More than a Coffee – An Amazing Experience !!!
Now, here is a question for you. Where would you go if you were looking for the best cup of coffee in Valletta – the home of hundreds of top class cafés and restaurants? Well, with that abundance of choice you would probably say the question was impossible to answer correctly. Not so – just follow me. I have escaped from the arresting spiritualism of St. John’s Cathedral, and into the swirling throng of Republic Street. I turn right, and there in front of my nose is the answer to the question: ‘Caffe Cordina’
If this is regarded as the most famous café, not only in Malta, but internationally, if they have brewed the best coffee in the land for 175 years, if the visiting celebrities and dignitaries from around the world refuse to leave Malta without a cuppa in this coffee-shrine, then I say to myself: who am I to disagree? The people in here must be doing something right.
When Cesare Cordina was about to set up his café in 1837, he had two ambitions: to place it in the very best location in Valletta, and to provide the highest standard of food, service and ambience in all of Malta. He not only achieved both ambitions, but did it with style, establishing a rendezvous with a unique atmosphere of true Maltese charm and elegance, in the heart of his beloved city.
The location was an inspired choice. 244-245 Republic Street, it is surrounded by iconic landmarks – The Grand Master’s Palace, the home of the Grand Masters for 200 years, now the Office of the President, and for many years the Seat of Parliament, the impressive Bibliotheca, where scholars from all over the world come to study the massive book collection, and research the history of the Order, the magnificent Manoel Theatre, restored in all its splendour, with its beautiful gilded ceiling and tiered boxes, and just across the street, the stunning St. John’s Cathedral. Location, location, location. Yes indeed, Mr Cordina was certainly ahead of his time.
Even the chosen premises was special in many ways. It certainly has had a long and interesting history. Built by the Knights in 1744, a large imposing building, they occupied it until the early days of British rule, when it held various public offices, after which it became ‘The Grand Hotel.’ But its central location caused it to suffer heavy damage in World War Two during the awful blitz that hit Valletta in 1942. Undaunted, Mr Cordina, not only restored it to its former prestige, but added beauty and character, making it the jewel of Maltese cafes.
I have to tell you that every time I enter, what I would describe as this ornate palace, I’m astounded by the exquisite grandeur of its décor. The magnificent vaulted ceilings are embellished with many wonderful works by Malta’s most famous nineteenth-century artist, Giuseppi Cali. These unique paintings symbolise the previous rulers of Malta, and the diverse eras of the country’s history. Other outstanding mural paintings depict the eras of the Romans, the Knights, the British, and more recent additions commemorate landmark dates – Independence Day, the birth of the Republic, and the joining of the European Union. Now, I ask, where else in the world would you find all that inside one coffee shop?
To-day, sadly, Mr Cordina is no longer with us, but his glorious legacy lives on under the guidance of his family. ‘Caffe Cordina’ still maintains the same high standard of quality and service that Cesare Cordina dedicated his life to, and in the same atmosphere of style, elegance and charm. Now, where would you head for if you were in Valletta, famished, and dying for the best cup of coffee?
AN EXCERPT FROM ‘It’s a Long Way to Malta. (My Gem in the Med) by Paddy Cummins.