One of the five restaurants newly added to this year’s Michelin Guide Malta was Fernandõ Gastrotheque in Sliema: a cosy, popular bistro which serves appetising Mediterranean cuisine and boasts an impressive wine selection. We caught up with chef Laszlo Sragli.
At what age did you decide that you wanted to become a chef and who or what inspired you?
Around the age of 14 I started studying front of house management and, during my practical training, I became interested in what was happening in the kitchen, spending more and more time there helping out. After I had completed my front of house management studies, I decided to enrol myself in a culinary school to pursue my career as a chef.
Who’s the best chef you have worked for and which other chefs do you admire?
I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to work with various talented chefs throughout my career in Europe and South East Asia so it’s difficult for me to name one particular chef. Having said that, one chef I admire greatly is Jay Fai. I have eaten at her restaurant (Jay Fai) a couple of times – at her age, to do what she does is just incredible.
What’s your favourite worldwide restaurant and why?
Hiša Franko in Slovenia, where the dining experience was unforgettable. The food incorporated the best locally sourced ingredients, which were manifested in the most creative dishes.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
Pad Kra Pao in the middle of nowhere from a roadside ‘restaurant’ in Thailand.
What’s your favourite local ingredient?
Jerusalem artichokes. The quality of the Maltese Jerusalem artichoke is very good owing to the terra rossa soil. It is also a very versatile ingredient that can be cooked in various ways, enabling me to be creative.
And your favourite global ingredient?
Coriander. I simply love the flavour of this herb which can be paired with various ingredients, in dishes ranging from pasta, fish and meat to salads and desserts.
Where do you get your influences from?
I get my influences from travelling, which gives me the opportunity to experience different cultures and taste different flavours and local dishes from around the globe.
Is there a dish you could never take off the menu at Fernandõ Gastrotheque?
Although some dishes are kept on the menu for longer than others, there is no dish which we would never take off the menu as our menu is limited and we change it often in order to keep it interesting for our regular guests.
If I were to mention a signature dish, however, it would have to be my beef tartare with aged parmesan cream, Maltese capers and shallots, which I have had on various menus over the years throughout my career and which is a dish that clients still request to this day.
What the best thing about being a chef in Malta?
Malta being an island, you are surrounded by the sea, giving you access to a great variety of seafood. There is also a multitude of excellent local ingredients such as olive oil, vegetables and cheeses, to name but a few.
What advice would you give to visitors to the island who want to know more about the food and the culture?
Malta’s culture is greatly influenced by the island’s rich historical heritage, so one finds various influences here. Visitors can expect to experience different flavours from the Mediterranean and Middle East. The Maltese food culture is something which has picked up momentum in the recent years, and today Malta has become a hub of international cuisine. If I had to give one piece of advice to those seeking a typical local food experience, it would be to try the Pastizzi!