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Train wreck

L-Istazzjon Cafe & Eatery
Triq Għajn Ħammam
MDN 9070 Rabat

Food: 4/10
Service: 7/10
Ambience: 7/10
Value: 4/10
Overall: 5/10

It was a train wreck in a train station and the sad irony was not lost on me.

I was sitting at L-Istazzjon Restaurant, site of the renovated Museum Station where trains once made their final stop on the Malta Railway line, before chugging their way back to Valletta. Situated in a valley beneath Mdina, the location is pretty. The sun splashing my face, I sat outside enjoying the sweeping country views with a good cappucino cupped in my hands.

The devouring of breakfast is a reverential ritual. It is a thing to be celebrated. Heavily restricted by time constraints, this morning meal has unhappily become something of an indulgence, a guilty pleasure. We tend to make a proper meal out of breakfast only when we have the time to cook, enjoy and digest it at leisure. Alternatively, we go out and order breakfast; content to sit back and have breakfast cook­ed by someone else.

It was for this critical reason that I had dragged a bleary-eyed Rob out of bed and ferried him to L-Istazzjon. Our Sunday morning seemed to be off to a good start until the most off-putting breakfast I had ever seen was placed before us, offending the senses with its repulsive appearance.

The first item to appear was the full English breakfast, one of Britain’s most recognised contributions to world cuisine. The iconic ‘full English’ signifies what we’ve come to accept as the traditional quintessential breakfast.

Hearty and ridiculously substantial, this splendid fry-up typically consists of a plate of cooked foods: eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes, beans and mushrooms, accompanied by slices of hot, buttered toast.  The mere smell of it all sizzling and bubbling away in a frying pan is enough to set the heart racing.

We can thank the clergy for the heavenly marriage of bacon and eggs; a sublime, enduring union that dates back to the Middle Ages. It is one of the greatest breakfast combinations of all time. In the medieval calendar, the days leading up to Ash Wed­nesday were days of Carnival; days of excessive consumption and debauchery before the penitential period of Lent, a time of fasting and abstinence.

This travesty of a breakfast certainly did not cut the mustard

In this short period of over-indulgence and gluttony, lusty appetites were assuaged and people would gorge on rich, fatty foods prohibited during the Lenten season. Eggs and bacon were among these forbidden foods. It would take a little longer for this inseparable duo to come together at breakfast time. It was not until the 15th century that the idea of eating a morning meal began to gradually catch on. It was around this time that this morning meal started to be referred to as ‘breakfast’.

There was nothing remotely wonderful about the grim ‘full English’ served up at L-Istazzjon. Scrambled eggs are soft, creamy clouds of deliciousness, but here they formed stiff, chewy clumps; ghastly in appea­rance and taste. They were akin to the nasty cook­ed eggs one often encounters at buffet ta­bles, the kind that have been sitting on a heated plate for hours.

The bacon was equally as dreadful: slices of all-fat bacon arrived in limp, anaemic strands. Having been cooked to death, there was absolutely nothing crispy or irresistible about these strips of bacon.

A sausage of ‘local pork’ is what the menu promised. It lied. Rather than enjoying an artisan sausage, we were expected to delight in a heavily over-pro­cessed, commercial offering that tasted nothing like real food and which, to add insult to injury, had been grossly overdone

The horrible, over-salt­ed mushrooms skulked in a corner of the plate. Overcooked and reheated, the unrecognisable mush­­­rooms could not fail to be anything but shadows of their former selves.

The baked beans had, of course, also been overcooked. Instead of hash browns, a heap of chips had been piled in the middle of the plate. They were just about tolerable, as was the grilled tomato. The buttered toast was pretty much the only thing that Rob could stomach.

At that moment he hated me and I could hardly blame him. €11.50 was the price asked for this horrendous excuse of an English breakfast - the signature breakfast at l-Istazzjon.

Having scrutinised the ‘full English’, my Eggs Benedict came serv­ed with a side dish of dread. My fears were not unfounded.

Eggs Benedict is a classic breakfast dish and one which I adore. Toasted, fluffy English muffin halves top­ped with slivers of ham or crisp bacon are adorned with delicate poached eggs covered in lashings of warm, creamy Hollandaise sauce. Layers of lovely ingredients work together beautifully; the gooey, golden yokes and satiny Hollandaise binding every mouthful.

This is certainly a glorious way to awaken but at l-Istazzjon I was due for a rather rude awakening.

The muffin was nothing but a dry, poor quality bagel. The bacon was the same badly cooked, full-fat variety gracing the full English breakfast. The poached eggs were rubbery. The Hollandaise sauce was so sickly sweet and artificial it could easily have been pour­ed out of a packet. The addition of crisp spinach leaves did little to brighten my second-rate break­fast.

At €6.50, this generous serving of Eggs Benedict would have been well priced, had it been edible.

Needless to say, we did not lin­ger long over the dreary breakfast. We left our barely touched plates and walked away; with only a kind word as far as our lovely waitress was concerned.

The breakfast had been cooked to unacceptably low standards, with much of the food having been pre-cooked and reheated to order. You don’t need to be the most accomplished of chefs to make a good breakfast; however, as with cooking in general, you do require good quality ingredients. Here, the l-Istazzjon kitchen had indubitably failed, making use of only inferior quality ingredients.

This travesty of a breakfast certainly did not cut the mustard; not by a long chalk.

I urge you to spend time on breakfast – only not here.

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