House of Flavors: an oasis of craft beer & moreish meals in the heart of Santa Venera
Santa Venera high street is not traditionally known for its gastronomic thrills, though the small, local bars and unpretentious restaurants of the area do boast a loyal following of those living in the surrounding suburbs. But the warmly welcoming House of Flavors, which opened a few months ago without much fanfare, might be a game-changer, for its impressive brews and hearty fare promise to attract punters from further afield – if they know what’s good for them, that is.
A dining area filled with personality
My husband and I arrived on a balmy evening and settled into our seats in the smart dining area of the eatery, filled with large, black-and-white old photographs of Malta. The brick walls give a casual yet distinctive character to the place, and for our meal, we chose a high wooden table, ensconced behind a private partition – a space which is also perfect for larger groups who are looking for a bit of privacy. For those who might want more of an intimate meal, lower tables dominate the rest of the wide-open room, while an outdoor terrace flares out to the side of the restaurant and bar.
But the devil is in the detail, and it’s the rustic setting’s unique features which surprise: amber jars hang over the tables, casting their soft glow; a subtle strip of light shines from underneath the wall fixtures – a happy accident discovered during the design of the place, we’re told; while comfy armchairs pepper its corners (you can just imagine slouching into them after a tough day!)
The unique blends of handcrafted beer
We’re served by an affable and clued-up waitress, who immediately recommends House of Flavors' unique brews. While this watering hole-and-diner does serve the traditional hops, it also offers up the full line-up of Gallery craft beers, initially created together with students from Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology to commemorate Valletta Capital of Culture 2018, and bottled by the management of this place.
Three different flavours are on offer, and my husband decided he would savour each one: lemongrass craft beer, a light swig brewed with the herb to produce a fresh, tangy sud; wheat beer, darker and deeper, with citrus undertones; and the flagship Valletta 2018, a bitter lager for those looking for something a tad more traditional.
Of course, the well-stocked bar also offers other thirst-quenching, stress-fighting bevvies: local and international wines take pride of place on the extensive drinks menu, together with a summery sangria, ciders and the ever-popular Spritz, Negroni and Martini. I opted for a glass of Maltese white wine, which could have easily become two were it not a school night.
Abundant dishes, carefully composed
A delicious meal ensued, one which left us feeling genuinely satisfied (there’s no doubt whoever walks in will not leave wanting for more!) The large menu spans a gamut of culinary traditions and favourites: starters include the ubiquitous bruschetta, the ever-popular spicy chicken wings and mushrooms in garlic; for mains, hefty pasta, ribs and beer-battered fish fillets are bound to fill up every nook and cranny of your belly; while the dessert display promises to crown the evening with its delectable sweets. But there are also sharing platters designed for friendly gatherings and featuring Mediterranean favourites, such as hummus and olive tapenade as well as grub inspired by further afield – their Chinese offering is bound to go down a treat, with its pork dumplings, spring rolls and sesame toast. The prices are exceedingly reasonable – a surprise considering the sheer quantity of food served.
My husband and I opted to try different dishes and share (getting the best of all worlds!) For starters we chose the fried calamari – cooked in beer batter - and the baked brie with cranberry sauce and crushed pistachios - this was gooey goodness we really couldn’t get enough of! For mains, I went for the beef tagliata which came with a mushroom sauce (a definite favourite) while my husband decided on a dish from the list of specials: tender rabbit cooked in wine. We hoovered up everything we ordered and toyed with the idea of dessert. The display – set beside the bar, as soon as you walk in – teases with choice, but we decided it would have to be for another day. For there definitely will be another day!
Santa Venera is usually a drive-through town, not a destination, but House of Flavors delivers on so many fronts that this is bound to change. The eatery is the perfect spot for friends to hang, with a great beer in one hand, and a fork in the other, whether it’s at the end of a long working week, or on a Saturday night. Business meetings can also be entertained here – thanks to the variety of drinks and food on offer – though you may end up staying long after hours.