Food and drink in Malta – Where to get what and tips
This article is intended to guide you as to where you can get daily food and drink from, where to go for special types of food, local produce, options for vegetarians and vegans, etc.
I can also help you with:
- Personal recommendations on restaurants in Malta, by locality
- Info on genuine Maltese food and where best to go to get a taste
There are few locations in Malta where food is hard to come by, with all tourist hotspots being well served in terms of restaurants, supermarkets and greengrocers and even the smaller villages offering all the basics that you’ll need during your stay.
The type of food that’s available at supermarkets and greengrocers won’t be very different to what you’re used to if you come from Europe or the US, although the choice of products and brands will probably be smaller.
Restaurants and eating out
When it comes to restaurants in Malta, there’s a good variety of food available, although the most popular cuisine is Mediterranean food, with a choice of pizza and pasta and fish and meat dishes featuring on most menus.
You will find a few Indian, Chinese and Greek restaurants, for example, but these can often be counted on one hand. Nevertheless, the quality of food is good and prices reasonable.
If you’re looking for restaurants in a particular area, including restaurants serving authentic Maltese food, have a look at my personal recommendations for eating out in Malta.
Supermarkets and grocery stores in Malta
There are a few options to get your daily groceries, mostly from supermarkets and their smaller variant – minimarkets – which are smaller grocery stores that will offer most of the basics.
Although prices are generally similar between larger and smaller supermarkets, a few chains import foodstuffs from elsewhere in Europe which tend to be cheaper (but also poorer in terms of quality sometimes). The main chains and supermarkets are:
- Lidl (chain) – San Gwann, Santa Venera, Qormi, Luqa, Zurrieq, Ghaxaq, Victoria (Gozo)
- Valyou – Naxxar and Mellieħa
- Park Towers (St. Julian’s and Santa Venera)
- Scotts (chain) – Sliema, St. Julian’s, Burmarrad (main road to St. Paul’s Bay / Bugibba / Qawra), Santa Lucia, Attard, Naxxar, Zabbar, Fleur-De-Lys
- PAVI (Qormi)
- PAMA (Mosta)
- Smart supermarket (Birkirkara)
If you know where in Malta you’ll be staying, you can find a section for local supermarkets, minimarkets and speciality food stores within my guides to the more popular localities, including maps. You can find them here:
Haven’t yet selected a home base for your trip? Have a look at my recommendations on where to stay in Malta.
Locally produced food for sale in supermarkets
Besides the basic groceries, most supermarkets provide a variety of locally produced products. Here are a few tips of homegrown foods to try:
- Potatoes are probably one of the most popular export products of Malta and for good reason. As with most local produce, vegetables and fruit are generally much more flavourful than produce sold in Northern Europe.
- Honey isn’t produced on a large scale as perhaps it once was, but in olden days Malta was known as a major producer of this sweet goodness. In fact, some say the country’s name was derived from the ancient Greek’s name for the islands, Melite, meaning honey-sweet and supposedly it was a reference to the honey produced here.
- Wine produced in Malta usually gets good reviews and it’s the major local brands like Marsovin and Delicata that have the biggest vineyards. Don’t discount smaller brands like Marsamena (produced by the Ta` Mena winery in Gozo, where you can go and sample different types of their wines and other foods produced there).
- Olives are rarely missing in agricultural produce of Mediterranean countries and Maltese olives are known for their full, rich flavour.
- Ġbejniet are a type of traditionally prepared cheeses, which can be found in a variety of dishes and sandwiches and have a hearty, fresh flavour.
- Maltese bread is one of the cornerstone foods in Malta and is easily recognised by its round shape, hard outer crust and fluffy/light core. It’s a very tasty type of bread and loved by pretty much all Maltese. Don’t buy more than you need for a day or two though, this bread goes stale pretty quickly
- Kunserva is what the Maltese call tomato paste and it’s a great accompaniment to Maltese bread, rubbed in generously. Together with some salt, pepper, local extra virgin olive oil and maybe some tuna, onion and garlic and capers you can create a super tasty ftira (flat bun of Maltese bread) or Ħobż biż-Żejt (sandwich-style – as the locals refer to it).
