw one of my favourite bottles of Chardonnay; a 2020 Petri – creamy, smooth with herbal and nutty notes for a well-rounded complexity. This sandy tannin-white, held through with a fish dish that would convert any apprehensive, fish-questioning-diner. You need not worry, the light aroma on the dish allows for a clean finish with lingering notes of pure Mediterranean comfort.
Based on seasonality, the Fresh Fish of the Day is generally prepared with a baby gem lettuce, zucchini and elderberry capers sauce; and by golly, it’s good. Now I might be mistaken here – specific ingredient taste is a strange thing to decipher sometimes, especially when infused so deeply with technical bravado, but a deep oregano, or thyme aroma hit my palate with a bundle of richness through the luscious sauce. Chef, am I totally askew? Is this elderberry capers I am tasting; perhaps I am unfamiliar with its flavour profile.
The gem lettuce presents like charred cabbage, carrying an intense umami richness in its salty and torched presentation. Light yet substantial and necessary for the dish, retaining all crunch and texture. The buttery flake of the fish worked magically with the floral and bitter notes on the zucchini. A light and aromatic dish that; for me, is the scope of Mediterranean cuisine.
We’ve kept it clean so far, highlighting the bounty of local produce from sea and land; but the final savoury insert to our Tasting Menu was a hearty, rich cut of Beef Fillet – rare and right on point. The texture of the prime cut was buttery, the intensity of flavour marking on the offaly-side and the bahia black pepper sauce beyond any shadow of doubt, worth serving by the bucket-load; clear and open to reviving all the accompanying flavours on the dish.
Enrich your palate and this savoury sensation with a swash of the deep red full bodied 2017 Gimenez Mendez Alta Reserva Tannat; high in tannins for the perfect pull and low on acid to allow the dishes’ acidity to flourish solo. But, let’s for a minute, focus on the Roscoff onion stuffed with beef ragout. The oignon de Roscoff is a pink onion hailing from the northwestern Brittany region in France. Its distinct subtle flavour allows for the perfect vessel to carry a luscious beef ragout, notes of sage trickling through the rich beefy heartiness. This, my friends, was the star of the meal – a simple sidekick to a wonderfully orchestrated French preparation.
To mellow into the sweeter portion of our dining experience, a pre dessert of homemade Lemon Curd, sake and sorrel granita and freeze dried strawberries, cleansed the palate from the deep richness that graced us earlier throughout the evening. Not too long after this dainty and floral taste bud switch; the Chocolate dessert paired with an aged rum, brought happiness and comfort to the end of our meal.
The notes of vanilla and clove on the smooth, yet high acidity Dom Papa barrel-aged rum paired gracefully with the moreish Samana chocolate crémeux and thick, yet creamy hazelnut ganache – breaking up the buttery notes (of both rum and dessert), with an elegant and masterfully prepared rosewater ice-cream.
As the petit fours bid us farewell, I sat and wondered; really… just a MICHELIN Mention?
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.