SPOTLIGHT: MEDITERRANEAN FLAVOURS AT THE WHITE OLIVE

The promise of succulent barbecue by a poolside and a Mediterranean sea view is enough to tempt anyone away from their daily routine. Yet, an evening at the White Olive at the Corinthia Hotel St George’s Bay should be seen as anything but a sin. Its atmosphere and soulfully prepared flavours are in fact the perfect reward after a long, hard day’s work. The Corinthia also extends its hospitality with the use of its pool overlooking St George’s Bay till 10pm. A few refreshing laps as your food is freshly cooked are an ideal antidote to the warm evening air.

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I was privileged enough to begin my meal at the ideal hour of 7.30pm, just in time for the sun’s final bow. I envied the swimmers who were clever enough to bring their bikinis for a late night dip. Yet, my disappointment was soon alleviated with the arrival of five show-stopping mezzes accompanied by freshly baked pita bread, all on the house.

The colours and textures in front of me confirmed the expertise of Chef Hassan Deli. As I hopped from one dip to the other, I was taken on a Mediterranean flavoured journey. I tasted Greece, Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Armenia and Tunisia in several mouthfuls.

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I admittedly opted for territory most familiar to me. Yet, Chef Hassan made me rediscover the joy that is tzatziki. My taste buds were first hit by fresh lemon juice. Fresh herbs came soon after, blanketed in the milkiness of Greek yoghurt. There was a pleasant abundance of cucumber chunks in the mixture, which added a subtle crunch.

I then moved on to his signature hummus, and I can now see why it is so. Amidst the expertly blended meatiness of the crushed chickpeas, I could taste a generous helping of nuttiness from the tahini – a nice change to the usual mixtures which tend to tragically dilute this key ingredient.

The mutabbal followed. This is the less nutty sister of the hummus, and its most distinct quality was its creaminess. The rich aubergine provided a velvety finish with every mouthful. Utterly addictive.

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Then came the olive tapenade. Though, I cannot really classify the beautiful cluster of earthy colours as a tapenade, as the olives were just pitted and halved, much to my pleasure. They were also mixed in Morocco’s fiery answer to kunserva – harissa. This mezze is the go-to for every lover of all things spicy, and is not for the faint of heart, or tongue. However, if you do brave the heat of this mixture, do counteract it with a good bite of pita and tzatziki, which instantly calms down the effect of the chili seeds.

Another cooling agent you may also opt for is the haydari. Oddly enough, this also contains a smidgeon of harissa, which gives this decadent dip its coral colour. Its fiery quality is tamed by the marriage of feta cheese and yoghurt.

Finally, I went in for the baba ganoush, where I was first met with the sweetness of red and yellow peppers, followed by the comforting juiciness of tomatoes. Fusing these together was the fleshiness of mashed aubergine.

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My tour guide for this journey was Chef Hassan’s freshly baked pita bread. The lovely staff at the White Olive very hospitably came back with more, lest any remaining dip goes to waste. The pita was warm, light and pillowy, and despite the luxurious ingredients incorporated in the dips, I wasn’t left with that bloated feeling that comes with having too much appetiser.

I was informed that my main course would take 20 minutes. They flew by thanks to the mezze, the lovely sea view and good company. When our mains arrived, my beef fillet medallions were hidden underneath two papery slices of pita, which sandwiched an appropriate amount of harissa to go with the meat. With every bite came the much loved taste of a smokey outer layer, with a juicy interior that cut beautifully and melted in my mouth. My companion opted for grilled salmon, accompanied by a chili, tomato and caper sauce. I managed to steal a bite to discover that fluffy texture that can only result from a professionally barbecued fish. The bitterness of the sauce enhanced the sweetness of the fish. The side dishes of roast potato, mixed vegetables and couscous with lentils and caramelised onions merged perfectly with the meats.

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Image: Grilled salmon (left) and beef fillet medallions (right)

 

If you’re planning a chilled afternoon out with a friend or your loved ones, I highly recommend the White Olive at the Corinthia Hotel St George’s Bay. The dips alone are a good enough excuse to pack your swim suits and head there on your next free evening.

For more information and online booking, please visit the White Olive Restaurant portal.

For reservations, call +356 2370 2693.

Corinthia Hotel St George’s Bay

St George’s Bay, St Julian’s

STJ3301 Malta

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Image: Beef fillet medallions

 

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Image: Grilled salmon