Keen to get more familiar with and try Maltese food?
Have a look at my article 32 Examples of Typically Maltese food (and where to get a taste)
Cost of food in Malta
Prices of food in Malta’s supermarkets don’t vary much and are more or less in line with European averages, while restaurant food varies in price. As with most other travel destinations, prices in and around tourist hotspots tend to be a little higher than elsewhere in the country.
The below are sample prices to give you an indication of what you can expect:
Groceries – sample supermarket prices
(Last updated: February 2016)
- 6-Pack 2-litre bottled water (local): €2.38
- 1-Litre packet of semi-skimmed milk (local): €0.83
- Nescafe Gold instant coffee (100 gr): €4.29
- Kellogg’s Corn Flakes cereal (500 gr): €2.93
- Loaf of white sliced bread: €0.98
- Sliced sandwich ham (200 gr): €1.55
- 6 Fresh eggs: €1.40
- Fresh tomatoes (local): €1.65/kg
- Potatoes (local): €0.83/kg
- Fresh chicken breast (boneless): €6.25/kg
- Fresh beef mince: €6.95/kg
- Heineken lager (25cl bottle): €0.91
- Cisk lager (local beer – 33cl can): €0.83
- Local wine (75cl): €3-5
- Foreign wines (75cl): €4-10 for a decent/good bottle
- Bottle of Smirnoff (70cl): €10.75
- Packet of cigarettes: €5.00-5.25 on average
Eating out – restaurants
The following are estimated average prices for regular restaurants, per person. No budget restaurants or high-end gourmet places were taken into consideration to give you a good idea of the cost of meals.
For a starter and main course meal (fish, chicken, beef) count on around €25-30 per person for a good quality restaurant (excluding drinks). Vegetarian options, pizzas and pastas as a main will obviously bring down the price.
- Starters: €6-10
- Pasta dishes: €10-15
- Pizza: €8-15 (depending on toppings)
- Fish/chicken: €13-17
- Other meats: €20-30
- Local wine: €10-15
- Foreign wine: €15-20+
- Wine by the glass: €3.00
- Bottle of still/sparkling water (1L): €3.50
- Soft drinks: €2.00
- Pint of local beer (Ċisk): €3.00
- Cappuccino: €2.00
- Desserts: €5.00-7.00
A note on fish restaurants: Whenever fresh fish of the day is served, prices tend to be a little higher, usually between €20-25 including side dishes of vegetables or salad and roast potato).
Eating out – light lunches
- Filled wraps and baguettes: €3.50-6.00
- Salads: €8-10
- Pasta dishes: €8-10
It didn’t take long for franchises like McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC to value the potential of Maltese consumers to tuck into their burgers and chicken, which means you’ll find multiple fast food places in all major places in Malta and Gozo. Since most will be familiar with these mainstream chains of “restaurants”, here are a few other examples of fast food that are perhaps a little less unhealthy.
Turkish fast food
Forget about what you might know about 5am quick kebabs. Turkish fast food in Malta is one of the few decent options around with good quality food and fresh vegetable sides, and not expensive either. Most of these guys prepare fresh cuts of lamb, chicken and beef daily, and offer a good selection of salad garnishes to choose from.
Probably not the type of fast food most people think of, but a good alternative to greasy burgers and pizza, you’ll find juice bars in most of the tourist hotspots like Bugibba and Sliema. Dr. Juice are a franchise you’ll come across, and they prepare a set menu of juices with fresh ingredients at a decent price.
If you want something really genuine pay a visit to Pure in Sliema. These guys are truly passionate about health foods and offer some unique flavours, with super fresh ingredients and great service. Highly recommended.
Quick recommendations for different types of food
I’ve got a list of restaurants that I can personally recommend in a separate article, but here are a few quick recommendations for types of food in case you’re looking for something particular.
Where can I find the best pasta?
