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Tags:   Going out,   Restaurants,   Promotion

By The Swag Team   -  January 31, 2015

In January, SWAG popped over to The Villa Brasserie to meet award-winning chef Mark Gauci, who has joined The Villa Brasserie in Balluta as executive chef. Judging by the fantastic taster menu he prepared for us, the appointment marks an exciting new phase for this popular venue.


Mark, who has over 20 years’ experience, spent some time working there a year ago and, as he stated, there was such an immediate synergy between him and chef-patron Chris Hammett that his eventual return was inevitable.


Both Mark and Chris have worked in top restaurants abroad – most notably Marco Pierre White’s The Restaurant and the Galvin Brothers’ – Galvins Bistrot De Luxe respectively – and have the same passion for top ingredients with a careful blend of flavours, as well as respect for the importance of personalized service, unforgettable ambiance and excellent value for money.


In the four years since Chris took over The Villa as chef patron, the restaurant - housed in a 19th century villa with stunning views - has moved steadily up the rankings and has made a name for itself as an innovative and reliable venue for everything from corporate launches and cutting-edge parties to themed dinners and romantic weddings.


“During the time I spent with Chris last year, I was impressed by The Villa’s potential and its loyal clientele. Although still with great influence in the kitchen - Chris will leave the kitchen in my hands so that he can concentrate on the rest of the operations of this venue, which offers indoor and outdoor dining, a cocktail lounge and a separate area’s for events," Mark explained.


“Apart from becoming firm friends, we believed in the same things as professionals. I would not have been able to hand over the kitchen to anyone else. Mark has already come up with our winter menu, keeping the basic concepts of our menu but adding his own personal touch to give them an exciting new twist. There will be more local and organic food and he is already checking out the farmers’ markets for the freshest ingredients.


"He is also preparing a round of training for the staff to explain what he is trying to achieve and to ensure consistency our future menu’s which we like to keep seasonal and change every three months,” Chris, said.


SWAG was struck by the contrast in characters between the two men: Chris is bubby and talkative while Mark seems shy and reserved - but it is obvious that they are firm friends as well as colleagues who work well together.


The signature dishes of the new menu, which we tasted and can confirm are fantastic, include a twice-baked goat’s cheese soufflé, duck breast with a surprising combination of garnishes, and a chocolate truffle cake.


“Our patrons always want a change to tantalise them into trying something new – but they also want to find their familiar favourites. Mark has managed to tweak every dish to make it exciting and different yet still keeping within our concept,” Chris said.


Check out the new menu on The Villa Brasserie Facebook page and at www.thevillamalta.com.



Mark Gauci Profile


Born and raised in Malta, Mark, can be considered as one of the island’s top chefs. But earning this status was no easy task; hard work and dedication, coupled with an endless love for food has always been a natural priority. He tells SWAG about his journey in his own words.


My journey started in 1991, when I worked at the old Manhattan restaurant in Ta' Xbiex for four years. There, Tony Cutajar, the restaurant manager, encouraged me to further my studies at the Malta Institute of Tourism Studies. During my course I had work experience in Switzerland.


In 1995 I worked at the Corinthia Mistra Village, where my workmates were influential in the direction my career was to go. A year lated I got recommended for a job at Christopher’s, a fine dining restaurant, where I developed finer culinary skills and attention to detail which put me in the right track for my future – this restaurant went on to train some of the best chefs in Malta today.


I then took it a step further, moving to London doing a stage in Marco Pierre White’s 3-Michelin-starred The Restaurant, which pushed me to the boundaries of cuisine.


Moving back to Malta in 2000 I got my first job as head chef of the Parolaccia restaurant where my personal style started to develop. This then took me to Peperoncino restaurant where I was head chef for four years till 2004. Here my work started to earn me a list of faithful clients.


In 2004, I felt ready to undertake something of my own where I set up what was formally called The Kitchen restaurant in Sliema, winning numerous awards as a restaurant and a chef both in Malta and abroad through the years. But perhaps my most prestigious prize came in 2005 when I won the National Chef of the Year award.


Eventually I sold the restaurant to travel the world, which I wanted to do to continue my culinary journey. I went to France, India and even Cuba to mention a few, learning about different cuisines and cultures and further developing my knowledge.


After a few years of traveling I have once again decided to settle down in Malta. Having worked briefly with Chris Hammett at The Villa I knew I had a connection with the place, the food and Chris. Our aim is to push The Villa to new levels, running The Villa Brasserie Kitchen – an already established award-winning restaurant and events venue – making the future look bright in the Maltese culinary world.



The Villa


Formerly the summer residence of one of Malta’s leading 20th Century Industrialists, Chevalier Antonio Cassar Torreggiani, the Villa is fine example of the Maltese architecture. 


Antonio Cassar Torregiani loved this location on the Balluta waters’ edge and built a magnificent staircase to the design of his father in law Giuseppe Cali', transforming this otherwise humble farmhouse into a stunning home with a palatial entrance. The property was eventually sold to a consortium that built the Villa Brasserie St Julian’s on its land and gardens. Finished in 2006, The Villa immediately became one of Balluta bay's most identifiable features.


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