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Brunch is served

The Phoenix Restaurant
The Mall, Valletta

Food: 9/10
Location: 10/10
Service: 9/10
Value: 9/10
Overall: 9/10

Nothing is ever less than tasteful here.

Every Saturday, The Phoenix restaurant at the Phoenicia Hotel is whipping up a gourmet breakfast. It is a meal that will set you up to have the best day ever. 

A short sashay out of Valletta, the hotel is panoramically perched, commanding fine views over Marsamxett Harbour. Stylish and suave, it is now more fashionable than ever after a very costly revamp. Having rediscovered its lustre it once again dazzles, it shines. Valletta’s elegant lady stands in all her Art Deco splendour, tastefully glamorous and quietly opulent. Done up with flair in a Mediterranean palette of blues, reds and whites, this hotel has retained its character and zealously preserved its Mediterranean soul.

I do not have the pleasure of awakening in one of The Phoenicia’s  stunning rooms but I am here for a greedy, blissful act of self-indulgence – brunch. A beautiful breakfast buffet awaits. We are greeted like visiting royalty from the moment we step through the restaurant’s doors. The service here is extremely solicitous; assistance is practically a raised eyebrow or a cough away.

The restaurant, a large room flooded with natural light, has one sitting amid rich fabrics, lavishly wall-papered walls, plush carpets and magnificent chandeliers. The quality of the materials around you is mirrored in the cuisine. One of the restaurant’s many standout features is the wood-panelled bar, where a bountiful breakfast buffet has been graciously laid out.

They are looking to impress and have succeeded

It is a sight to behold, an overwhelming array of fabulous food. You are invited to sample and eat at leisure, traipsing back and forth to the buffet as many times as you may shamelessly desire.

Should this not suffice to quell the avaricious appetite, one is invited to follow this up with a hot dish and a dessert selected from an a la carte menu. You could be here all day.

Begin with a mid-morning cocktail, a  fiery Bloody Mary. If you care to start things off the healthy way, move on to the cereals, livened up with every manner of fresh and stewed fruit. There is a pineapple carpaccio that is just wonderful, laced with a dressing of pink peppercorns and lime.

The baked goods corner boasts a brioche loaf, rich and buttery and golden brown on top, paired with the sweet offerings of honeycomb, a devilishly good chocolate spread and orange marmalade. The savoury  croissants are lovely, spilling over with Parma ham or smoked salmon. Soft and brioche-like and ever so slightly buttery, these croissants make the perfect breakfast sandwich.

I drink in the selection of cold cuts and cheese. There is a whole leg of ham, sliced up for me by the charming man I find at the buffet bar. A slight flick of his wrist guides me towards the pickled eggs, but I prefer to steal a couple of pickled caper berries, the size of a cocktail olive, before slapping a spoonful of mustard on to the plate.

One of the world’s oldest condiments, all heat and pungency, it went divinely well with the ham. This was a creamy, textured wholegrain mustard; its yellow and brown seeds glistening through. Some poached turkey breast is also available but I never quite get to it. Delicious on crusty bread is the wonderfully tasty chicken liver pate served with red currant jelly. Equally lovely on buttered bread are the flavourful soused herrings. A  slab of hot, smoked salmon, delicate and moist and falling away in large, firm flakes, is brimming with full, smoky flavour. And there’s a tartar sauce and pucker-inducing gherkins to go with that. An enormous cheese board is decked with blocks of smoked cheddar, Brie and Roquefort, served alongside a sweet chutney and some enormous Medjool dates that are soft and meaty with a sweet, rich flavour that is almost caramel-like.   Everything we try is delicious, irresistibly so, and has us oohing and aahing.

At length we pull ourselves away from the buffet and order our hot dish. The concise menu that we quickly scrutinise truly embraces brunch, offering everything from lasagne to omelettes and salad.

A brunch classic, Eggs Benedict always bring a dash of elegance to breakfast. The Eggs Royale, a variation of the Benedict, served up at the Phoenix, are as tempting as ever. Slices of smoked salmon and avocado are neatly nestled upon two halves of lightly toasted, buttered muffins. Topping each is a perfectly poached egg cooked soft to firm; the satiny smooth ball of pert egg white ready to burst and gently spill out its  golden, gooey yolk. Nothing is overcooked to a monstrous rubberiness in the lap of luxury.

The perfect poached egg is a real joy and one of life’s simple pleasures. Many things would taste so much better topped with a poached egg... A properly made silky Hollandaise sauce, served warm, thickly drapes the entire thing – light and luxurious, whisked to the perfect thickness and garnished with crossed chives.

The calf liver is mouth-wateringly delicious, served with a glowing pink centre on a bed of the smoothest, creamiest mashed potato imaginable  with plenty of glazed onions and shreds of salty bacon.

The Tarte Flambée, as big as a pizza, has a bread dough crust that is thin and shatteringly crisp. A topping of melted cheese, fat curls of seared bacon and plenty of sweet, thinly-sliced onions makes for mouthful after mouthful of melted goodness.

I finish with a sundae – such a glorious thing. Mine is a classic, a peach melba, saucy and sublime. The heavenly concoction of soft, poached peaches, vanilla ice cream and raspberry sorbet, all in the same glass, is just magic.

I push my long-handled spoon down through all the layers until I’ve lapped up every last drop. It is a bewitching treat, as the rest of this sumptuous Phoenix Brunch has been.

They are looking to impress and have succeeded. Indeed, they have outdone themselves. Breakfast and lunch have been transformed into one drawn-out moment in which to pause, eat and awaken – gently, slowly and unhurriedly. What a luxury.

Whatever becomes of the remainder of your day, for €35 you will  have brunched like a king.

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