Rope a Dope in Valletta, Malta

Our ship is docking overnight at Valletta, Malta, so we have planned a dinner in town. We made a reservation at Legligin two months ago. If you want to eat there you have to plan ahead. It has been named one of the 10 best restaurants in Valletta. It is also one of the smallest restaurants with just a handful of tiny tables crammed into a tiny space. From outside looking in, it looks fun and inviting,

Inside it looks even smaller but just as much fun. We are offered a table inches from the toilet, or a table inches from the front door. The few tables in between are already taken.  We take the one by the front door where the air is a little fresher.

The Fabulosity Meter gets excited at their wine bottles stored in holes drilled into the limestone brick wall – a great space saving invention

There is no menu. No hint of what the evening might hold, other than the fact that like it or not it will cost a very reasonable 27 euros. The chef goes to the market each day and buys what looks good. He then cooks between 6 and 9 tasting courses  each evening, depending on his mood. The price is the same regardless of how many courses he decides to make. It seems a little dictatorial. But then a lot about the restaurant is dictatorial. The food just starts arriving at your table without any prelude and the waiter explains what it is. Knowing we are in for a lot of food we try to eat slowly. But the pace is set by the chef not by the customer. Each course arrives when the chef has it ready, and not when we are ready for it. The dinner plates are all thrift store finds and each one is different. The table is set with one such plate per diner and it isn’t changed. The food arrives in small serving dishes. The third or fourth course (I have lost count at this stage) is not my favourite and I leave some on the plate. I ask for a clean plate but am told in no uncertain terms that the plate will not be changed until after the mussels are served and there were two more courses before that happens.

But in case you think I am complaining. I am not. The Fabulosity Meter makes a lot of noise. It is a superb meal and a very entertaining evening.

Chris is the chef and he makes the occasional foray into the dining room. His assistant appears more frequently. He is skinny with a huge mop of tangled black hair. He wears black jeans and a black and white striped T shirt. He has a nervous twitch and seems agitated.  Every half hour he emerges from the kitchen with a small cup of espresso coffee and a hand rolled cigarette. He takes both outside and sits on the doorstep smoking. It’s a little inconvenient for customers wishing to come in and it  doesn’t seem to help the assistant. At other times he appears from the kitchen carrying plates of food, and stands in the middle of the tiny room, looking round at each table with a look on his face that suggests he feels exactly like Alice when she emerged from the rabbit hole.

The customers are even more interesting. Two hipsters have the table inches from the kitchen door. It seems there are as many doors as there are tables. The  hipsters look identical.

(My apologies for the terrible photos. The space is so small and I am trying to take surreptitious photos without them knowing – they are only a few feet away. As it is you can see the one on the left has realised I am taking their photo)

They spend most of the evening gazing into each others eyes. It must be like looking in a mirror. They are either narcissistic, gay or both. They go outside for a cigarette between every course. Chris in the kitchen pays no attention, and brings their next course out to the empty table where it sits going cold until they return. They are too busy gazing at each other to notice.

The restaurant door opens. We know that better than most, because we are inches away. A wave of citrus scent arrives in a swirl around a young Asian man. He is very white, a little pudgy and a little unhealthy. It seems that if you gently pushed a finger into his skin and removed it (I am near enough to do that, but have no intention of doing so)   the indentation would remain. His hair is tied in a small knot on top of his head. He is wearing shorts underneath a brightly coloured short red shirt dress with a busy print of tiny flowers. It has pockets on the side seams, one of which is torn badly revealing more pudgy flesh. No one would describe him as having a girlish figure, but that is how he thinks of himself. He has red glasses and matching red sandals. It’s a look, but not a good one. He is on his own which should surprise no one. He is seated, and eats his food with a fork in his right hand while his left elbow rests on the table next to the plate holding his hand aloft. He waves the hand slightly in tune with what ever song is going round his head. He is mesmerizing, but not in a good way.

My attention is diverted when the restaurant door opens once again. This time the doorway is filled by a spectacular example of French manhood. He commands attention and is well aware of it. He stands there backlit by the fading sunlight and waits for all eyes to turn on him. They do. Except of course for the hipsters who are still busy gazing at each other.

