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When wine turns

Tas-Serena
Sirena Street, Senglea

Food: 3/10
Location: 7/10
Service: 6/10
Value: 3/10
Overall: 4/10

What a terrible waste of time this was. I came to hate every minute of this depressing travesty of a meal.

We were at Tas-Serena restaurant in Sirena street, located on the charming waterfront road that snakes its way around Senglea. We sat outside on the water’s edge looking straight across at a breathtakingly beautiful Fort St Angelo. Glass of wine in hand, this had all the makings of an enjoyable evening. However, things would swiftly turn sour. I could have drunk a barrelful of wine. The dismal dinner that ensued had an instantly sobering effect.

Tas-Serena’s menu is longwinded and unnecessarily fancified. Floridly described dishes boast a number of bizarre ingredient combinations. Roaring alarm bells were immediately set off. We should have gulped down the wine and bolted. The likes of cream and blue cheese insisted on cropping up in dishes where they had no business being and the moment I seemed to finally settle on a dish, one or two worryingly weird ingredients would unexpectedly reveal themselves.

Take, for instance, the fresh lamb ravioli filled with slow- cooked lamb and served with a lamb jus. They  sounded enticing enough until I read the dish’s description all the way to the end. Much to my bewilderment and dismay, I discovered that the ravioli would be served topped with a ludicrous concoction of Maltese sausage, arugula and Parmesan cheese. I should have run a mile.

A collective eyebrow was raised simultaneously by the three of us as the first course arrived. Not one dish looked appetising. We would spend the rest of the night grimacing.

The calamari fritti, deep fried and served with tartar sauce, were a long way off from crispy and very mediocre. They were just about palatable. The linguine vongole, tossed in a sauce of white wine, garlic, cherry tomatoes and herbs, tasted absolutely vile. The offensive sauce had, at its base, a white wine that had turned.  Having gone past its prime, it was now well on its way to vinegar.  The resulting plate of pasta reeked revoltingly. A tart sourness pervaded the dish, making my lips pucker. We managed a forkful each and could go no further, the collective eyebrow making an appearance yet again – this time, sharply arched in distaste. To further exacerbate things, this god-awful pasta was composed entirely of frozen shellfish; the overdone shells opening up to reveal tough, chewy clams. We were unable to eat it. It was that bad. Am I exaggerating? Sadly not. This is food that was not fit for consumption.

The dreadful rabbit-filled fioretti could have been stuffed with dog meat for all I knew. I certainly couldn’t tell, unaided by the sickly, over-sweetened, artificial tomato sauce they came smothered in. I took a bite. Eew. The second-rate sauce wiped out all other flavours (although I highly doubt whether there was much to begin with), heavily laced with poor quality herbs. The frightful wholemeal fioretti were rustic to say the least, composed of thick, clumsily fashioned folds, heavy and stodgy. Their rightful place was in a dustbin. Anywhere really, only not on my plate.

Tas-Serena’s location is by far the best (and only) thing they’ve got going for them

Tas-Serena’s unsmiling body of staff are light on the charm. Not ones for small talk, they attempt hospitality but are somewhat unsuccessful in their efforts.  They throw sorrowful glances at diners and seem to recognise that they have been charged with serving platefuls of absolute swill. Wearing a rather forlorn expression, one waiter served up three main courses. We stared at our plates for a few moments before finding the courage to reluctantly raise our forks.

Oh dear. The grilled swordfish did not taste at all as swordfish should. The steak was caked in a flourish of cheap, dried herbs that attempted to mask the severely overcooked nature of this mildly- flavoured fish. The swordfish’s moist, meaty texture had been reduced to a piece of leather, tough as old boots. No juice, no flavour, no appeal; just abysmal cooking and a sinful waste of a fish.

The lobster tortelloni were bland, entirely lacking in flavour and seasoning. The lobster meat was insipid, as was the prawn and lobster bisque the tortelloni were served with. I strongly questioned whether they had been freshly made.

The worst dish by far was the pan-fried octopus that had been (over)cooked in garlic, herbs and white wine. It was entirely joyless. All flavour had seeped out of it and its texture was dreadfully rubbery. Cloying, it stuck to my tongue and to the roof of my mouth and lodged itself in the darkest recesses of my psyche. It was an utter failure of a dish and wholly inedible. It shall haunt me for life. We gorged on the side dish of chips, the only semi-decent item to exit the kitchen that night. Other than that, the grilled vegetable sides proved to be another sorry affair –  burnt, shrivelled and rendered tasteless by all the heating and re-heating they had been subjected to.

It had been a tediously grim dinner. I came away suffering something very akin to post-traumatic stress. Tas-Serena’s kitchen was on a path of rapid, relentless regression and dish after dish had remained virtually untouched. We were in no way inclined to try a dessert. I couldn’t face another pitiful plate of food.

An appetite-quashing, soul-killing performance had played out against the dramatic backdrop of Fort St Angelo and Vittoriosa.

I’ve eaten at restaurants all along this strip of road but never before have I left so thoroughly dissatisfied. There is nothing to delight in here. We were shocked by the incredibly low quality of everything we tasted and attempted to eat. The appalling, cheaply-prepared food is devoid of freshness, quality, colour – and hope. And if there are any quality ingredients to begin with, they are soon violated in the name of  so-called cooking. Tas-Serena’s location is by far the best (and only) thing they’ve got going for them.

How did they get everything else so horribly wrong?

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