Rachel Micallef pops the button @ 1640
I arrive at 1640 (That’s the name of the wine bar!) in Dingli with the temperament of a pit-bull terrier! I lost my wallet, sat on my specs a couple of hours before, and not at all in the mood to wine and dine. However, I know that Rachel Micallef – who rose to fame 11 years ago as the charismatic Simpatiċi actress – is waiting for me.
I get the third shock of the day when I see the wine bar. From the outside it looks like a place where you buy pastizzi and not drink wine. I’m not amused.
Breathe in… Breathe out… I pluck enough courage to walk inside.
Suddenly, things take a twist! Once I get past the “take away” area and walk upstairs I’m faced with a totally new scenario. Although 1604 might not be the current incarnation of hip, it is a place were old meets new in a delightful contrast of gentle neutrals. The design is modern, sleek, with frosted glass tables, and buttermilk chairs that are a welcome change to the chilling standard white. I’m completely taken aback by this sudden change of design. I would never in a zillion years have guessed it looks anything like this just by judging from the façade.
Rachel is waiting for me in her full five feet of glory. Her face is alive with youthful luminosity and looks a picture of health. For the occasion she has slipped into a pencil black skirt and a matching shirt that keeps her assets squeezed right to the point that I fear the top button could burst any minute and hit me directly in the forehead. Her raven black hair is neatly coiffed into a Helena Paparizou style, and the fire-engine-red lipstick sets off a sensuality that could re-awaken Tutankhamun.
We do the customary kissing number, pecking each other on the cheek, and I tell her all about my bad hair day, and how I am pleasantly surprised by this place. She tells me she got to know about it from a friend.
A shy, yet beautiful girl, who is not yet aware that her looks could get her places, approaches us and hands over the wine menus. I’m starving, and so is Rachel – who turns out to be an avid eater.
The wine menu may not be world class, but it has got a total of 10 New World wines and several other wines to choose from, all very reasonably priced. Rachel quickly decides for a Spanish Con Class Sauvignon blanc, which is often mistaken for a New World Sauvignon.
“Shall we get some dips?” she suggests.
Mmmmm… maybe that might not be enough I think. We consider getting the Chinese platter (€12) in addition to the dips.
The shy girl comes over and takes our order. She practically almost does not breathe, and it feels like she floats instead of walks. Maybe she is an angel.
As we wait for the food I chat to Rachel for a while, and her inherent likeabilty is really contagious. She tells me she has presented the Definitely Good Guide Restaurant Awards some months ago, and fills me in on the inside gossip. Then she goes on to tell me about her acting career which took off as the teenage Simpatiċi girl, and then blossomed into various other roles of sweet-and-tart sagas like Għeruq, Dun Benit, Mħabba mill-ġdid, and what seems like a hundred others …. Basically, as a friend of mine would say – “mejda tal-qubbajt!”.
The most wonderful thing about Rachel is her sense of humour. Here is a down-to-earth girl anybody could feel comfortable with. An adorable bundle of joy!
The beautiful ghost is back with the wine and the platters. My God! The platters hit us like an unexpected flash of lightning. They are massive! All you people with a healthy appetite just take yourselves to 1604 and try out their platters. It’s like nothing I have seen before. The three dips come in modern glass bowls together with three different types of galletti and some breadsticks. The Chinese extravaganza is presented in a series of small dishes that consist of prawn crackers, spring rolls, samosa filo shrimps and spicy chicken wings.
“Wow!” Rachel exclaims, reaching out for a filo shrimp.
Our Beautiful Ghost gently pours the wine for us. If you like the aromatics and crispiness of Sauvignon blanc but not the aggressiveness that comes with it, go fly Con Class for a gentler ride. At €14.60 it’s worth every drop! Check out the scent. Beautiful!
My bad day is taking a totally different shape. As we enjoy some wine and food I decide to embark on a grilling session.
I ask her to imagine Steven Spielberg is in Malta and employs her as his casting director. The movie is called “Ken & Barbie – A true story”. Whom would she cast in the leading roles?
Her answer comes with singular ease. “Renato and Mary Rose Mallia.” (Giggles).
Mmmm… I admit she got me there! Now that was a good one. I decide to strike back with a murderous vengeance. “Ok smarty! Now imagine you, are asked to star in an adult movie. Who would you choose as your co-star?”
Rachel takes a deep breath, and for one very brief moment I think the shirt button might actually give in. It doesn’t!
“Lou Bondì!” she replies in an unabashed theatrical manner. “I imagine he would be good at it.”
More wine and more talk. The evening is really taking a twist I have not anticipated. I learn that 1604 has an upper floor equipped with sofa for those who want to enjoy a more intimate moment with a glass of wine and some nibbles. Right now it is being occupied by a middle-aged couple and their friends. The woman holding court has an excruciating bad taste when it comes to fashion, and her hubby has a remarkable stomach that looks like a life-size cooker. They seem to be enjoying themselves like crazy.
A quick toilet inspection surprises me further. Once again, old meets new in the most captivating form. It looks like a small space shuttle with its steel panels and transparent wash hand basin. Definitely not something I imagined. I can say this – so far – it ranks as the most imaginative restroom I have seen. It’s very small, but the design works well.
I go back to find Rachel chatting to two Dingli charm merchants, who are trying to get her attention. She rids herself of them in a sweet and composed manner, and we continue with some fun conversation and the Con Class Sauvignon.
We pay €38.60 for the two gigantic platters that could have been enough for four people, the wine, and a bottle of water. Considering the large amount of food, I feel it is perfectly okay.
As for 1640 wine bar in Dingli I can say that it is definitely worth trying. It has a fresh, new, easy approach and has a total absence of snobbery. It’s not a big place so I suggest you book even on a week day. Their food is amazing, and the ambience pleasant. I think they should rework the lights, as it tends to be too bright, but the staff is friendly and it is geared to suit the taste of those who are looking for something solid, not just trendy.
The fire-engine-red lipstick has now left Rachel’s lips and we are ready to head back for the car. Outside, the Dingli boys are hitting on the Dingli girls with…. Singular sophistication! I realise it is a beautiful village. I want to go back and explore it further.