One of the exciting developments I saw in countries such as Poland, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania in recent months is the opening of craft beer bars at some considerable pace. They’re on-trend, exciting and the service is usually bordering between very good and exceptional. The food offering in these bars is frequently far better than it should be for what is often a drinks-led venue and they’re often open all day.
Valletta doesn’t appear to have that same wave of craft beer bars opening, but one that I keep seeing being mentioned is this one, 67 Kapitali. In all honesty, my expectations weren’t great, although the reviews are very supportive of this bar and restaurant.
Beers should be marked up on blackboards in my ideal world, it’s just something which makes things easier for customers when the selection changes according to availability. So, this is an excellent start for me and the interior generally looked welcoming.
In addition to the board, the staff member was also very aware of the selection and offered a suitable recommendation of a dark beer. On which point, I was acknowledged by two staff members before I sat down, an attention to service which remained impeccable throughout my visit.
The interior of the bar, modern, on-trend and comfortable.
The beer is Fungus Rock, brewed by Lord Chambray, which is a craft brewery based in Gozo. Advertised by the brewery as “not quite a black IPA and not quite a traditional stout”, the beer was served at the appropriate temperature and it had a rich and pleasant flavour. There weren’t deep aftertastes of any particular ingredients, other than perhaps slight notes of coffee, but it was drinkable and well kept.
I’ve slightly done this an injustice by not clearly showing the two slabs of feta cheese at the rear of the photo. The concept of these platters is that you can choose two, or more, main ingredients and they’re served alongside bread, crisps, chutney, oils and olives. I went for the smoked salmon, spicy salami and feta cheese. I think the platters are more designed for sharing, but I was happy to go with one just for myself.
The warm olives arrived separately.
Almost uniquely for me, I could find nothing wrong with the food, its presentation or its quality. My first thought was that the portion size was rather larger than I had expected, and I was delighted at the amount of bread that was provided. I like having that much bread, but I can’t think of that many restaurants or bars that provide it in the amount I require.
The salmon was beautiful, tender and full of flavour, with a slice of lemon provided that was sufficient to drizzle over the fish. The spicy salami had a real kick to it, not excessive, but enough for the chilli to add some spice to the proceedings. And the feta cheese seemed to be of a good quality, not overly salty or watery, and it had a suitable consistency and a creamy flavour. The bread was freshly baked, crusty on the exterior and deliciously soft on the interior. And I liked the salt in the corner which gives the customer the choice of how much to use and on what, although I thought it went marvellously with the salmon.
And, in terms of customer service, this as mentioned earlier was impeccable, the welcome was authentic, timely and genuine. The server took the food and drinks order efficiently, was knowledgeable about the drinks, cleared the board away promptly and seemed keen to serve customers.
I do like it when staff acknowledge and welcome customers into their location, it’s so common for staff to seem to expect their diners to know what to do and where to go. I heard one staff member say to a customer, who had enquired on where to sit, “pick anywhere, find something where you feel the most comfortable”. I thought that was a lovely line, as it seemed to be said in a genuine manner.
Not once either did I feel rushed during the meal, it was all very comfortable and customers are in danger of staying longer than they might have initially intended, not because of inefficient service, but because it’s such a pleasant atmosphere.
I had a look at the TripAdvisor ratings and I have no idea how they’ve picked up a handful of 1 out of 5 ratings, although they mostly seem ridiculous. I saw a review from someone who managed to rate them down for charging extra for a local beer. It defies belief to me that someone judges the quality and price of a beer by how far it has travelled. The bar could probably serve all manner of run of the mill lagers for €3, but that’s not quite the point of quality craft beer. Sometimes decent beer, like decent wine, costs a little bit more and it’d be nice to think it’s judged on its quality and not just its price.
Overall, this was marvellous. It was slightly expensive for a lunch as it cost a total of around £17, but that’s pretty much in line with what a pizza and beer would cost in one of the many generic restaurants in the city. And this was much, much better than that would have likely been.
This could be an early contender for my favourite bar of the year….