Although I’m not exactly a “pasta connoisseur” if you will, whenever I’m in the mood for a great plate of pasta I go to the Trattoria at Xara Palace, Mdina.
Where can I find the best pizza?
My favourite place without second thought is Vecchia Napoli, whose two restaurants you can find on the seafront at Sliema (in Tower Road) and near the airport, in the Skyparks office building that can be seen when you exit the terminal. Another good choice is ir-Rokna, in St. Julian’s.
Where can I get fresh fruit and veg from?
With plenty of local produce being available when it comes to (very flavourful) vegetables and fruit, it’s not difficult to pick up fresh ingredients. Although most supermarkets have a selection of varying sizes available, you’ll get fresher and cheaper produce directly from hawkers.
Hawkers can be found in several places, usually near supermarkets and minimarkets where they’ve got their vans set up.
Although you’ll also find these guys in more touristy areas like Bugibba, you’ll likely end up paying more than you would anywhere else on the island.
If you’re hiring a car you can easily drive to the Ta` Qali farmer’s market, which is located quite centrally on main island Malta. You’ll find a few hawkers there on most days, during the day (mornings only on Sunday) but the biggest offer of fresh produce can be had there on Tuesday and Saturday mornings when the locals go.
Most of the hawker’s there speak English well and are friendly to deal with. Whether they’re honest with their pricing is usually hard to verify as a foreigner. You won’t find a chalk board with the day’s prices on there, but what I do know is that you spend a good amount less than you would in a tourist area or at the supermarket and you know it’s all local produce, fresh from the land.
Is tap water safe in Malta? Where do I get drinking water?
Yes, tap water is generally safe to drink, although some hotels do warn against it because of their particular water supply system. Although it’s safe for consumption, tap water in Malta doesn’t taste great.
In fact, most Maltese people either have their own reverse osmosis system at home to filter tap water or buy bottled water instead. If you want to play it safe, you can find bottled water pretty much anywhere.
A six-pack of two-litre bottles of (local) still water usually costs less than €2.50.
What’s the best place to get fish and meat from?
If it’s fish you’re looking for, you’ll find fishmongers in most villages, although larger companies like Meats and Eats have a good reputation as well. You can find their shops in St. Paul’s Bay, Gzira (close to Sliema), San Gwann and Valletta.
Good meat is probably even easier to come by, with multiple butchers in every village and most offer a good variety of meats. In Sliema Meats and Eats has a good reputation while in Swieqi (close to St. Julian’s) you can find Meat and More. Most of the larger supermarkets also offer fresh meat.
What places are around that cater for vegetarians and vegans?
Although restaurants that cater towards vegetarians and vegans specifically aren’t around in large numbers still, there are a lot more options now than there were five years ago, when only one or two items on a menu were suitable.
These places were recommended to me personally (as I’m neither vegetarian nor vegan myself) and were tried and tested:
- The Tate – Located on the waterfront at Birgu (aka Vittoriosa), these guys offer a decent selection of foods that are suitable to vegetarians and vegans. The service isn’t always great, but the food’s good!
- The Grassy Hopper – With two locations in Gzira and Valletta, at the Grassy Hopper you can find burgers, salads, soups, wraps/baguettes, protein balls, raw desserts, superfood drinks, etc.
- PURE – Very similar to the Grassy Hopper in concept and food and located in Sliema, the people behind PURE are genuine about real food and creative with what they serve, full of flavour and prepared with fresh vegetarian- and vegan-friendly ingredients. Also good options for detox juice cleanses, gluten-free and sugar-free foods can be found here and you can buy organic fruit and vegetables as well.
- Roots The Vegetarian Food Truck – Roots are a provider of vegetarian and vegan foods on wheels, who are located in different places during the day, mostly serving offices, etc. You can find out what location they’re in from their Facebook page (or message them there for more details). Genuine food, good variety.
- Although they don’t cater specifically to vegetarians and vegans, The Deli in Swieqi (close to St. Julian’s) do have a number of options for foods made of organic ingredients, although serving vegetarians mostly.