From the broad executive room balconies of the Corinthia St. George’s Bay Hotel, the sandstone-colored walls of Malta’s historic medieval buildings stand clear across the inlet, as boats meander back and forth on the Mediterranean Sea. In terms of location, the five-star, 249-room hotel, could not be more strategically situated. On the edge of the town of St. Julian’s, it not only offers wonderful panoramic views but is also a little over one mile from modern Sliema, with its promenade and open-air cafes, souvenir shops and restaurants. It is also only five miles from the island’s capital city of Valletta.
With a 16th century watchtower on its grounds, built when the Crusaders (Knights of St. John) ruled the island, the hotel also displays an authentic sense of history. When Napoleon invaded in 1798, officials say this was the first place he landed. North of Malta’s capital, where the hotel stands, was initially a fishing village, later becoming a summer residence for wealthy locals before developing into one of the island’s most popular resorts. It still retains some of its old buildings and boathouses, though few fishermen remain.
While there is a small sandy public beach at the bottom of the winding road upon which it stands, the 20-year-old hotel also has its own private Lido and four outdoor swimming pools. Malta’s Sean McGahern set a new Guinness World Record for the longest warm water scuba dive (49 hours and 56 minutes) two years ago at the Lido. So every Tuesday in summer the hotel offers a free trial dive in the top pool with the instructor being none other than McGahern himself.
Other water sports include a fully- fledged PADI diving school, an indoor pool, health spa and gymnasium. Matching service with technology, guests can order their drinks and food poolside using a special Twitter handle and giving their umbrella number.
The Apollo Spa offers a full menu of treatments ranging from facials to body wraps. The latter includes special detox seaweed and chocolate versions. There is also an assortment of massage options ranging from traditional Thai to hot stone and bamboo. The Absolute Spa Experience combines a customized facial and a Thai massage, while the Candlelight Caress treatment uses warm, aromatic oil from a slow-burning candle.
In terms of guestrooms, members who are part of the Executive Club are treated to an exclusively-reserved area with 39 suites and 31 rooms, a separate reception for express check-in and their own lounge. All rooms have uninterrupted sea views and are contemporary in design, reflecting a simple décor. Our executive suite was spacious, with both the bedroom and living room having access to large open terraces, perfect for sunbathing as well as star-gazing at night. It also features a walk-in wardrobe and large bathroom. But the undoubted highlight of the furnishings is its terrific massage chair, to which I became quite addicted during my stay. With so many windows overlooking the sea, the rooms was bathed in plenty of light.
Food options are diverse with several restaurants to choose from including the fine-dining Caviar & Bull, run by Chef Marvin Gauci. The restaurant features large windows granting views over the Mediterranean. Our dinner proved to be a most enjoyable affair with food both prepared and served by a young, friendly staff, including head chef Serge Huerga Marin.
After an amuse-bouche of soup and foie gras foam on a cracker, we chose a selection of gourmet tapas as starters including scallops pan-fried on a bed of lentils, thyme, carrots and peppers; tiger prawns battered and dressed with Asian vinaigrette and wild herbs; foie gras served on a thin slice of hazelnut and red currant toast, with balsamic and honey; and black fried calamari dusted with nero di sepia. After selecting the Barbary duck breast with beetroot, balsamic purèe, caramelized apples in thyme, juniper berry and orange sauce as an entrée, I can vouch for chef Marin’s flavor-blending skills. This being the first time I have ever dined on barracuda, I was impressed by its firm texture which, slightly pan-fried with a light lemon and garlic juice, was simply delicious. As for dessert, the contrasting tastes in a combo of pineapple, pistachio, coconut ice cream and chili pepper was sumptuous.
Keenly aware of guests’ needs, the hotel also offers an array of special experiences ranging from swimming with dolphins to dinners-for-two on a private yacht in the Grand Harbour. It also has its own jetty, so guests can arrive and leave by boat. In short, the Corinthia St. George’s Bay Hotel represents luxury and tranquility in a secluded location, while still being within easy walking distance of the island’s many clubs, pubs and discos.