Served Magazine’s editor, Julia Ripard, sits down with Daniele, the Food and Beverage Manager of Cleland & Souchet, to discuss all things present and future for the Cafe.
Daniele used to run his own restaurant, ‘Il Grappolo’ a haven for Piedmontese cuisine in Bugibba and a favourite spot of Mr Souchet and Mr Cleland. So when Daniele became available, they soon offered him the position managing their two establishments; one at the airport and one at Portomaso in St. Julian’s, where our meeting took place.
How would you describe the difference between the two establishments?
Well here we are in an affluent area and so we meet those standards and expectations of the clientele, with table service, a proper menu etc. The airport is more of a casual setting, and naturally more of a ‘grab-and-go’ concept, yet still in-keeping with our level of service.
What is unique about the C&S Wine Cafe offerings?
We have a huge selection of wine. That’s definitely our speciality. We import our own wines, so we can afford to keep prices as reasonable as possible for our customers and we are able to serve a huge variety by the glass. We use a wine preservation system called Bermar, that essentially replaces the oxygen in the bottle when the wine is poured out, preventing oxidisation and the wine from spoiling. We even have a specific one for sparkling wines and champagnes.
What has changed since you started working here?
My priority was to improve the system in the kitchen using my knowledge and experience. So, focusing on reducing waste by paying attention to what people like and didn’t like, and adapting the menu. We have a very small kitchen, so we need dishes that are comfortable to prepare, and will still allow us to make everything homemade – which we do.
\Where do you get the wines from, and who determines that selection?
Our wines come from all over the world, European and New World wines. Mr Suchet and Andrea the Sales Manager make the selections.
What are your hours at the Cafe?
We are open breakfast, lunch and dinner, and in the afternoons between 3-6pm, we have a ‘happy hour’ concept, offering a specific drinks menu with discounted prices. Then from 6pm onwards, we also have a ‘combo’ offer of wine with a food platter at a set price.
Do you host any special events at the Cafe in Portomaso?
In August, we hosted a ‘crudo’ night every Thursday, where we have a large selection of fish on the set menu at €50 for two people, for food. Then we speak directly with our customers to help pair the perfect wine for them.
We will continue the theme in October, where every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, we’ll have a special offer for a glass of Prosecco and 3 oysters for €15.
Now that the Summer is nearing the end, and people are back from various holidays, we will introduce more events suited to the cooler weather. Wine and spirits tastings for example.
How would you describe your clientele?
Well we have a nice mix of locals and foreigners. We have many return customers that we see on a very regular basis, which is great. The problem is that some Maltese people who don’t live in the area, don’t consider coming to Portomaso as a place to go out, but that’s our challenge to change that way of thinking, because in reality it’s a truly beautiful spot, and we’re right above the marina.
How would you describe the menu?
It’s Italian based, but not exclusively. For example we have all the typical ‘antipasti’; Vitello Tonnato, Tricolore – a dish of mozzarella, tomato and Parma ham, the Caprese salad, etc. But then we have a full breakfast menu of the usual eggs; omelette, scrabbled and poached, and also a wide selection of sandwiches and toasts.
And what’s the best-seller on the menu?
Surprisingly, as it’s not very Italian at all – it’s the Club Sandwich. It’s all homemade and assembled very quickly so it’s great for a quick lunch option. We get a lot of people who need something quick at lunch time, so that’s the lunch favourite for sure.
Can you do private events here?
Yes absolutely, we often get asked to do wine and whisky tastings for private groups. So we’ll offer a proposal for a food and drinks menu, and then customise to the requests of our customers. We also cater for private events and staff parties.
Finally, besides the cafe there is a shop here right? So customers could just come to buy from the shop?
Yes absolutely, there is the shop here and the wine cellar upstairs where we have over 200 wines I would guess. Customers can come to pick up their wines to take home, or even make a selection for the cellar, and drink it here at the cafe, if it’s not on the wine list of the cafe. However, they would need to wait for it to chill, but that’s definitely an option for them. Also besides wines we sell some premium food products, and other liqueurs and spirits too.