One to watch
At the recently opened HSixty6, head chef Luke Piscopo, together with his tight knit crew, is channeling his hungry energy and passion for food into creating menus which will delight, and amaze your palate. Served was invited to dinner to sample a taster from the winter and Christmas menu.
Luke crackles with energy as he talks about his passion for food and how he’s landed at HSixty6. He was headhunted by the late Hugo Chetcuti after a challenging stint as chef Patron at Umami in Rabat which won rave reviews when it first opened. From a young age, he couldn’t wait to start cooking and he used to wait for his mother to take her afternoon nap before taking over her kitchen. At 16 he begged for a job in the Hilton kitchens as a general dogsbody absorbing everything he saw and heard. Constantly restless and searching for more, he had numerous spells in Spain and England, even working with the legendary Adria brothers of El Bulli fame. The respect for all those who mentored him is evident at all times.
The meal kicks off with a glass of Prosecco and an amuse bouche in the form of a parmigiano morsel. And it sets the tone for the rest of the dishes; light, full of flavour and the perfect opening mouthful. The attention to detail is everywhere, from the three types of home baked bread on offer to the seriously moreish black garlic butter. A homemade ham hock terrine topped with kimchi, sourdough croutons and puffed freekeh follows and is simply perfect.
Luke seems to instinctively understand flavours and textures, playing with and combining contrasting senses of hot, cold and umami. This is evident in the next course, a flawless agnoletto on a prawn carpet and served with a hot bisque poured on to it. And then an off the cuff dish inspired by some of the leftover prawns; a perfect prawn carpaccio topped with crispy guanciale served on an iced plate. The explosion of flavours just gets better and better and while each new dish is greeted very enthusiastically, there is also a longing for more of the previous one. Tender sirloin steak, cooked in lardo butter, beef jus and garden vegetables, is cooked to perfection and finishes off an excellent meal. A light pineapple frangipane to cleanse the palate, followed by a deconstructed chocolate mint texture plate which rose to the occasion, rounded off the occasion in exquisite fashion.
The prep work for this kitchen is all consuming and the team takes pride in having everything polished and perfect. Literally everything is made from scratch, from stock and sauces to purees and pasta. Luke keeps coming back to his team whom he credits for the well-oiled machine that is H Sixty6. Together with Maître d’ and sommelier Stefano Pepe, he’s achieved a convivial harmonious relationship between kitchen and floor. He and his sous chef Gary Falzon are almost like boys let loose in a chemistry lab. Their kitchen experiments are meticulously recorded in a recipe book which Luke keeps going back to. He stresses the importance of recording every recipe as he doesn’t always remember exactly how he executed a dish having done so on instinct. And as the meal comes to an end, Luke is still brimming with energy and excitement as he mentions a trip he and his team are taking to a Michelin star restaurant and his upcoming stint in Ferran Adria’s new restaurant opening in 2019. There’s clearly no stopping this young chef on the rise.
In a nutshell
Can’t live without…. His knives above all
Favourite meal … is still his mother’s spaghetti biz-zalza tal bott’
What drives him… other than his boundless energy, his fuel is the people he cooks for and the determination to present
His culinary style is….
Haute cuisine with a twist and experimenting with some of the more modern cooking techniques like sous vide, molecular combinations and a curiosity to marry different textures and flavours.
He works … at least fourteen hours a day