He is around 50 years old and does nothing to disguise it. He doesn’t need to. His v-neck black T shirt fits perfectly as do the cutoff jeans. His grey hair is long and receding and hasn’t seen a comb for days, but somehow it looks as if he spent hours in a salon to achieve the look. His three day stubble is now at least 7 days old. It too is grey except for the mustache and eyebrows which are much darker giving him a roguish look. His arms are like ham hocks, rippling with muscles probably caused by carrying round his huge hands. He has flipflops on his feet presumably because he can’t find shoes large enough. He is under dressed for a nice restaurant but he looks perfect.

He tells the Maitre D’ his name is Jean Claude and that he has a reservation. He gives no last name, assuming that the mere mention of his first name is all that is needed. She invites him in and I suddenly realise that he has a woman with him who has been standing behind him all this time completely hidden by his size. She is a disappointment. He could do much better, although of course I am already spoken for.

She is at least a decade younger than him, which makes her around 40. She makes no attempt to hide it, but should. She too has hair that hasn’t seen a comb for days, but hers looks like she should spend hours in a salon. Her features are sharp and pointy. She is wearing a very strange black dress, simple from the front but with contrived looking cutouts on the back. It probably cost a small fortune, but looks cheap. She wears no jewelry and no ring so there is still hope.

(They are sitting right next to us, so this photo was even more difficult to get)

He has a pair of large Clark Kent style glasses that he puts on to eat. They change his appearance completely giving him a sort of bookish look. I presume that is the image he is going for but I want to tell him it isn’t him at all.  I prefer the roguish look, but they give the expression “rope a dope” a whole new meaning.

His girlfriend is obviously aware of the saying, and is hard at work. She knows that she may have hooked him but hasn’t reeled him in as yet. She flirts outrageously all evening, throwing her arms round his neck and kissing him, cuddling him, batting her eyelashes, doing everything except sit on his lap and wiggle. The only reason she doesn’t do that is the place is too small for her to maneuver.  If his eyes ever wander off her she reaches out for his hand and starts kissing it. It’s amazing that either of them finds time to eat. Like any man he is enjoying the attention and is flirting right back. But he is no dope and I suspect has no intention of being roped

Once seated, the Maitre D’ brings over the wine list. It is an extensive wine list with many pages. He doesn’t open it.

“I would like a bottle of …….” he says and names some bottle .

“I am sorry, we don’t carry that wine” she says.

He casts his eyes heavenwood and sighs a huge sigh of disappointment. She suggests another wine which after another sigh he agrees to try.

He then tells her that they are going to Gozo ( a small island near Malta) tomorrow but have not heard of anywhere good to eat there. Does she have any recommendations.

Trying to be friendly she asks how they are getting to Gozo

“By boat” replies Jean Claude

“Oh, and where will you be staying” she asks in all innocence.

Jean Claude has been waiting for this moment and he intends to make the most of it

“Well we sleep onboard MY boat” he says very loudly. “That is how we always travel”

At this point I could join in and say that we are also traveling to Gozo tomorrow,  we are also going by boat, and we also sleep on board. I just wouldn’t mention that it wasn’t MY boat. However when we get back to the ship there is a note saying that high winds and a threat of gales are preventing us from sailing to Gozo.

It’s a disappointment. We were looking forward to seeing Gozo for the first time. I wonder what I would do if it was MY boat.



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6 Responses to Rope a Dope in Valletta, Malta

  1. Pat C says:

    Daggone it, Andrew, you are just plain funny.

  2. Colette says:

    whatever the food was, great choice for people-watching 🙂

  3. bob colin says:

    Hi winds and gales be damned…we sail for Gozo! That’s what a real Captain does.

  4. James says:

    Malta! One of our favourite “destinations,” especially Gozo, especially for the food and people. (Steer clear of the Russians with private yachts and suitcases of Yankee $) Happy sailing! jp

  5. Mike Shaughnessy says:

    You must do a lot of research before you travel to find these amazing little places to eat

    • andrew says:

      Mike, we do indeed. I always find the research as much fun as the trip. OK, that’s not true, but it is fun searching out all the info.

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