The Malta Independent 1 October 2023, Sunday
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Putting a bit of magic in the air….

Marie Benoît Sunday, 21 May 2023, 09:00 Last update: about 5 months ago

I went to meet Rowley and Sophie Edwards at the Villa Bologna restaurant in Attard a week or so ago. They will be launching it soon for they have taken over the lease. I wanted to find out about this young couple and the changes they were making to the restaurant.

They had already taken the lease of the pottery next door in 2020. Who hasn't admired or more likely owned at least one piece of pottery from Villa Bologna? The prickly pear dishes, the pineapple lamps, the dolphin jugs...This is Malta's oldest pottery. The stables had been converted and it has been run by four generations of the same family since 1924.  


I had been to the restaurant a couple of times, pre-Covid, when it was in other hands. We had enjoyed both occasions, eating in the shade of a lemon tree and enjoying the fresh air. The courtyard was then the main attraction. Stone has a timeless texture and Maltese stone is particularly attractive. It is always and never the same.

The Edwards have now completely transformed the indoor space as well and it has been given soul. I love it. This is the Mediterranean.

The fresh décor makes a change from stripped pine or restaurants which feel more like operating theatres, as they do sometimes. The Edwards did not try to perform miracles with cans of spray paint nor go high tech, God forbid.

The bar, the indoor restaurant and the courtyards all look as beguiling as ever. They are trying to create a hub in this part of Malta where there isn't some kind of restaurant on every corner.

Sophie and Rowley are a young couple with two small children. Sophie's maternal grandmother is Maltese. Sophie spent her early childhood in Malta until her parents then returned to England where she attended St Mary Ascot. She eventually met Rowley and they got married at Villa Bologna in 2017. The couple enjoyed their life and work in South Sudan and Rwanda where they lived after their marriage. Says Sophie: "We loved it. Rwanda is developed and efficient and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay there." They then spent a couple of weeks in Ethiopia travelling round the country. We were all impressed with the incredible 12th century monolithic churches built out of rock. Yes, Ethiopia. Eventually a weekend in Malta convinced them that they must come and live here. They finally found a house and made it fit for living.

Both are unabashed foodies and when Jasper de Trafford offered them the lease of the Villa Bologna restaurant they were delighted. "We jumped at the chance and here we are. We loved decorating it," they explain as we enter the bar, which was not there before and in which pottery from next door has been used with great success.

We then step into the restaurant which is beautifully bathed in light and colour. Through the doors one can glimpse the trees and big pots of sardinella. Everything here speaks to layering, of a cultural intermingling.

The tables, both indoor and out, are napped in white. The crenels in the 18th century Villa next door have been duplicated in the striped blinds and integrated in the décor of the walls. With its huge pots of palm the room almost assumes the atmosphere of retour aux colonies. Altogether the visual effect, whether indoors or outdoors is stunning. It is obvious that much thought has gone into everything... and much taste.  Again their pottery, including vintage pieces, has been used in installations indoors and tableware too, will showcase it. They have put all their energies in renovating indoors and outdoors and are now ready to serve lunches and dinners from Tuesdays to Saturdays as well as Sunday lunches. The restaurant will be open for coffee and pastries in the morning and cocktails in the evening, I am pleased to inform you.


The vision of this young, enthusiastic couple, is to create a trattoria where families, too, are made welcome. I had a look at the menu. Classical Italian cuisine: Parmegiana, Vitello, Gamberoni Giganti, Cozze... dishes we all love.   As we walk a short distance from the courtyard we find the herb and vegetable garden already laid out in the Villa Bologna gardens. "Where possible we shall use seasonal, locally sourced food," the young couple comment.

What about that major headache, parking I want to know? They immediately point out a plot of land, opposite the herb and vegetable garden, which is destined to accommodate parking for patrons.


This area of Attard is as yet untouched by the plague of development. The immediate surroundings are beautiful. There is no gulping down your skinny lattes here. No tightly knit tables so that a conversation is impossible. The Villa Bologna restaurant is going to be an exquisite, civilised place to dally.

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