Seems like the army of Terrone’s fans is growing bigger and bigger with every day. I’m so glad to receive a lot of positive feedback about this place from you guys! And I am even more glad that some of you have visited this place for the first time after reading the article on my blog!
This is why I felt it would be interesting to introduce you to the owner of this restaurant, Adrian Hili, as an addition to the restaurant review post. You also will find a featured recipe by him in the following post, a really easy to make and delicious fish. Keep on reading!
Tell me about your career path. How did it all get started?
From the young age, I was always encouraged to get into the kitchen with my parents. I grew up in Australia, where quite regularly we used to have people coming to visit us, especially on Sundays for lunch. So, I was used to help my parents in the kitchen, podding broad beans or cleaning fish, cooking something with my dad. My dad was the one, who had and still has that passion for cooking. He was the one who inspired me to get into the kitchen, always encouraging to try new things and new ingredients. Then I had love for the sea and interest in the seafood that inspired me to get into the restaurant business. Professionally I’ve started with a part-time at my uncle’s restaurant on Amalfi Coast in Italy back when I was 16 or 17 years old. He had a pizzeria attached to the restaurant and basically I used to help my uncle there and eventually developed an interest in pizza, which sort of developed into other things. I worked in several kitchens in Australia, I also worked at front-house and managed a couple of restaurants for the next 7 or 8 years. When I came back to Europe, I decided to stay in London, where I developed an interest in regional, real food. Six and a half years in River café in London gave me a lot of insights, and I think I learned more during that time than during the previous twenty-five years of my life. We used to do two menus a day, every day the menu was used to change twice.
So that’s what inspired you to come up with a new menu on a daily basis for your own restaurant, isn’t it?
Definitely. It inspired me to be fully immersed in what I do as well. It’s not just a job, it’s passion, it’s a way of life.
Do you prepare a menu a night before?
I start thinking about it a night before. 20-25 % of what I include in my menu depends on the available ingredients. Sometimes I do the reprint, if something finishes, or something new comes in.
What about the breakfast menu? Do you also change it every day?
No, that’s seasonal.
Is this new concept of yours becoming popular?
We did our first week quite successfully – we had thirty covers on Saturday, maybe a bit more on Sunday.
What it your favourite cuisine?
It’s a difficult question. I love rustic Southern Italian food but I also love North-African food, Middle Eastern food, Asian, Thai… It’s fantastic! I love food that is vibrant and colourful but, at the same time, it’s fascinating to have a few very simple ingredients bind to make something delicious. The food is not just about the taste, it’s also about your eyes, all the senses.
Were you training in Australia?
Yes, I studied at University for Business Management majoring in Hospitality. I did the first two years in Australia, Brisbane, then I dropped out and I moved into the state and that’s when I started real cooking. I finished my University Degree in London three years later.
Was it difficult?
I don’t think so. For me Business Degree is common sense. If you show an interest in something – it’s not difficult. Hospitality was something I always liked and was very interested about.
How and why did you open Terrone?
When working at River café in London for six and a half years, it was getting to the point when I wanted to do something on my own. My own menu, my own staff, my own influence, place and it just didn’t feel good doing it in London, as well as I didn’t want to get back to Australia, as it was too far away for me. I have family here and I like Malta. I talked about moving to Malta with my dad and we decided to have a look at it. My uncle helped me to find a place for the restaurant and after a month of negotiation with the landlord, we concluded the deal and opened Terrone in two months. This place was completely different from what you see right now. There was no deck in the front. I expanded everything out here and designed pretty much everything myself.
What are your future plans for your restaurant?
Keep going, working and taking every day as it comes. Running a new menu every day. I’m really happy about how far we came in these two years. And I just want to keep on improving every day, keep on bringing the best produce, developing interesting and exciting menus every day, fill the place every day, breakfasts and weekends. That would be ideal for me.
What kind of food does your restaurant serve?
Rustic Southern Mediterranean food would be my definition. It’s about simplicity. It’s always about the couple of ingredients making something fantastic and it’s always about using what’s in season.
Where do you get your ingredients from?
I get them from all over. I mean mostly I’m getting them from Malta. I get fresh products at my door step. There are three ways I get my greens. I have a couple of farmers. One farmer, who brings me spinach, ruccola, parsley and these kind of greens, my bulky greens, as I call them. I have another farmer, who brings my salads, my microgreens, he’s literally a kilometer away. Fantastic stuff. And then I have a farmer who supplies me with my core vegetables – zucchini, aubergines, peppers. As much as I can, I buy everything local. If I have to, I go somewhere in Italy. Some of the vongole and mussels we get from Puglia or Sicily.
How do you choose your suppliers?
I will always pay for a better quality. If two people have the same product but one has it more expensive but with better quality, I’ll go for that one. I need to find a balance between the quality and cost effectiveness.
What do you consider the best dish on your menu?
One of my favourite dishes is baby cuttlefish because it triggers all the senses that I’ve spoken about before. I’ve learned this dish from someone else, it’s not something that I’ve created myself. In order to create a new dish, one has to create a new ingredient. It’s nice to look at and tastes and smells amazing; it has a lot of different textures.
What would be your tips for running a successful restaurant?
Working for yourself. At least for the first 2-4 years have enough money to pay for everything yourself.
What are the main factors that differentiate restaurant business in Malta from other countries you have worked in?
I think every clientele in any country has its own set of attributes. So, first you need to understand the market. I think Malta’s food scene is still developing in a way. Malta has the best raw produce in the world, not just in Europe. Malta has fantastic vegetables, amazing seafood – our fish is fantastic. I’ve noticed that there has been an improvement in the local restaurant industry in the last two years, yet there are more things to work on, educate the people regarding the food. I want people to enjoy and eat well, enjoy the food and the atmosphere.