I had been lied to.
As a fabric napkin topped plate was placed in front of me, a large vanilla creme brûlée looked back at me with a mocking face. There was no way that this was the smallest dessert option on the menu.
Don’t get me wrong – I love dessert. If ever there was a section on the menu that I can make room for, dessert is it. But I’d just been put through my paces on the starters and mains rounds at Commando Restaurant in the northwestern part of Malta.
Restaurant portion sizes on the island of Malta are gigantic. Not quite as gigantic as the sizes that terrified my boyfriend throughout our trip in the USA but much bigger than what my mainland Europe stomach had grown to appreciate. “If portion sizes weren’t big, the Maltese would complain”, was a phrase I routinely heard throughout my visit. And they really weren’t joking.
Commando is perched on a hilltop in the historic Mellieħa. Popular with locals, especially during the warmer months, the village received the European Destinations of Excellence award in 2009 for, amongst other things, its relaxed “rural-island” atmosphere. Here huts that once housed pilgrims line the courtyard of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieħa, children swing on playground swings overlooking views of the bay, and a village policeman checks his mobile phone while leaning in the doorway of a building that looks more like a hut than a station in both size and appearance.
Inside Commando, chefs Damian Ciappara and David Borg use local ingredients and Mediterranean flavours to create a seasonally influenced menu within a 300-year old stone building that has been in the family for more than 80 years. The dining room is small with a small terrace to the front of the building. Originally having served the Royal Marine Commandos during the war as a bar, the Commando built a wooden sign saying ‘Commando bar’, as a sign of gratitude and carried it all the way up from Għadira Bay, giving the place its original name. Nowadays the bar portion of the name has been replaced by the word restaurant.
From the menu, the crispy cube shaped duck leg croquettes were full of moist meat that complimented the prune puree, pickled apples, and hazelnuts in just the right proportions. From the sounds of my dinner companions, their starters were equally as enjoyable. With the arrival of the mains, we played “oh I should have ordered that”. It was the chicken breast stuffed with Maltese sausage and goat’s cheese that was my undoing – easily large enough to feed two. Luckily I was not required to share its accompanying barley risotto, the creamiest and most flavourful of which I had ever tasted.
Service throughout the meal was friendly and professional. A recommendation from the chef on the cooking style of one of the dishes was passed on discretely and happily heeded. And my empty creme brûlée dish was whisked away with what I am sure was a look of “we knew you could manage it”.
Address: 1,2 Misrah iz-Zjara tal Papa, Mellieha, Island of Malta MLH1805, Malta
Telephone: +356 2152 3459 / +356 9949 8843
Opening Times: Tuesday to Saturday, 6-10:30pm; Sunday, 12-3:30pm; Closed Mondays