Fontanella is an essential pit stop if you’re going anywhere near Mdina or Rabat. There’s something wonderfully comforting about approaching Mdina and seeing Fontanella’s red and white umbrellas billowing on the bastions. In winter, it’s a great place to meet friends and huddle over apple pie and a steaming pot of tea. The rooms inside are typical farmhouse fayre, with rendered, linseed-stained walls. In other seasons, you get some of the best views of the island from your table al fresco on the terrace, on the Mdina north bastions.
The place is always crowded because it gets a lot of business from organised tours, but don’t let this put you off. Tables tend to miraculously become available when you least expect and the wait is normally worth it. You can idle some time in the lovely courtyard or just wait to run up the wooden stairs to the terrace when you see someone leave.
There’s much to keep you amused at Fontanella. The place is lovely, with a profusion of greenery: climbers, ferns, palms and blooming geraniums. And the people-watching is good too: from the odd nun get-together to happy pink tourists drinking Cisk and love-birds enjoying the view over a glass of chilled white.
But you go to Fontanella for the cakes. I’ve probably munched my way through the cake menu over the years, and the great thing is that the quality has remained consistent. My top five favourites:
1. Chocolate cake Dark, fluffy, long lingering taste. Looks dangerous. Fight over the crumbs.
2. Apple cake You actually can see the apple chunks. Could try and convince your better half that it’s part of a calorie-controlled diet. It isn’t.
3. Apricot and walnut cake Crunch your way through the conversation. Then get a second helping.
4. Strawberry cake Is it the strawberries? Or the meringue? The closest you will get to feeling light and cheerful without illegal substances. And more lip-licking involved.
5. Carrot cake Sounds horribly healthy. It isn’t. Useful if you have a young child in tow and want to wonder about intelligent application of vegetables in our food chain.
Fontanella also has a regular menu – I’m told the salmon salad is great. You can also munch a couple of pastizzi and contemplate the finer things in life.
Fontanella does a takeaway service if you want to take a cake home. But nothing beats being there, on a spring evening, watching the colours change on the limestone as the sun goes down on the island below you.
Fontanella Tea Rooms & Beer Garden
1, Bastion St. Mdina.
Tel 21 454264