The Malta Independent 24 September 2021, Friday

Marie Benoit's Diary: Making connections at the Paranga restaurant

Marie Benoît Sunday, 1 August 2021, 10:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

Even as Malta buckles under the weight of hotel developments, flats and choking traffic, there are happily still pleasant places where to dine al fresco in the hot summer months. The Paranga with its feet in the blue Mediterranean, the sea of all history, within throwing distance of its mother, the Inter Continental, has retained its slow beat. This is not about la dolce vita but more about la dolce far niente. However, the very thought that in the future it may have in its view that DB monstrosity opposite upsets me even now. No amount of PR is going to change our minds. Please stop it before it’s too late.

One evening a couple of weeks ago, there was a festive feel at the Paranga. Josette Schembri Vella was hosting dinner to relaunch the elegant magazine she edits Temple which has retained its position as Malta's leading luxury lifestyle  magazine since its launch in 2017.  Temple is distributed in over 20 international major cities and naturally, in Malta where you will find it in all the posh places.

The pandemic played havoc with so much but Josette decided now that we were slowly emerging from the worst it was time to bring those involved in some way with the magazine and others together not only to thank them but to fill them with enthusiasm for Issue 7 to be circulated in September.


Guests mingled and renewed their friendships or made new ones face to face over drinks.

I, too, was so glad to be out beyond the supermarket and to find myself at the Paranga which has always been a summer favourite.

Drinks over, we all went to the tables assigned to us. I was delighted to find myself on Josette's table. I got to know her well before her husband started participating in politics and have always had a great deal of respect for the way she conducts her business for she has always paddled her own canoe. She is a brilliant interior decorator.

On our table was Simon De Cesare a scion of the De Cesare empire; Robyn Pratt who took up residence in Malta with her family (husband and three sons) back in  2010.  She is at present General Manager of The Phoenicia. Her achievements are many; Mark Weingard the well known businessman and philanthropist who is almost a household name here was sitting opposite me. He generously continues to pour millions into Malta.

One of Mark's latest projects is the Iniala boutique hotel on St Barbara bastion which by all accounts is fabulous and makes a change from the usual 450-bed eyesores, some are so fond of creating. Even more fabulous is the presence of the acclaimed London Chef, Alex Dilling, who began a 100-day residence at ION - The Harbour, at Iniala on 18th June. He has certainly created a ripple of anticipation in Malta's culinary world.

And last but not least man about town Xandru Grech, who again is a household name, and who made up the six on our table.

In her speech, a relaxed Josette told us that unfortunate as the news that Malta had been greylisted by FATF had been she believed that this would be overcome. "We've overcome wars, the Great Siege and, fingers crossed a pandemic, so we'll surely overcome this too."

Robyn Pratt, Simon De Cesare and your Diarist

And a few words about Temple. "We strive to include interesting personalities with international affiliations; selective hospitality venues, all in an attempt to keep our captive readership engaged, issue after issue."

Temple is a favourite among the discerning she said: "We have managed to secure a captive market of people with a keen interest in fine goods and services and we plan to reach out to many more in the coming months."

Temple was created to showcase the best that Malta has to offer in many fields. "It goes without saying that with the participation of our loyal partners we have managed to do so. Temple is the symbol of luxury for the Maltese islands." She explained that apart from the prestigious print edition "we are now putting a considerable amount of energy into our digital platforms."

Alex Cutajar and Pierre Mizzi, Chief Marketing Officer of Alliance

Here Mrs Schembri Vella introduced Alex Cutajar, her new partner, who is focused on the digital side of Temple. "With our recent efforts we have seen an immediate increase in traffic and more importantly international traffic to our site and interest in our content." She also introduced Steven Gatt who heads the concierge service. "We aim to lure our readers  into visiting Malta and eventually entice them to consider relocating their business, their family and even their friends to our islands. Temple is the ideal medium to showcase Malta to the most discerning traveller and investor. Unrivalled in its quality and weight, Temple radiates luxury. We want to connect Malta to the world, connect you to others. Tonight we invite you to start making connections."

We had been presented with a choice of two menus ahead of the dinner and I had opted for the fish menu always believing that fish oils would help me reach my centenary, inspite of my bad eating habits of a lifetime.

Dante Aligheri's most tortuous levels of Inferno were dedicated to gluttony. But, let's face it, without being lubricated by good food and drink, an evening such as this would never work. I told Dante, in my head, in case he is listening somewhere, that this was not gluttony.

I have eaten well on several occasions at this tasteful watering hole and I was not disappointed that evening. After I had finished my dessert (too generous a helping) I felt like humming an aria from Madama Butterfly which I had just watched, in modern dress, on Mezzo but I decided to stick to my destiny of being an only-in-the-bath singer.

What a relief it was, that evening, to enjoy an agreeable dinner and in excellent company; to get away from junk food terrain and from news bulletins which, these days read like dispatches from a battlefield.

And there wasn't a single mosquito all evening. How did they manage that? You looked out and there was the moon, the stars and the sea with necklaces of lights on the opposite bank.  Paranga is not to be missed while it is open during the summer months. Let's make the best of it.

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