If the patrons can’t dine out, then the fine dining will come to them...

Necessity is the mother of invention in the coronavirus pandemic, as two fine dining establishments have been quick to learn

Marvin Gauci: the Tarragon chef and successful businessman is taking his fine dining concept inside peoples’ homes
Marvin Gauci: the Tarragon chef and successful businessman is taking his fine dining concept inside peoples’ homes

Ordering food deliveries to one’s home has increased in popularity in Malta in the past years, aided by the proliferation of mobile apps like TimeToEat and Bolt Food.

The coronavirus pandemic – and the government’s measure to close restaurants and other establishments which came about as a result of the outbreak – have, however, given a whole new dimension of importance to deliveries.

Take away and delivery services are proving to be a lifeline for many restaurants. Our roads are now filled with delivery drivers in vans or on motorbikes, carrying food ranging from burgers, to pizza, Chinese and sushi.

But fine dining isn’t the first thing which comes to mind when one imagines a food delivery. Greasy packets of fries and plastic packages housing food, some of which has stuck to the sides of the container, are more in line with what someone ordering a quick bite to eat might expect.

But necessity is the mother of invention, and upscale restaurants are now also venturing into the realm of home deliveries.

Enter Marvin Gauci… “@ Home”. Gauci is a familiar face in the Maltese culinary scene – a chef and restaurateur, he is the mind behind a string of successful restaurants. Tarragon, Caviar and Bull, and Susurrus are all Gauci’s brainchild. They are highly rated, and each offer the kind of mouth-watering food, attention to detail and professional presentation which anyone with a taste for fine dining wants.

There was just one problem. All restaurants have their doors shut right now. But Gauci did not let that stop him. He created a delivery services whereby food from Tarragon, Caviar and Bull, and Susurrus is transported straight to one’s place of abode.

Gauci explained to MaltaToday that two types of deliveries are available. The first, offered by Tarragon, involves hot meals which are delivered straight to customers’ homes within 45 minutes. “The food will be hot, although the degree of this obviously depends on the area where the delivery is being made. In some more far away areas, it is advised to heat the food slightly.”

The second type of deliveries, however, are the most innovative. Tarragon, Caviar and Bull, and Susurrus are also offering a service where an “almost finished” three-course meal – a starter, main course and desert – is delivered to one’s home along with instructions for applying the final cooking touches.

“The food is delivered to your home in a sanitised vacuum bag. All you need to do is to follow the instructions supplied with the delivery – the food in the bag is placed inside a hot pot filled with water to reheat it. In the case of baked food, such as potatoes, they can either be boiled in the bag, or, if they are roast, for instance, they should be placed in the oven.”

For the price of €30 per person, this ensures that the experience of eating in Gauci’s restaurants is replicated as closely as possible within a hungry customer’s own home.

Gauci recounts how, when hit by the measures forcing the closure of his restaurants, he had to think of a way to keep offering his fine dining services and ensure the establishments remain functioning.

And, in a new world where many are concerned about COVID-19 transmission, Gauci wanted to ensure that people’s minds were at rest that the food they were having delivered was completely safe.

“When I first thought of this three weeks ago, I knew that an online restaurant would have to be set up. The first thing on my mind was that, if it were me who was ordering food in this current climate, I would want to ensure that what was being delivered to me was made and handled according to the highest hygiene standards,” he said.

“I’ve studied health and hygiene in the course of my profession, and I practice it daily – it’s second nature for me. The Marvin Gauci @ Home service adheres to these highest standards. When you order from us, you are buying food from a reputable source. People are very conscious of this within the current environment.”

“All our chefs wear gloves, masks and hats before they walk into the kitchen to cook and handle food. Once the food is ready, it is sanitised and placed into the vacuum bags. The boxes these are placed in are all sterile. The cars the food is transported in are disinfected. We are delivery a safe product through which there isn’t a risk,” he underlined.

The meals available feature delicious-sounding dishes ranging from starters such as lobster and salmon artisan-filled tortellini, mains like black angus short beef ribs, and desserts like white chocolate and black sesame blondie.

Full menus are available on the Tarragon, Caviar and Bull and Susurrus Facebook pages. Orders for the Marvin Gauci @ Home service are being taken by phone, until a dedicated website for placing orders is finalised.

Gauci highlights that the prices for the three-course “almost finished” meals are adjusted to reflect the fact that staff like waiters or cleaners for the main restaurant floor are not needed, since the establishments are closed. “There is less expense here, but we also have to factor in the delivery costs,” he says.

The feedback for this unique experience has been “fantastic.”

“Many people can’t go out right now, but they can still enjoy refined food at home. They don’t need to spend two hours cooking, which is how long it takes to prepare a three-course dinner. And it is delivered sterile, and as good as it can be,” Gauci adds.

Bahia, another eatery tackling the coronavirus challenge

MaltaToday also spoke to Colin Ciantar, owner of the award-winning Bahia restaurant, which is also providing a fine dining delivery service.

Bahia is offering a series of delicacies, such as a cured fish cheeks Waldorf salad, braised local pork cheeks and a muscovado and hazelnut tart, for delivery to people’s homes.

Bahia in Lija is also offering a fine dining delivery service
Bahia in Lija is also offering a fine dining delivery service

Ciantar says the service, launched in the past weeks as a response to the COVID-10 measures, is proving popular, especially with foreigners.

“The feedback we are receiving is good. We have a system in place where we notify customers of all the steps in the delivery process – when payment is received, when the food is on its way, and once it has arrived, we ask for comments,” he says.

Some of the food options available for delivery from Bahia
Some of the food options available for delivery from Bahia

New menu dishes should soon be added, with the restaurant team working on additional items to include.

To ensure the food arrives at people’s homes as hot and fresh as can be, drivers head straight from the restaurant to the delivery location. “Our drivers don’t go on multiple deliveries at a time, they go directly to the destination,” Ciantar highlights.