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Miriam Dalli – Too hot to handle @ Hugo’s Tapas

Hugo’s Tapas (next to the cinema in St Julians) and Miriam Dalli share one thing in common – they both have an instant eye-catching, attention grabbing appeal.

La Dalli is looking like one of Charlie’s Angels and she is in full throttle! Blessed with a beautiful simplicity defined with more sexiness, she is sure to give any hot-blooded male an aggravating constriction of the coronary arteries. Throw in Liz Hurley, Kylie Minogue, and former Miss World and Bollywood star Ashiwarya Rai into a blender… shake well… and you’ll come up with Miriam Dalli.

She is now trotting towards me on spiky heels, looking dashing in a simple jeans and a tighter-than-tight white t-shirt, her raven hair bouncing in the air.

I think she fits the place very well. Hugo’s has been filtered down to the level of excellence when it comes to ambience. It breathes an air of luxury and the surroundings are blessed with the ultimate designer décor. It has an incredibly spacious lower level with several tables in dark oak, and an equally roomy upper level just above the bar area. The colours are kept dark, the accessories hip, and the three chandeliers that hang majestically in the centre of the room, and to the side, are perhaps its crowning glory. I pity the maid who is responsible to keep them nice and shiny!

I count at least four waiters (in traditional black uniforms) buzzing around like busy bees. We get one who looks like he has just landed from a bull-fighting experience in Madrid, and he politely asks us if we are ready to order.

Ready? Already 40 minutes have ticked by and La Dalli and me are still immersed in conversation. None of us have bothered to open the menu yet. I tell the matador that we need another five minutes and we’ll be done.

Miriam is very quick. She opens the menu – automatically adopting the sexy pose she was known for in her anchorwoman days – and makes her selection of goodies. The food menu is a cool variety of tapas with some homemade pasta thrown in for good measure. They also have two traditional paella dishes to choose from and three platters for sharing – pinchos platter (48 pieces priced at €125), rabbit platter (50 pieces priced at €114), and a seafood platter (priced at €125). The platters are ideal for a large group, so we settle for some tapas, which are served either hot or cold.

La Dalli orders the food and the wine, and a young man, who could have starred in The Matrix 2, takes our order very professionally. I wait for him to leave before I turn to Miriam and drop my first question.

“Net TV wants you to head their newsroom. They triple your pay and give you an annual bonus of €10,000. Would you accept?”

Her bedazzling eyes hit me like two delightful laser beams, and for a moment there is a split second of indecision. “I would be tempted to,” she replies vaguely.

As I prepare for the big shocker question, I take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. “You have to wear a skimpy T-shirt reading ‘I love Gonzi’ or ‘I love Eddie’ for one week. Which one would you wear?” My eyes are ablaze with curiosity.

Her hands fly to her forehead with the anxiety of a Who Wants To Be A Millionaire participant, and sighs. She opts for the ‘I love Gonzi’ t-shirt.

As we wait for the food she tells me she is currently reading for a law degree, and a little bit about her former work as head of news. She is a very interesting lady, armoured with captivating good looks, sharp-wit, but, above all, an infectious charm that crosses borders. One knows where one stands with her. She’ll show you if she likes you or dislikes you and does not take time to play games – a virtue I have come to love and appreciate.

The matador is back with the tapas in record time. The food is on parade full force – looking and tasting exceptionally good: gamberi rossi in garlic and wine; patatas bravas with serrano ham and stilton cheese; setas saltedas – a sautéed mixture of oyster, chestnut, brown and porcini mushrooms in garlic juice and a selection of mixed fish.

La Dalli has chosen a Syrah Cabernet Sauvignon rosé from the central valley of Chile. She tries out the wine and says it is “good, but particular”. I take a sip. I detect some mineral and candy notes and a strong aroma of raspberries and cherries.

The place is buzzing. I see a Paris Hilton look-alike in the distance with a lovely diamond blinking on her fingers. She is in the company of an older, so-called happily married, man.

Red lights on: Time for Miriam to sit on the hot seat for some spicy questions. I have every intention to go all the way.

“A sweet and steamy dinner with… Joe Saliba or Paul Borg Olivier?”

“Joe Saliba.” She seems very sure of her answer.

“You prefer dark men, or blond men?”

“Blond men.” Once again, there is a boldness in her answer that is very convincing.

“Do you sleep in your birthday suit or in boring pyjamas?”

A slight flush… She buries her head in her face. “Half pyjamas!”

I’ll leave that to your imagination! Where was I now? Oh yes… my last question….

“Sharing a bed with Francis Zammit Dimech or Tonio Fenech?”

She can’t get herself to answer. This is just too much. I feel she would rather be locked up in a cage with a tiger than give me an answer. But I persist, and force her into a reply. She reluctantly chooses Tonio Fenech!

Meanwhile, we have guzzled more wine and washed out the plates. The food – a Mediterranean fusion of delights – is impressively tasty.

I finally get my chance to explore Hugo’s toilet. Getting there is already something. It’s like stepping on a runway and gliding towards an aircraft… only, you finally reach a small room with black tiles and a black sink. It looks very masculine, trendy, and I’m loving the glass doors. Small, red spotlights are installed in the ceiling as if in preparation for Madonna’s next peep-show video clip shoot. Change the spotlights!

As I walk out I bump into Paris Hilton (not the original… the fake). She is on her cell phone talking to somebody in silky notes of lust… her lovely fingernails tapping the pink phone in an impatient butterfly effect.

Once back, we are asked if we would like coffee and sweets but we decline graciously. The bill amounts to €43.85 for the cherry pink Syrah Cabernet Sauvignon, and the four tapas.

I’m happy to have discovered Hugo’s Tapas and to have spent a night out with Miriam at the same time. Both of them are a tasty dish in any language. As we zig-zag our way through the tables I ask her what she considers to be her most alluring asset. She seems unsure how to answer.

“My brains,” she finally concludes modestly. That’s true! This girl has power brains that spin like a Swiss watch mechanism, and if you combine that with those mesmerising green eyes, and a drop-dead-beautiful face… what more can one want?

RATING: 1 - 7

Wine **

Ambience *******

Food *******

Service *****

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