Caviar and Bull
St George’s Bay,
There’s an old adage about ageing that I’ve heard batted about over the years. As time creeps ever onward, you meet your friends at birthday parties, then weddings, then baptisms and then funerals. I’m somewhere in that middle stage; that painfully expensive middle stage.
It seems like I attend a wedding every other week these days. And oddly, I know fewer and fewer people at these events. But with a small Maltese wedding averaging about 250 guests, that’s no real surprise. And with most of those guests being on the periphery of the hosts’ social circles, it’s rare that I am ever actually invested in the ceremony itself but tend to just turn up for the open bar and finger food and to ‘get my money’s worth’.
That is why when a close friend of mine decided to finally tie the knot, I made plans to fly out to the UK where he had relocated to years prior. Sadly, due to a hundred unfortunate circumstances, it just wasn’t to be and I missed the wedding. I was gutted but quickly formulated a plan to make it up to the newlyweds.
Knowing they were planning a trip back to Malta I set aside the cash I would have spent on flights and accommodation and set about looking for a restaurant I could treat them to, to make up for missing the biggest event of their life. No easy task.
I asked a couple of trusted advisers to make a few recommendations and they all came back to me with the same name: Caviar and Bull. That was my mind made up. I made the reservation and prayed to the food gods that this meal would be worthy of forgiveness.
We rocked up to the restaurant and were immediately greeted at the door. Our coats were taken and we were shown to our table. Walking through the dining room I got to soak in the ambience. The tables are intimately lit, and although the place was fully booked, the warm candlelight playing off our table made the setting feel extremely intimate.
They have a flair for the dramatic…the salt-pile was engulfed in flames that broke away to reveal a stunning fish beneath
In restaurants like these, I tend to lean towards the degustation menu. First off, everything on the menu was genuinely tempting and caused severe salivation. The tasting menu allows me to sample everything while also feeding into my crippling indecision. Secondly, the degustation menu and setting put me very much in mind of the few Michelin restaurant experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have had.
Unfortunately, however, that was not an option due to a few dietary requirements of some members of our party, so we all ordered off the à la carte menu. We opted for a number of cocktails throughout the night as opposed to a bottle of vino or bubbly. This being a special occasion, I also tacked on a few starting rounds of caviar and oysters as a treat. For our guests, of course. Nothing to do with us. Absolutely.
There was an unexpected element of showmanship involving liquid nitrogen accompanying the oysters as they were brought to the table. It chilled them instantly and created a visually stunning smoke effect that really brought out the giddy children in us. The oysters and caviar brought a burst of fresh saltiness to our palate and, coupled with the round of mojitos we had ordered, tasted like the ocean. In a wonderful sense.
Needless to say, the experience was shortlived but memorable. Our plates cleared, we braced ourselves for our starters which were brought out in great time. The first dish to hit the table was a deep-fried calamari dish with black garlic. A very simple dish but perfectly executed.
Also brought to the table were an immaculate portion of in-house lobster and salmon tortelloni as well as a salmon tartare. The pasta was everything pasta should be – nice and thin, al dente with a good bite. More importantly, I could taste the pasta as well as the filling, combining to make a perfect mouthful of hearty, warm comfort food. The tartare on the other hand was fresh and vibrant, cool and refreshing with every bite. The dishes are a perfect combination of something I would love to eat every day in winter or summer respectively.
The final starter was a lovely bit of foie gras. The crunchy walnut toast, the soft fatty foie, the sweetness of the currants. This is already normally an impressive dish in itself but this felt elevated even more so here.
We treated ourselves to another round of cocktails in between courses, this time however in the form of little molecular spheres that are on offer. We popped the little gelatinous sphere into our mouths and it burst with a delightful pop that made us squeal in surprise and delight. We ordered cubanitos and wow did they deliver in fun and flavour. A rum and lime punch served to clean our palates for what was to come.
The main courses took no time at all to be brought to us. I opted for the 1,440-minute slow-cooked lamb shoulder. All I can say is that my knife was completely non-essential. The meat just fell apart upon contact and melted in my mouth.
We also had a rib eye ordered that raised a few eyebrows when it was placed on the table. The steak seemed to be cut quite thin; however, cutting into it revealed a perfectly cooked, juicy and flavoursome piece of meat. The beef jus and tarragon sauce is worthy of an award in itself; I just wanted to drink it straight out of the serving jug. The dish of the evening, however, was the meagre baked Al Sale. Again, Caviar and Bull prove they have a flair for the dramatic when they wheeled out a large lump of salt tableside. A quick spark and the salt-pile was engulfed in flames that broke away to reveal a stunning fish beneath.
Cooking the protein this way results in a perfectly salty, steamed and succulent piece of fish and that is exactly what we got. The fish was expertly filleted in no time whatsoever and one taste of it was enough to make me regret every food choice I’ve ever made up until that point.
No special meal is complete without decadent dessert, and boy oh boy can this place deliver. The crème brûlée was perfection, the caramelised bananas and salted coffee sauce a revelation. The chocolate fondant oozed onto the plate the moment our spoons dug into it and the warm gooey centre felt like it coated me on the inside.
If I had to nitpick, I would only comment that at times the service seemed a little too overbearing. I know it sounds insane to say service was possibly too good, but sometimes it felt as though we were being talked down to. But that’s really me stretching for something to comment on.
Overall, I would have to say that Caviar and Bull was an experience none of us will forget anytime soon.
And more surprisingly, the price tag is extremely reasonable. The bill felt extremely hefty at first, but once I isolated the cost of the caviar, oysters and molecular spheres (all things that were excessive but a treat), the average cost of the meal came close to just €60 per person with a couple of cocktails apiece.
Will I be going back anytime soon? I’d love to say I could, but it is hard to justify for just a regular evening out. That being said, maybe I’ll skip out on a few more weddings in the near future.
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