Ta Frenc is generally acknowledged as the best restaurant in Malta. It is nice to be in a country where going to the best restaurant does not mean you have to start selling off your shoe collection on ebay. Situated on the sleepy island of Gozo in a restored farmhouse the restaurant is slightly incongruous to the laid back feel of the rest of the island. The setting and service is very formal, from the black tie clad waiters to the invitation to sit in an antechamber off the main dining room prior to placing orders.
MTV boyfriend has come to accept such restaurant excursions as a necessary evil when travelling with me, he had even managed to pack appropriate clothing in anticipation of a visit to such a restaurant. We started with a glass of the house champagne which is especially made for the restaurant by one of the smaller French champagne houses. It was eminently drinkable, although I find champagne usually is.
Complimentary appetisers of small pastry shells filled with a chickpea puree arrived with the champagne. Once we were seated a further appetiser was served “compliments of the chef” comprising a small piece of slightly seared tuna on bread. These flourishes were symptomatic of Ta Frenc’s ambitions, however it all appeared slightly forced in this lovely rural setting and a more laid back approach would have been preferable.
The food was (according to the menu) locally sourced whenever possible and generally it was of a high standard. As an entree MTV boyfriend and I shared some lightly fried squid which was crunchy and the perfect amount of salted. I opted for the traditional Gozan dish of braised rabbit in red wine for my mine course (I am a sucker for “traditional dishes” and “specialities of the house” when on holidays). It was tender, however not as rich and flavoursome as I had anticipated. I have to admit to suffering food envy when the table next to us were served with the whole roast chicken which was also a house speciality. The birds are reared specifically for Ta Frenc at a farm in the nearby village of Marsalform. This dish was indicative of the restaurants admirable focus on regional produce and looked very succulent when it was brought to the table and theatrically dismembered.
For dessert I ordered the warm chocolate pudding. This was filled with a peppermint sauce and served with mango ice cream. The combination of flavours was bizzare and to me the dessert symbolised the problem with Ta Frenc. It was just trying slightly too hard. From the formal service to the slightly twee touches such as the little basket wine carrier that our wine was served in.
Details: Ta Frenc, Triq-ir-Rabat, Gozo
Damage: Reasonable (but pricey for Malta)