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Naar Restobar in Balluta was an entertaining affair, with a couple of timeouts and a great view.

Naar Restobar in Balluta Bay | With great views, excellent service and even a dedicated vegan menu, it almost has everything.

Our Veganuary is going strong, I think. It has been almost three weeks and I’m still not converted, and probably won’t be. That doesn’t mean I don’t get to enjoy it though. I’m learning that being Vegan does not necessarily mean eating some leaves and maybe a couple of raw carrots. There’s much more to it.

Beets and Sweets

This week, our Veganuary quest took us to Naar Restobar, which is situated in the beautiful Balluta Bay in St Julian’s. A quick history lesson suggests that the name ‘Balluta’ derives from the Maltese word for oak trees, of which several grew in the area.

This seaside area started as a quiet summer resort in the early 19th Century, where rich business people would go and enjoy their vacations. Of course, it is not so quiet nowadays, and its open for all of us go and spend our hard-earned cash. As for trees, you won’t find many left.

The name Naar was inspired by the Maltese word for ‘fire’ (nar), with the additional ‘A’ used as a play with words to evoke flames. You can’t really fault Naar Restobar in terms of location. The restaurant is situated on the water’s edge, directly adjacent to the sea.

Corny pumpkin

The vista is beautiful, and in summer this place is golden. In winter, during typical stormy weather with high winds and sea waves battering it, perhaps it is a bit less.

Naar Restobar is also an extension to the home of water polo club Neptunes, hence the swimming pool directly adjacent to it. The interior presents a variety of patterns and is decorated with natural tones and warm ambient lighting, making the space a very pleasant one. Water polo training was being carried out on the evening we visited. You could almost hear the water polo players screaming during practice.

This is was late evening training, outside, and on a cold January night. You would forgive them for being a bit irritated. At least the pool was was heated. We stayed inside, in the covered area, and let the water polo guys do their training, whilst we would do our eating.

There aren’t a lot of options in the Naar Restobar specialized vegan menu, but just enough I thought.

Huge menus tend to be confusing anyway. There is a small selection of salads and pasta, a couple of vegan burgers as mains, a cottage pie priced at €16.95 and a parmigiana priced at €14.50. We were also informed by the staff at Naar Restobar of some vegan specials on the night by some very efficient waiting staff. Soon enough we had our drinks, and after that some hot sliced Maltese bread with a cold bean puree.

Big boss burger

Our starters consisted first of a ‘Beets and Sweets’ dish, priced at €12.95. This was roasted sweet potatoes and beetroots with thyme, baby spinach and, walnuts, mustard dressing and served on beetroot puree. The menu description at Naar Restobar included orange segments, which we couldn’t find, and there were a couple of cherry tomatoes at most included.

Overall though, we didn’t complain and just got on with it, the presentation was colourful, and I thought the carrots and beets combined perfectly. It was also quite a big portion when considering this was a starter.

The same can be said for the ‘Corny Pumpkin’, priced at €14.50 and included roasted pumpkin, bell peppers, baby corn, edamame and baby spinach tossed with black rice. A bit more rice, and I would have easily mistaken this for a main course. Most importantly, it was really good. Every item in the dish was very well cooked, be it the pumpkin, capsicum or baby corn.

This was proof that you can get a few vegetable items and turn them into something delightful, as long as these are fresh, and you don’t overcook their every bio-molecule.

Asparagus risotto

Had our dinner finished there, we would have been more than happy. Two main courses were coming up, though. The ‘Big Boss’ burger (priced at €12.95) seemed a good option. A spiced-up black bean mushroom and quinoa patty with lettuce, tomato and ‘sheeze’ (no it’s not a spelling mistake, it’s vegan cheese) and some homemade beetroot ketchup. What could go wrong?

The main item did. The patty was mushy inside and, I guess to compensate for the excessive moisture, was overcooked on the outside, to almost charcoal levels. As soon as you had your first bite, everything fell apart. I guess someone didn’t dry the beans properly before making the patty. As for the beetroot ketchup, we did see it, but didn’t really feel the taste of it.

The other main dish we chose was a ‘Green and Asparagus Risotto’. Priced at € 14.50, this was listed as a risotto cooked in a green pea puree with asparagus, roasted cherry tomatoes and baby corn. The dish was topped with rucola, crushed almonds and sesame seeds. We ordered a starter portion, but the portion brought to us would have easily been enough for a main.

The people at Naar Restobar like to see their customers well-fed. The first thing we noticed as soon as the plate was placed in front of us was a smell of garlic so intense it would have driven even the bravest vampire away. Secondly, the amount of mashed peas in this dish was considerable. After a couple of bites, it felt as if we ordered a plate of mashed peas with some risotto rather than vice-versa. The asparagus was lovely, but unfortunately got lost in this sea of pea mash.

Double chocolate hazelnut cake

For dessert, we were verbally given a choice between a lemon and cranberry cheesecake, snickers cake and a double chocolate hazelnut cake. Since we believe you can rarely go wrong with chocolate, we chose the last option (priced at €6.50), crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. It worked. If someone loves their dessert to be very sweet, they should look at other options.

As for me, this was chocolate perfection. It wasn’t very sweet, it had a perfect gooey texture and just enough taste of hazelnuts. This ‘in-house mix’, as a very well-meaning waitress described, was by far the best vegan dessert I’ve had yet.

Naar Restobar is not only a good restaurant but also a bar and cocktail lounge. With great views and excellent service, it almost has it all. The only unfortunate thing was that not all courses achieved the same level of exquisiteness.

It was as frustrating as when a team wins big one week only to go on and lose the next match. There were many positives to take from Naar Restobar though. You don’t let a couple of bad encounters discourage you, eh?


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