Not a buffet person? This culinary feast at Admiral’s Landing is about to change that!
Famed for its rotating buffet nights, the Grand Hotel Excelsior’s main restaurant provides a satisfying dining experience, whether or not you like the self-service approach.
The Grand Hotel Excelsior in Floriana has been an iconic local landmark for decades. While the original hotel, dating back to the 1960s, was shuttered and demolished in the early 1990s, it was re-built and re-opened in 2007. Since then, it has once again become a hotspot for well-heeled international guests, with its plush interiors, private marina and elegant surroundings doing much to recommend it.
The hotel has a number of bars and restaurants, some of which open on a seasonal basis – such as the Yacht Club and the Tiki Bar and Restaurant right by the water’s edge. However, the hotel’s main restaurant is Admiral’s Landing, and the restaurant lives up to its name with gusto. The décor is very much influenced by the British colonial style, with dark wooden furniture, plush upholstered seating, and a strong naval theme which would make even Lord Nelson feel at home.
When my dining partner and I arrived it was already dark, but it’s clearly a stunning place to be even during daytime hours, with full-length glass windows running along the entire left side of the restaurant, overlooking Marsamxett Harbour. But over and above that, there’s a very tight ship being run here – the chefs and waiters conduct themselves smartly and efficiently, and this reflects in the quality of the food, as well as the service.
Admiral’s Landing has become renowned among local patrons for its themed buffet nights. Every night, an enormous spread is set out, comprising starters, main courses, sides, and desserts, with different themes according to which day of the week it is. When we visited, the Maltese buffet was on, but other popular themes include Asian, Indian, Mediterranean, and International – the latter featuring a little bit of everything to suit all tastes. There is also the option on each of these nights to order off the a la carte menu. And in order to get the best of both worlds, my dining partner and I decided that one of us would go for the buffet and the other would order a la carte.
The Maltese buffet was a sight to behold. If you want to experience all the traditional flavours that Malta has to offer in one incredibly convenient and organised place, this is a very respectable choice indeed. The spread combines elements of traditional Maltese home-cooking with some very contemporary flourishes worthy of a five-star restaurant – grilled mullet sits side by side with pork terrine and Parma ham parcels stuffed with rich, tangy Parmiggiano cheese.
And that’s just for starters. For mains, you can try out the freshly-prepared grilled lampuki or tuna, whose sizzle can be heard all the way across the room, or pork leg with crackling, served with a luscious apricot compote, or rabbit, Malta’s famed national dish, or even tripe. My dining partner tried a little bit of all of these and declared himself very satisfied with all – the pork leg with the generous helping of crackling was especially well-received.
Meanwhile, for dessert, there’s a table heaving with goodies, treats Maltese people might remember from old-school family parties or gatherings, such as dark chocolate gateaux, cassata Siciliana and lemon meringue, as well as sumptuous modern confections such as green tea and yuzu cake and white chocolate torte – all of which are prepared in-house by the restaurant’s talented brigade of chefs.
While the buffet was extravagantly alluring, the a la carte menu was no less so. It’s recently been updated and refreshed with a sophisticated, pared-down selection of dishes, which is always reassuring – restaurants whose menus look like phone books are not to be trusted. There is also a wine list with a good mix of European and New World wines. We opted for a Gavi di Gavi, a refreshing, medium-bodied wine which paired very well with everything that we tried.
For the starter, I chose the salmon rillettes, served with dill, citrus brioche, cucumber and pickled radishes. It was a marvellously tasty offering, and a favourite at the restaurant, I’m told – dill and salmon are a dream team, with the herb adding dimension to the salmon’s satisfying saltiness. The bread was delicious too, with a lovely crunch, giving a bit of bolster to the ultra-delicate appetiser.
For the main, I decided to stay on the maritime theme, and went for the freshly-caught sea bream cooked al cartoccio, with a side of garlic mash. The waiter brought it over in its nest of foil to be filleted right at the table, and the rich, garlicky aroma it emitted was nearly enough to make me swoon. It was a heavenly dish, the fish’s milky flesh needing nothing more than a sprinkle of freshly-cracked black pepper to allow the flavours to really express themselves.
When it was time for dessert, I made a beeline for the dark chocolate macadamia and honey nut tart. What a treat that was. The dark, luxurious tower was served with a perfect, pigeon-egg sized scoop of pistachio ice-cream with a crunchy toffee core. This is one for committed chocoholics or people who are happy to share their dessert – it was so rich that I had to give it up halfway through (much to the delight of my dining partner). And of course, we rounded off the meal with two espressos, just the thing to help us digest all the wonders we had savoured.
Admiral’s Landing is a restaurant that ticks all the right boxes effortlessly, without it feeling like its overexerting its talents. Buffet aficionados will love it. People who want a taste of fine dining at reasonable prices, served in an elegant but comfortable atmosphere, will love it. Your partner will love it for a weekday date night if you’d like to push the boat out, but so will your mum and dad when you take them there for Sunday lunch. And if you’re eyeing it up for any Christmas or New Year’s Eve dos, you’d better get cracking – spaces are filling up quickly, and trust us, we understand why!
To book or find out more, you can contact the Grand Hotel Excelsior’s Food and Beverage team on [email protected] or on 2125 0520.