An exotic luxury escape conjures up images of The Maldives, Seychelles and the like, but what if you only have a weekend to relax and explore is there anywhere closer to home that ticks the right boxes? There is – Malta.
Nestled in the Mediterranean Sea, just south of Sicily and only three hours from the UK, this island is the perfect place to enjoy clear seas, sandy beaches and sunny weather mixed with beautiful architecture, complex history and authentic food.
We were staying at the architecturally striking Cugó Gran Macina Grand Harbour a 16th century Maltese landmark originally built as part of the Bastion to protect the town from invaders and now converted into a beautiful luxurious boutique hotel with large communal spaces, high vaulted ceilings, spacious roomsand the most spectacular views across the Senglea harbour and marina.
Checking into the large open reception area, we are greeted by warm friendly faces and a cool glass of Maltese wine, before being led through corridors lined with exposed stone to our suite.
There are 21 suites in total, most have views over the harbour and range from 40 to 130 m². All with high vaulted ceilings, luxurious furnishings and natural materials. Our suite – The Senglea Suite was certainly impressive, a huge two storey open plan space encompassing four areas, a dining/kitchen space, lounge, upstairs bedroom and outdoor terrace with of course stunning views. The spacious living room includes a wall mounted flat screen TV, and enormous comfy sofa with doors leading out onto the beautiful terrace, the most perfect place to sit with a glass of wine and watch the harbour and its life float by.
Black iron handrails and shelving are a reminder of the industrial past of the building and lead up to the mezzanine floor where the bedroom includes a king-size bed with a canopy reminiscent of a ships sail, a neutral colour palette and finest natural materialsthat complement the modern white walls and exposed brickwork effortlessly.
There’s something that appeals to everyone here, if you want to do nothing but laze around the pool, then head up to the rooftop where the intimate pool offers unparalleled panoramic views of the Grand Harbour and the historic cities of Cospicua and Vittoriosa, laze on the loungers only getting up to dip your toes in the cool blue water and order some poolside food and drink via a telephone on the wall.
If exploring’s more your thing, venture out of the hotel and step intothe cobbled Maltese streets with its stone houses and steep steps, climb to the top of Upper Barrakka Gardens where the views are breath-taking, grab a coffee or some delicious seafood at one of the many harbourside cafes and restaurants, and spend hours watching the boats sail past. Just a ten minute walk away and you’re in Vittoriosa, here you can take in the history at Fort St Angelo, the Malta at War Museum, and the Inquisitor’s Palace, as well as the yacht marina (you can dream how the other half live) along with an historic waterfront full of cafes and restaurants – You’ll never tire of discovering something new, whether it’s a historical structure, hidden cove, authentic food or Maltese wine, all too quickly the day will have passed by and it will be time to find somewhere to dine for the evening.
The restaurants and bars around Cugó Gran Macina Grand Harbouroffer a delicious varied selection of food, but you do need to eat in the hotels award winning Hammetts Macina Restaurant at least once. The food here is outstanding, restauranteur Chris Hammett and his team have put together their own menus fusing British inspiration with classic Mediterranean flavours, giving a modern twist, using local, seasonal produce.
Our dining experience began in the ground floor bar with a Ginsalis cocktail (Bombay sapphire, fresh orange, fresh lime, fresh physalis, brown sugar and syrup) before we made our way into the dining room, soft lighting and art deco elegance was the perfectbackdrop to enjoy some culinary delights that included raw tuna cubes marinated in soya and topped with foie gras, tomato risotto, veal and a delicious chocolate dessert, all paired with wines from the hotel’s cellar. All the dishes were fresh and flavoursome using ingredients that complement each other perfectly and textures that add a little extra to the palette. Service was impeccable as was the food served, finished off perfectly with a glass of sherry that we took yo our room and enjoyed on the terrace under the moonlit sky.
After a blissful night’s sleep in the heavenly King-size bed, it was time for breakfast where we enjoyed the most delicious
Banana Short Stack (homemade pancakes, bananas, crushed hazelnuts, maple syrup and cinnamon) along with fresh fruit and coffee, the perfect body fuel to set us up for another day of relaxing, exploring and eating!
Cugó Gran Macina Grand Harbouris a luxurious hotel full of beautiful architecture and elegant features, perfectly placed to explore Malta and its historical past.