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Merkanti Restaurant brings authentic Maltese food to the heart of Valletta

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

Merkanti Restaurant at Is-Suq tal-Belt intends to bring you traditional Maltese food in a contemporary ambience.


Triq Merkanti is one of the main historical streets of Valletta. Whilst it still has its fair share of shops, the sheer number of restaurants along the street might make us rename Triq ir-Ristoranti.


Merkanti Restaurant Charlene eating ravioli

We are soon in the very heart of the city and entering the iconic Is-Suq tal-Belt. For a long time, Is-Suq tal-Belt was where foods such as wine, cheese and oil, crops and animal husbandry from rural areas joined a steady stream of produce brought from ships and into Valletta on mornings to be sold in the market.


For a long time, the market was slowly dying, falling into disrepair, a mere shadow of its busy past. In 2017, it was given a new lease of life and dragged into the 21st Century. A fair amount of effort has been made to give life to this place, and the results look quite good.


Merkanti Restaurant interior

We visited Is-Suq tal-Belt to try out the recently opened Merkanti Restaurant, a new addition to the list of Valletta restaurants and its increasingly vibrant dining scene. Whilst Merkanti Restaurant focuses on Maltese food, this is not your usual Maltese-themed interior. Of course, apart from the food, the main attraction of Merkanti Restaurant is that the place is fairly open.


Merkanti Restaurant table

This is amply reflected in the place's decor, with its contemporary furniture and light ambience. Suppose you are lucky enough to get a table on the outer edge. In that case, you’ll enjoy vistas directly onto the open space in front of Is-Suq tal-Belt, the Presidential Palace, and a general view of the Valletta skyline.


We visited Merkanti Restaurant on an early Sunday afternoon. The place was not busy, which was fine by us as this meant we could have the staff's attention all over us. By the time we were done, though, the place was half full with people eating, talking, and having a good time.


Merkanti Restaurant Charlene having cocktail

Ample space between seating and an abundant amount of fresh air entering the wide windows of the glass block space above the original construction will ensure you feel quite safe and at ease during these less stringent but uncertain times.


Merkanti Restaurant interior design

The cocktail menu is not extensive, but let us suggest a couple of gems for you to enjoy whilst gazing at the skyline. First is the ‘Valletta Spritz’, with P31 Aperitif, Prosecco, Soda Water and Lime. Don’t be offended by its greenish look, the drink is as refreshing as possible.


Ample space between seating and an abundant amount of fresh air entering the wide windows of the glass block space above the original construction will ensure you feel quite safe and at ease during these less stringent but uncertain times.


Merkanti Restaurant Charlene eating pork chops

The cocktail menu is not extensive, but let us suggest a couple of gems for you to enjoy whilst gazing at the skyline. First is the ‘Valletta Spritz’, with P31 Aperitif, Prosecco, Soda Water and Lime. Don’t be put off by its greenish look; the drink is as refreshing as it gets.


Our favourite cocktail however was ‘Merkanti’, which makes sure it lives up to the name through a heavy alcoholic intake of Rum, Bajtra Liqueur topped up with Lemonade, Grenadine Syrup and Lemon Juice. The latter, priced at €9 might be a bit on the pricey side, but then again it is full of liquor and, frankly, damn delicious.


Merkanti Restaurant Charlene eating ravioli

The menu essentially focuses on Maltese food. The starters give a sense of direction to the dinner, that is, at the heart of the Mediterranean. A quick look and you’ll immediately see a number of staples of traditional Maltese Food. Aljotta, Soppa tal-Armla, Spaghetti with Rabbit and Pulpetti tal Makku sauce are as Maltese as it gets.


Merkanti Restaurant bruschetta

A touch of Italian influence came in the form of Bruschetta, with each slice of bread brimming with fresh mint, tomatoes, capers and onions. It was a nice and pleasant way to start.


Then there was the bebbux and the age-old debate about who loves them and who does not. In our case, Charlene had never tried bebbux and her curiosity got the better of her so she opted for them. I am not too keen on bebbux however, so I let her indulge. Not that she managed to finish it off, because the bowl brought to us is enough for two, I think. She loved it but still did not manage to finish it off.


Merkanti Restaurant bebbux

I enjoyed the fried Ravjul stuffed with goat cheese and served with a smooth ‘Mediterranean’ sauce. Five lovely looking and crispy ravioli, and perfect if you are leaning slightly on the salty side. I didn’t mind it at all; soon enough, I had finished them all.


Merkanti Restaurant fried ravioli

For mains, it was back to Viva Malta ways. Both dishes were robust and sturdy, in a good way. First was a generous-looking portion of fried rabbit cooked in garlic and wine. Apart from the lovely presentation, the rabbit was meaty, with a strong but very enjoyable sauce oozing a great garlicky taste.


Merkanti Restaurant pork chops with fries

More importantly, the rabbit came with one of those richly reduced meaty sauces that leave you smacking your lips.


My absolute favourite dish of the occasion was the Oven Baked Pork Chops cooked in white wine, star anise and Maltese Sausage. The pork was very tender, so much so that I didn’t need a knife to cut through it. The meat was sitting on some very enjoyable grilled vegetables and was topped with a generous amount of crispy fried onion rings in what was a sort of pyramid of delight.


Merkanti Restaurant pork chops and onions

Strangely enough, we didn’t see any desserts on the menu and to be frank didn’t ask for any since, by now, we were stuffed to the brim. Portions are substantial, which works just fine if you are into that. For us, we got our leftovers boxed up and happily took them home.


Merkanti Restaurant interior

We do feel there is quite a lot to like about Merkanti Restaurant and so we plan to visit again. If you are looking to try something traditional, whilst enjoying the city, we suggest you give this place a try and tell us what you think.

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