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I went to Malta in September 2011 with my boyfriend. We stayed in the St Julians area of Malta for 10 days. Earlier that year my Auntie and Uncle had also stayed in St Julians at the Hilton hotel and had dined at the Blue Elephant which is located within the hotel. They highly recommended we eat at the restaurant while we are there and didnít have enough good words to say about the place. So half way through our trip we made a reservation and went to find out for ourselves.
My Uncle had recommended that we book a table as the restaurant can be quite busy, so we called the hotel and were transferred to the Blue Elephant where we easily made a booking with a very pleasant member of staff.
The restaurant is located within the Hilton hotel which means you do have to approach the hotel as though you are a guest and walk through the main doors, then you take an elevator down 2 floors from the lobby where you find the restaurant. When you first walk in the hotel it is unclear where exactly it is, however we asked at reception and were given guidance.
When you get out of the lift you are greeted with a mini lobby around the entrance to the hotel which included a menu on display surrounded by various Thai style decorations and pretend fruits etc. There we were greeted by a staff member who asked if we had made a reservation and were then taken into the main of the restaurant. The inside of the restaurant was just amazing, there was a river running through the room with a large pond in the middle with fish swimming within it. There was a foot bridge going over the water allowing access to both sides of the water. There were various plants and flowers placed around the carefully spaced tables. It was like entering another world and like nothing I have ever experienced before! There was also a subtle music playing which reminded me of music you would hear in a spa and it really added to the relaxing nature of the place.
Despite the beautiful interior, when asked where we would like to sit we opted to sit outside. The outside area was slightly smaller than the interior, and consisted of a decking over the water which meets the hotel and gave a view of the sea and various speedboats parked near the hotel (which we could only assume belonged to hotel guests) It was very nice to be given a choice of where to sit as this isnt always something you get asked. The decking was also adorned very nicely just like the interior and the relaxing music was still audible. The restaurant does sit within the hotel meaning you are semi cocooned in by the hotel itself which is quite tall. This is a good thing in the sense that it stops the wind slightly, however it did become quite hot out on the decking as a result. Yet the inside of the restaurant did seem much cooler and there was clearly air-conditioning in there.
I really liked how the decking was set out, there were different levels and areas meaning you didnít feel too close to any other guests. This is really important to us, as we both admit to feeling a bit uncomfortable if placed to close to other diners, therefore we really appreciated how the restaurant had considered this. The furniture and tableware was all of a very high quality and everything was clean and well laid out. It was clear that the staff were well trained and took a lot of care to how the place looks.
We were quickly given a drinks menu and asked what we would like to drink. We both like Rose wine so decided to order a Maltese wine which is actually made in the neighbouring island of Gozo. We had ordered the exact same wine in other restaurants during our stay and noticed that it was slightly more expensive in this one. The wine was served quickly and was opened at the table and poured, then placed in a cooler at the side of the table.
After the food we also decided to order a cocktail off the extensive cocktail menu. My boyfriend decided on a Caipirinha and I ordered a Planters Punch. However when we ordered we were informed that it wouldnít be possible to have the Caipirinha as there were no limes left. We were a bit disappointed however were glad they had admitted this, as in our hotel when ordering Caipirinhas the barman made them with lemons rather than admitting there were no limes left, which resulted in an odd tasting drink! So in the end he ordered a Highlander.
Both cocktails arrived and were clearly well made with good quality spirits, and both were rather strong but at least that meant we got our moneys worth!! The only disappointment with the cocktails was the rather bland glasses they came in, they were nothing more than an average shape blue tinted glass and werenít the kind of glass that I would usually expect a cocktail in, nor was there any decoration such as fruit etc. Despite this we did enjoy the drink and I guess the drink itself is more important than the glass and decoration!
We then began to work our way through the food menu. There is an option of 3 different banquet menus which include starters, mains and desserts, or you can order individual dishes from a general menu. Neither of us are too familiar with Thai food so decided the banquet menus would be a good idea and give us the opportunity to try different things. So we went with the Royal Thai Banquet Menu which is Ä38.50 each.
The starters arrived served on a tiered platter with lovely matching blue plates and pots containing the various starters. We were also given 4 thai dips which were explained to us by the waiter. He also explained which dips are best with which starters, which was a really nice touch. We had chicken satay, special spring rolls made with lamb stuffing, Sarika which is a little crispy cake containing prawns and sweetcorn and Thung Pu which is a stuffed egg pastry with cream cheese. All of these dishes were relatively new to us but we were so impressed by all of them. Each one was cooked to perfection and bursting with various contrasting flavours! I have never enjoyed food so much and really savoured every flavour. The dips were clearly homemade and really complimented each of the dishes. Each dish was also adorned with beautiful purple flowers which made the whole thing look beautiful and it actually seemed a shame to eat it!!
