An invitation to visit ION Harbour by Alex Dilling was an offer I could not refuse. Nestled in the heart of Valletta, Malta, ION Harbour is a gastronomic delight where Chef Alex Dilling has been busy for many months as the Executive Chef. This was a new series created, of Four Hands dinners that delivered beautifully and set the bar for much more ahead. This first one was with talented Chef Paul Liebrandt with whom Alex has worked many times before. What a meal, starting with perfect snacks, oh how I have missed Alex and his amazing raw talent and brilliance in all the ways. Feeling super nostalgic with many of the dishes that graced The Greenhouse but are now new and improved, the Oyster Vichyssoise being a HUGE favourite and I really love it, it tastes so good, all the delicate flavours, executed perfectly. And of course the original and very best of signature dishes, his Hunter Chicken, was sterling and less rich than I remember and truly spot on, with a superb Albufera sauce. Simply put, it’s all quintessential Alex Dilling.
Paul’s own two hands equally did great things, his Maltese Rockpool was very good, and one dish that absolutely blew me away was his Pyrenees milk fed saddle of Lamb with a black truffle dashi, and a parcel with sheep’s milk cheese, local to Malta, with rosemary, thyme and lavender- this being the ‘wool’ of the lamb. Very refreshing, lots of flavour and it worked. There was a tiny dot of piquillo pepper underneath this which gave that little kick and worked beautifully with the whole plate and the cheese and the spice provided balance with the really good perfectly crisped up fat on the lamb. And then- part of this dish was also a lamb and blue fin tuna tartare with black shaved truffle and herbs, this was my Holy Moly moment, it was really really good. Everything was just beautiful and melted in my mouth. Lamb and tuna, who knew, with clams, and truffle, with herbs picked by Alex that very morning. What a dish.
The Brittany Blue lobster was also really special, a small delicate touch of eucalyptus oil that worked, almond cream sat under the Oscietra caviar, and it was finished with lobster jus, and then a rabbit dish, a little salty for my taste, ironically the last time I ate rabbit was in Malta, but all the components worked well.
A great cheese course too, in which the ingredients spoke for themselves. To finish, a good lemon tart was also lovely, although a little over, resulting in a curdled filling but it tasted good. The pastry was excellent, and on the side was a delicious membrillo made from the local oranges, which hit the spot beautifully. All this paired with a side of dual vanilla ice cream and a good dose of sea salt, this was so tasty that we had to ask for another serving to gobble up, and equally good petit fours to end.
A really wonderful meal, this is a new series Alex has created in Malta with different chefs coming to work with him and his team here, making amazing harmonious dishes that truly complement one another, and create an experience to remember forever in the most gorgeous of settings, with a breath-taking view to match. If it was this good in winter, I can only imagine how gorgeous it would be in the summer months and hazy evenings too. Booking yourself in to stay at Iniala Harbour House hotel to fully immerse yourself in both luxury and gastronomy is certainly a must, I only wish I could have stayed longer, however duty and the rest of mymuybueno calls.
Comté Cheese, Truffle and Caramelised Onion Tart
Smoked Eel Tart with smoked eel rillettes and caviar
Sicilian Fasolari clam with cucumber and coriander
Aperitif – raspberry vermouth with tonic water, pink peppercorns and rosehips along with an excellent wine pairing.
Oyster Vichyssoise – N25 caviar aged Kaluga hybrid; spheres are confit potato glazed in crème fraiche, oyster tartare, oyster bavarois, traditional vichyssoise sauce finished by blending raw oysters
Maltese Rockpool – bouillabaisse inspired, all elements from Malta
Local Maltese Rabbit with whole grain mustard, topped with Buckwheat Gnocchi and Comté sauce, side- Rabbit and foie gras
Brittany Blue Lobster, with Eucalyptus oil, Almond cream, Oscietra caviar, Lobster jus
Hunter Chicken – shallots, red wine and mushroom; bacon; Albufera sauce reduction of madeira (white port & Armagnac), foie gras
Pyrenees milk fed Saddle of Lamb– black truffle dashi, piquillo pepper, Ġbejna: sheep’s milk cheese local to Malta with rosemary, thyme and lavender
Blue Fin Tuna, Lamb Fillet Tartare, Maltese clam, with black truffle and locally hand-picked herbs
Brie de Meaux, onion jam with buckwheat tuile
Tarte Citron – Menton lemons, membrillo made from Maltese wild oranges, a “winter citrus Mediterranean tart”
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