About 156 reviews on Tal Familja, an average score of 4 out of 5. Keywords throughout the majority of the reviews: family Sunday lunch & make a reservation. Got it, did that. Walked in one afternoon and asked the owner for a table for 2 next Sunday around noon.
As promised we made out way back to the restaurant that sunny day. The place was empty except for another early couple browsing through the menu. A waiter approached us and so did the owner who immediately guided us to our table near the bar. First impression: neat, authentic interior, wooden racks on the walls with bottles of wine. Second and most important impression: apart from the table for 2 next to us the rest of the tables were set for groups of at least 15 to 20 people. As we were going through the menu a steady flow of locals walked in, looking in their Sunday best.The attentive waiter took note of our choice of meals. We both went for the Maltese set 3 course menu (€22). Maltese fresh ricotta ravjul and grilled sea bream for hubby. I went for the fried Gozitan cured cheese and the roasted rabbit.
We needed more time to decide on which wine we wanted. In the meantime the waiter brought us a plate with some appetizers: a handful of snails with garlic, white beans, 2 crostini with tomato bruschetta and then a good dollop of bigilla, a local broad bean dip accompanied by a couple of galletti crackers. We chose a dry and fruity fresh Maltese white wine, a blend of vermentino and zibibbo grapes (€10,50). Hubby tasted and approved it. Off to the good start!We nibbled away on the tasty appetizers in front of us, kept an eye on the growing stream of people filling up the restaurant, sipped our wine and noticed a particular picture on the wall: a bunch of blond hair posing for the camera surrounded by the chefs and a waiter.
Did Robert Plant really make a stop at Tal Familja? The waiter said yes, 3 or 4 years ago. But he seemed more delighted to talk about Alex Ferguson in the picture below. And that American actor in that other picture but what was his name again? I was more interested in those delicious snails, to be honest.
And the place still keeps on filling up. Don’t know where all those people are going to, this place must be huge! Saw 2 girls in a tiny wedding dress walk by: this looks like it is First Communion day here! Glad we made a reservation.
Our starters arrived 10 minutes after ordering: 5 huge pieces of ricotta ravioli with a great looking tomato sauce. The pasta is cooked to perfection, the ricotta filling inside melts in your mouth. The tomato is obviously made of fresh tomatoes, onion and garlic simmered until smooth and soft. Delish.Mine looks great too: 8 breaded and wonderfully fried pieces of Gozitan cheese surrounded by fresh basil pesto, a spoonful of the same fresh tomato sauce and a little cream. Crunchy bits of creamy cheese with a powerful flavor. Goes well with the tricolor sauces. My hubby wasn’t as equally impressed but I loved it.
By the time we finished our starters all the tables were occupied as far as we could see. Tal Familja was filled with a homey buzz. Plates filled with fresh fish were brought to the tables and sent to the kitchen. Bottles of wine were being uncorked at a rapid rate.Another 10 minutes passed and there came our main courses! For hubby: a couple of fatty grilled sea bream fillets with grilled lemon and some cherry tomatoes on a bed of soft leeks. The fish was amazing, perfectly cooked and flavorful. The lemon was a nice touch! With the fish also came a simple side salad of fresh lettuce, tomatoes, olives and salted capers. Nice meal, cooked with care. My main: the fried rabbit with garlic and wine. The meat was tender and succulent. Great sear on the outside. But what a huge portion! That must have been half a rabbit, yumm. Served with a dollop of carrot puree and a sprig of rosemary. Side dish for the rabbit: crunchy grilled zucchini and cauliflower, cooked potatoes (again sautéed in some butter before serving I guess) and the best crispy fried onion rings ever! Sliced thinly, coated with a little egg yolk and a tiny pinch of flour, fried quickly and served with a good dash of salt. Great… Well that was a generous lunch! Full stomachs, we lean back in our chairs smiling.
And the crowd around us roars on the longer the wine flows. We finish our glass of wine and order espresso. Comes with Maltese fried date pastries (imqaret) and fig ice cream, the menu says.What a wonderful dessert! Crunchy hot date pockets, we confess these taste better than the ones we had at the Dates Kiosk in Valletta! And then that fig ice cream is also a perfect match: fresh, flavorful and creamy. Excellent. Stuffed. We see it’s well past 2:30pm already.
The check comes: €54,50 for a Maltese food festival. We said bye to Robert and walked home in the sun. Time for a Sunday nap…