In Malta, band clubs are an entirely formidable phenomenon, and nowhere is this truer than Valletta. With four major feasts celebrated by the different parishes in the capital, and a few more minor ones, band marches are a loud, colourful and very competitive affair, and the band clubs that host them are considered pillars of the community.
Leading the charge are the La Valette Bandclub and the King’s Own, both boasting a massive following and an immensely talented number of musicians among their members. The bands take part in all the religious feasts celebrated in Valletta, such as that of St Dominic’s Church and St Paul’s Church, and the competition between them is intense.
But it’s not only about the band marches – the buildings themselves, referred to in Maltese as the kazini, are just as iconic. Band clubs in Malta are treated as social clubs, where regulars will drop in on the daily for a quick pint and a quick chat with their friends, and the La Valette and the King’s Own are no different. It helps that they’re both housed in two pretty magnificent buildings, a stone’s throw away from each other on Republic Street.
King’s Own & La Valette Band Clubs – the local’s social
Clearly, the style the founders of these two kazini were going for was lavish and opulent. Be ready for high, vaulted ceilings, massive hallways and a lot of sacred art. The La Valette is notable by its statue, dedicated to Grandmaster La Valetta of course, that looks over the dining area. The King’s Own, on the other hand, is known for its traditionally decorated first floor, so do take a quick meander upstairs.
You may be surprised to learn that in recent times, despite their homely appearance both the la Valette and the King’s Own have earned a well-deserved reputation for excellent cuisine. Food is served all day, and you will also find a tourist’s daily menu offering a fixed selection of dishes at budget-friendly prices. If you’re after genuine, home cooking that is not too expensive, it’s always a good idea to join the locals here.
Here’s a friendly tip – you will be hard-pressed to find cheaper drinks than at these kazini, and as an added bonus you will also be plied with a never-ending array of traditional appetisers as long as you’re seated there. Expect freshly-prepared ħobz biz-zejt (slices of Maltese bread dipped in olive oil and tomato paste), bigilla (a delicious bean paste) and even heartier fayre like rabbit liver.
Up till a few years ago, both band clubs used to host a massive Christmas party in aid of children at the orphanage. All the children of the community would attend, attracted by the massive raffle that took place at the end of the festivities. No child ever left the premises without a gift, and the party was the talk of town for weeks after. The tradition sadly came to an end due to the increasingly elderly population in Valletta.