Under a clear blue sky with the sun glinting off its sparkling fountains and sandstone façade, the Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa in Malta looks positively regal. Which is appropriate considering the official residence of the nation’s President, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, is across the street. Add to this an upscale neighborhood amid the three villages of Attard, Balzan and Lija, and the hotel's rich and many balconied rooms, and you have an attractive, relaxing setting in the heart of this historic Mediterranean island nation.
Managed by Englishman David Woodward, this 156-room, five-star hotel is the original flagship of the Corinthia Hotels group launched by the Pisani family. Bought in 1959 by Paul Pisani, the property was initially for himself, his wife and their six children. The residence was eventually put to greater use, as the entrepreneurial Pisani family transformed it into a successful wedding venue, then a restaurant in 1962, naming it after the Corinthian architecture of the ornate columns that surround the dining room. The hotel itself officially opened six years later.
This Italian-style hotel emanates a sedate atmosphere, a verdant oasis in a suburban setting. Its spacious rooms overlook the colorful gardens and the surrounding neighborhood. The furnishings are sparse, with simple artwork including pen drawings of old Valetta, the capital city.
Under the guidance of executive chef Stefan Hogan, the hotel embraces a diverse selection of dining options. Rickshaw, a Far Eastern restaurant, offers evening cuisine from Thailand, Japan, Singapore, China and beyond. We were fortunate enough to stay at the resort while Rickshaw offered their brunch menu (closed now until October 4, 2015). We enjoyed a delicious array of dishes such as duck-filled dumplings and duck cooked in beer sauce, Thai prawn soup, mutton in coconut curry, sweet and sour chicken, pork in soya sauce and grouper fish in a mild curry.
Timeless and tranquil, the Villa Corinthia Restaurant is a high-ceilinged, elegant space with murals by Maltese artist Raymond Pitre decorating its walls. Here, dishes include warm salad with dried fig chutney from a local artisan on the island of Gozo, seared pigeon breast on a bed of baby spinach, and yellow beetroot tarte tatin with soft sheep cheese from Gozo and roasted pistachio and lemon oil. Being a Mediterranean island, no other entrée could be more suitable than fresh sea bream, baked lovingly in a salt and herb crust to maintain its soft texture, then drizzled with Maltese olive oil and lemon jus for added subtle flavor. Head pastry chef Mark McBride ended our dinner with a soft polenta and olive oil cake with Ta' Mena artisanal honey ice cream and bee pollen. For an added touch of grandeur, a quintessentially-British afternoon tea is served in the restaurant every Sunday.
Tucked away from the hotel’s bustling lobby, the Orange Grove Brasserie is an informal meeting place where afternoon tea is served every day. Another relaxing alternative is the Caprice Lounge, with the soothing sounds of light entertainment and an impressive selection of whiskeys, brandies and cocktails to help you unwind after a busy day. The lounge leads to the Caprice Wine Garden, a tranquil open-air space where guests can enjoy a peaceful ambiance while sipping on a fine vintage. Also set within the gardens and overlooking the pool, is the Summer Kitchen, the latest addition to hotel’s portfolio of restaurants.
As for activities, guests can enjoy the indoor hydrotherapy pool with Jacuzzi, and sauna, or can get their heart-racing with a game of tennis or squash. Daily gym classes include Zumba, Pilates, yoga, kick-boxing, Barre and aerobics, while the Athenaeum Spa offers an array of revitalizing treatments including its special Silhouette therapy for slimming and Eclat Countour for wrinkles and puffy eyes. For something different, try the candle massage with soft aromatic wax made in Gozo instead of standard oils.
For pet lovers, there's the hotel’s innovative Palace Pups program that provides pooches with complimentary bowls, treats and toys and even doggie room service, massages and grooming. Dogs can also join their owners for lunch at the Orange Grove restaurant. The hotel also makes a donation to a dog home for every dog visitor it has.
The property is located between the island’s capital, Valletta, and Mdina, the picturesque medieval-walled city that is still inhabited to this day. Outside lies a world rich in history and architecture. Comprising seven Mediterranean islands, the Maltese archipelago boasts a rich tapestry of archaeological and cultural treasures for guests to explore. Some of the oldest prehistoric structures in the world, dating from 3,600 BC, remain, leaving behind a legacy that includes the Sicilians, Phoenicians, Romans and, more recently, the British. The hotel also provides a complimentary shuttle bus to the city center, available three times daily, making travel to downtown relatively easy.
Rates at Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa start at around USD $189 per night.