Next came the mains which were again served on a platter but this time it was a flat elevated one meaning the dishes were at just the right level. They were all served in lovely little blue pots with lids to keep the warmth in. Again the waiter went through each of the dishes so we would know exactly what each one was. The mains were a seafood stir fry in fruit juice, stir-fried chicken in coriander and garlic, beef with onions, mushrooms and babycorn in an oyster sauce, marinated duck with sweet&sour sauce served on a bed of seaweed and lamb curry containing coconut milk with sweet potatoes and cashew nuts. There was also a bowl of aromatic rice and seasoned noodles at the side.
Every single dish was packed with flavour and the meat was cooked perfectly so it was nice and soft. I have eaten similar dishes before yet never experienced flavour like this before, the flavours clashed at times yet in a good way and it really brought the food to life. There was also a variety of textures involved making it even more enjoyable. Until this I wasnít actually aware that food could be quite this exciting. My favourite was the lamb dish which was just incredible, Iím not actually a fan of lamb as meat, yet this was just incredible.
Finally we received the dessert which neither of us felt we had enough room for! However what arrived was a delightful little selection of 3 desserts Ė a mini cheesecake, a coconut sorbet and a mango sorbet. I didnít expect a desert to blow me away in quite the same way that the other courses did, yet the coconut and mango sorbets were just amazing!! I know it sounds odd, as youíd think there couldnít be much to be special about a sorbet, yet somehow there were just so much better than any sorbet or ice cream I have ever tasted. They were just so full of flavour and refreshing.
The courses were spaced just right and we were given the option of a longer wait between courses if required. We were left feeling really full so there was no worry about there not being enough food.
Iím never too concerned about service and always think that providing the food is nice I donít care if the waiter is rude! However here in this place I experienced service on another level that I never knew existed. All staff members were incredibly attentive and couldnít do enough for you. It was clear that all were well trained in the industry and knew the correct way to do everything from pouring wine to clearing plates. The waiters/waitresses were very present and you felt they were never far away as our wine glasses were regularly topped up and we were frequently checked upon. However it didnít feel as though they were too present and as though they could hear what you were talking about etc. In fact they were very subtle and even the way they walked was quiet and didnít impose on the relaxed nature of the place.
The waiter we had was still friendly despite his professionalism and I felt he was capable of adapting to the people he was dealing with. I think he soon realised we are quite a relaxed couple so as a result made additional conversation with us and even offered to take a photo of us which he went to great trouble to make sure it looked good! Yet I felt if we had been a bit more stand off-ish and preferred him to leave us alone he would also have respected this and adapted. All of the staff were genuinely friendly and relaxed, yet knew exactly what they were doing.
Overall the staff made us feel like royalty, despite being quit young we were treated with great respect and it really did make us feel special. Were not the sort of people who like fuss however it wasnít really fuss, just extremely professional. As a result I left a bigger tip than I have ever left in a restaurant before, because I really strongly felt the level of service warranted this.
I visited the toilets while I was there (partly out of curiosity and to have a walk around the place and admire it some more!) The toilets were as amazing as I expected, they were spotlessly clean and very modern but in an elegant way with marble basins and gold adornments. The toilets had a dressing room type appearance with seating areas and large mirrors. The sinks all had posh hand washes and there were no hand dryers, instead neatly folded facecloths were provided to dry your hands with a basket to dispose of them afterwards. Again this was a truly luxurious experience and matched the rest of the restaurant.
As expected the bill was quite high at just over Ä120 (including the wine and cocktails) which for us it a large amount and not the amount we would normally pay to eat out, yet I have absolutely no regret in dining here. If a friend told me they spent that amount on a meal for 2 I would probably laugh and wonder what was so special about the food to make it worth that amount, however I can confidently say that on this occasion it did seem well worth the money.
After visiting the restaurant I could completely understand why my Uncle had recommended it and gushed so much about it! We had an unforgettable experience in this place that I could easily say was my best ever dining experience to date. Iím already keen to try the UK Blue Elephant which is located in London and hope it will be to the same standard. I would confidently recommend this place to anyone visiting Malta who finds themselves in the St Julians area, for a truly magical exciting dining experience.