Food & drink
A local treat! All you need to know about the traditional Maltese fenkata
What is it, what to expect and where to experience the traditional Maltese fenkata

Melanie Drury

So what’s a fenkata, I hear you ask? Fair question. Fenek is Maltese for rabbit and, quite simply, a fenkata is a rabbit feast. Feasting on rabbit meat is an age old tradition in Malta. Rabbit has a sweet, soft white meat and is regarded as one of Malta’s signature dishes.

How did the tradition of feasting on rabbit begin?

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Spin the clock back a few centuries. Livestock was hard to maintain on the islands due to the lack of grazing ground. The nobility had first access to the precious meat, while peasants filled their bellies with the abundant fish available from Maltese seas. When a ban on rabbit hunting was lifted during the era of the Knights, Maltese commoners relished the access to an alternative white meat. Could this be why a fenkata always carries the air of celebration, even to this very day?

What defines a fenkata?

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A fenkata is traditionally held outside the home, usually at a simple no-frills establishment in a rural village. Picture wooden tables pushed together and chairs running along the side, with a large family, group of friends or colleagues sitting together ready to feast.

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There will be wine, lots of it. And there will be messy fingers - using a fork and knife just isn’t the way to do it. The feast will be in the form of a two or three course meal consisting of a variety of rabbit-based dishes; this is likely born of the necessity to satisfy many mouths from the meat yield out of a couple of small rabbits. Those mouths will also be very busy chatting loudly and laughing like there’s no tomorrow, while guzzling more of that delicious wine.

What’s on the menu?

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The most common starter is spaghetti with rabbit sauce. While you wait for that, you might be offered fried offals garnished with herbs and perhaps some snails and arjoli; in Malta, in contrast with the elite’s delicacy in France, snails are a farmer’s dish. The main course will be chunks of rabbit meat served with fries or roast potatoes and some vegetables. You can usually opt for two versions, either stewed or fried, even on the same table; otherwise you are just served the house speciality.

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Spagetti tal-fenek (spaghetti with rabbit sauce) is made with a rich tomato sauce with garlic, peas and herbs. Fenek moqli (fried rabbit) comes with lots of garlic and seasoning, while stuffat tal-fenek (rabbit stew) is made by simmering the rabbit meat in a rich wine and tomato sauce infused with bay leaves. 

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Arrive hungry, as fenkata portions tend to be massive and highly likely to put you into a food coma - we did say the fenkata is a feasting of sorts, while gluttony seems to be a national sport.

Where can you get the best fenkata?

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Right. You are bound to find rabbit dishes in Maltese restaurants, but that’s not the same as a fenkata. A fenkata is traditionally held in the north of the island, off the beaten track in places such as Mgarr, Bahrija and Dingli, that are home to Malta’s iconic fenkata restaurants. Mgarr is the fenkata capital of the island, with five restaurants specialising in this Maltese delicacy.

Situated around the village of Mgarr, you’ll find several restaurants which are equally well-known for their fenkata. You’re in for a truly Maltese experience and a delicious authentic fenkata whether you choose to eat at United Bar and Restaurant, Il-Barri or Ta’ Soldi, the originals, or at Ta’ L-Ingliz and Mgarr Farmers Bar, which have continued to give Mgarr its fame for the best fenkata in Malta.

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In Bahrija, the New Life Bar & Restaurant offers a more rural location and serves the authentic Maltese fenkata to a tee. Here’s a Maltese meal with all-Maltese ingredients, prepared as it was in the old days. Eat it al fresco at Malta’s most remote village. Another rural location, the stunning Dingli Cliffs are the home of Bobbyland, another restaurant whose name is synonymous with fenkata in Malta.

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And while these might be the most famous, age-old fenkata restaurants, some others battle well, such as Marley’s Bar & Restaurant in Bahar ic-Caghaq. Others will offer rabbit as part of their menu in a more typical upmarket restaurant environment, such as Rubino in Valletta, Coogi's in Mdina, Ta’ Marija in Mosta, Charlie’s Inn in Naxxar, and La Cuccagna in Sliema; this works well when sharing a meal with somebody who's not as keen on trying this Maltese speciality!

4th August 2019


Melanie Drury
Written by
Melanie Drury
Melanie was born and raised in Malta and has spent a large chunk of her life travelling solo around the world. Back on the island with a new outlook, she realised just how much wealth her little island home possesses.

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