Before continuing our explorations, we decided to treat Vince to coffee and something sweet at Café Cordina. Situated in a beautiful, historic palazzo with an exquisite interior, the Cordina family enlarged the coffee shop over the years to include a restaurant, tea room, pasticceria, coffee bar, and gelateria. This grand café with frescos on the ceiling and ornate chandeliers is the perfect setting for breakfast, lunch, or an indulgent snack.
Afterwards, we headed to Palace Square and the Grandmaster’s Palace, one of the first buildings to be erected in Valletta (1571). The original Palazzo was designed by Gelormu Cassar, but successive Grandmasters enlarged and developed the building as they deemed fit to use it as their official residence. The Grandmaster’s Palazzo has always housed the government in Malta, first the Knights, then under the British it served as the Governor’s Palace, and now it hosts the President’s office as well as the House of Representatives.
The Grandmaster’s Palace & The State Rooms are built around two courtyards, one of which features a statue of Neptune. Inside is the famous Council Chamber, decorated with priceless Gobelins tapestries featuring tropical scenes set in South America, the Caribbean, India, and Africa woven in France especially for Grand Master Ramón Perellos y Roccaf.
Art and culture are always best when combined with food and wine. To enhance this experience, we booked a table outdoors at the Harbour Club Restaurant (www.theharbourclubmalta.com). Housed in warehouse that was built by the 64th Grand Master of the Order of Malta in 1712, the restaurant gives guests a unique dining experience. Indoors, you may enjoy a cozy interior, decorated with a recycled deck of an American ship. On the terrace, the stunning view of the Grand Harbour is the perfect setting for a romantic meal or a place to meet with friends for lunch or dinner. We ordered a superb Chardonnay from Meridiana, Malta and enjoyed watching the people at the table next to us. As they toasted each other with sparking wine, we noticed two gay male couples, a lesbian couple, a transgender person, and someone we assumed was a local celebrity. Her bright red lips, dark glasses, and clothes, reminiscent of a 1950’s Hollywood star, made us want to go over and ask for an autograph.
As the wine flowed, our conversation turned to modern day Malta, and the 2017 law legalizing same-sex marriage. Vince told us, that in spite of the country being predominately Catholic, the public overwhelmingly supported the new law and respected the rights of the LGBTQ community. This, combined with the warm welcome extended to gay travelers from around the world, has earned Malta the accolade of being one of the best places in the world when it comes to LGBTQ rights.
Feeling right at home, we spent the rest of the afternoon people watching and feasting on Risotto Calamari with aged acquerello rice, calamari, chive oil, and Parmesan cheese; local pork with smoked onion purée, truffle sauce, charred leeks; and a Banana & Yuzu dessert with a cramelized banana, vanilla yoghurt, peanut crumble, and sesame ice cream. This was one of our favorite dining experiences on Malta, and a place we highly recommend to all visitors to Valletta.