GITH Magazine were cordially invited to Mulino at Villa Dei Venti, to taste four new signature dishes you will not want to miss.
Set in a Boutique Hotel in Qala, this conscientiously-designed, minimal restaurant, sets the scene for our exclusive tasting of four Mulino signature dishes that not only leave us grinning ear to ear but with a promise of an expanded gourmet Gozo.
Autumn is an exciting time. It’s the turn of the season, the green and lush colours return to the island and we are blessed with a more agreeable heat and knockout sunsets as we settle back into our post-summer slumber. September is usually the restaurant industries time. A time to take stock, think about new menu ideas and plan for the coming festive season. It’s awards season across Europe and we see the publications of many of the annual food guides – but there’s nothing usual about 2020 and this year it seems likely that the impact of Covid-19 will sadly continue. One could argue that it could be one of the worst times to open a restaurant… but it thankfully didn’t stop the dynamic duo behind Mulino at Villa Dei Venti.
As the restaurant was closed, there was time to pick the brains of both Matthew (Front of House) and JP (Chef) to discuss the dishes being introduced in more detail. “Its transitional.” explains Matthew, a self-confessed foodie with a clear understanding of how accessible a high-end restaurant should be. “We want everyone to experience quality and we let our food speak for itself.”
Amen! A restauranteur who understands there has to be a power shift in place to become a leader in food. He continues setting the scene for upcoming changes, “We don’t want to change the whole menu in one go, we want to slowly launch the new dishes so customers can really get to know us”.
I like that approach. We’ve all, at least once, been disappointed upon arrival at our favourite place to find our favourite dish has been wiped from the menu. On the other hand, we have to understand that menus have to move, chefs simply have to express and experiment – or else it gets stagnant and let’s face it – we as customers will never try anything different.
The small but precise team of four at Mulino are meticulous when it comes to what goes on the menu. Firstly, they brainstorm as a group and then Chef will go and create in the kitchen ready for tastings. He is a rather special chef. Indisputably brimming with experience and flair, admitting that when he is not cooking, he is learning from the best online. Anyway – when a chef drops names like Massimo Bottura, one feels there must be an affinity to good cooking. Yes, JP is a real chef. He has the right idols and his passion oozes through his smiles as he happily (and ever- so-calmly) chats through his reasons for making these specific dishes, Mulino signatures.
We were first treated to an Amuse Bouche, which they quickly added, is “ever-changing”. “I like to keep my customers surprised” says Chef; “It’s a little gift to them when they choose to dine with us and the beginning of their Mulino experience”. We tucked into the lightest Pulled Pork and Cheddar Fried Wontons, coupled with a Carrot, Ginger and Chilli Purée, Braised Shallots, delicately embelished with edible flowers, microgreens and a balancing Herb Oil.
If these guys were out to impress they managed to score a gastro goal in the first three minutes. The plate was interesting, beautifully light and colourful and I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
The second plate was just as stunning. Sicilian Prawn Carpaccio with Dill Pickled Swede, Black Garlic Puree, Lumpfish Caviar, Parsley and Spring Onion Herb Oil served with a Coconut, Fish Broth. The carefully selected ingredients made complete sense to each other. Finely sliced prawns melted in the mouth, dill pickled swede offered a sweet and vinegary accent that cut through with a slight crunch and the richness of the garlic puree and caviar gave it the perfect enough depth.
At this point, we were grinning like Cheshire cats. Light, tasty and so delicately presented. These guys know what they are doing and I loved the interaction of the sauce being dribbled on at the table.
Their next addition to the current menu is a starter. An intrinsically elevated version of the traditional Maltese Widows Soup or Soppa tal-Armla. The name originates from the medieval practice of gifting penniless, widowed women with vegetables and other available produce, which they would then use to create the most filling dish possible. This soup was a staple during poorer times when humble Gozitans lived on what they could afford to grow in their fields and farms. Loving the antiquity and meaning behind this dish was just the start. It truly was a sight for sore eyes. Fresh Local Cheeselet, perfectly cooked, locally sourced, Fricassee Of Seasonal Vegetables, a Confit Egg accompanied with a light but deeply tasty Tomato Consomme.
The second signature had a focus of fish. Sea Bream to be exact, which is so often complicated by unwanted extras on a plate. I am of the opinion that if the fish is cooked perfectly, it needs only a few other additions to enhance the natural flavour.
Their version was flawless. Gracefully cooked and simply presented on a charcoal black plate. Charred Broccoli, a decorative splash of Burnt Onion Purée and an inspiring Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi.
Finally and as importantly, they add to their meat miscellany by introducing a triumphant Beef Cheek Braised in Red Wine, served with a Butter Mash, Braised Fennel, Pan-Fried Chanterelle Mushrooms and Pickled Onion Petals. The beef was wonderfully light, the sauce – a flavoursome shiny success and the accompanying flavours of softly braised fennel, golden-brown light and oh-so- fruity chanterelles and micro herbs makes this an extremely dignified staple on the Mulino menu.
All aboard the Mulino train. These guys maybe the best thing that has happened to the Gozo gastro scene in a long time.
Understandably, there is much anticipation surrounding a new restaurant on Gozo and the deep desire for it to be of a high standard and creatively different is always at the core for me. I love going to restaurants and have gratefully eaten in some of the worlds finest, so I would be lying if there was not some small part of me that always hopes to be blown away each time I visit somewhere new.
Well – for those that feel dining choice lacks lustre on the little rock, Mulino has certainly thrown us a culinary curveball. Gozitan born Chef JP is surely one to watch. He is now excitingly in a supported position to build his career the way he desires, blending culinary traditions, modern techniques with avant-garde experimentation to create his particular version of casual fine-dining.
Bravo team Mulino! Another local restaurant brave enough to hold their own and lead the way without apology. I can’t wait to see what you do next.