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Restaurant review: Malmaison Brasserie

Despite looking like a gigantic, stripped down computer hard drive right now, it's still all systems go at the Mal. Angie Sammons walks in for the food

Written by . Published on September 20th 2010.

Restaurant review: Malmaison Brasserie

It is not often that you get well-hung meat in Liverpool hotels.

When you do, you will find it's generally available on any menu but the restaurant's. Expect, therefore, to pay a premium for it, and do make sure the final credit card bill is for your eyes only.

Since 2006 its cladding has fallen off, but not its trade, and sometimes, these days, we feel a bit rough around the edges ourselves

An email glanced my way weeks and weeks ago. It was from Adam Townsley, the head chef at the Malmaison. In it he was sounding quite passionate about stuff.

Don't know about you, but I'm a bit bored to the hind chump chop of hearing about “locally sourced” everything./p>

Much as I am genuinely glad my back bacon hasn't been sizzling in Danish hell and had a short ride to slaughter before turning up in my hangover sandwich, it kind of washes over me now when I see the words “locally sourced” on every menu in town. Never mind that piggy never saw the light of day in his entire life, or that Goosnargh chickens aren't free range - this fashionable notion has generated every bit as much of a buzz among restaurant branders and marketeers as that high voltage stunner in the abattoir.

Townsley also isn't as bothered about this bandwagon. Moreover he is coaxing and engaging producers and growers around and about to create stuff for him to cook that is reared, grown and produced solely for Malmaison Liverpool, “products that are bespoke to the needs of both the hotel and its clientele” it says here.

Here's another cut and paste job from the email, the sentimental should look away: “All of our meat comes from Cumbria and Lancashire, and I have started a breeding programme of Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs with Richard Altham, from Althams catering butchers, on his small holding in Gressingham. We currently have 4 sows that should be ready to give birth within the next 2 months and 3 further herds that are being fattened up ready for slaughter. By partnering we are able to get exactly the taste and texture we are aiming for and the plan is to stagger the breeding throughout the year so that we will have constant availability.”

All this is not a new idea among high end restaurateurs; however it is still quite fresh to find in a branch of a hotel chain.

So Townsley has worked to create a menu that's out on a limb from the corporate sheet. Time to take another trip into the Brasserie.

The Malmaison in Princes Dock has been open the same length of time as Liverpool Confidential – around three and a half years. We went to the opening do and have maintained contact since. We loved their first two chefs - Manc Mark Bennett and scouser Andy Wright, with their passion, silliness and Tourettes talk underpinning their excellent ability to come up with the goods.

Since 2006 its cladding has fallen off, but not its trade. At the moment it looks like a gigantic stripped computer hard drive with bits of metal, solder and wire coming out of it. It's not the only thing bit rough around the edges after I decide to walk it from Bold Street in inadvisable heels.

Great, the doorway in the dock wall (a shortcut into the Mal) is now locked and by the time I arrive I have hoofed it several miles more than any of those beasts going to slaughter ever did in their natural lives. At least when these creatures do finally get to go somewhere they get driven.

We are presented with a list of World Cup wines from Maria, the ever charming sommelier from Brazil, who could sell pies baked in downtown Rio to Wigan Athletic fans if she chose to, such are her powers of persuasion.

The Estapor Venir Mezcla Tinto is a big full-bodied number (£25) from down Mexico way. It'll more than do for what I have in mind.

A stunning, fruity black pudding is made in the Malmaison kitchen every day. The same one guests are treated to at breakfast, with their rashers, is served a la carte with a big poached egg, weighing it down and waiting to explode, and some thick asparagus (provenance, dunno) acting as a handy spear to burst that yolky balloon (£7.95).

My friend, who cheerfully comes to all the crap and average places I review without a whimper, dives into a decent row of huge, tender seared scallops (£9.95) in a summer salad and dressing of ginger and Kikkoman. For her, restaurant Christmas has finally come. Soy joy.

They make a big deal of their steaks in here, all Malmaisons do. The chain has one supplier, Donald Russell, up in Aberdeenshire. It's well hung alright, 28 days, grass fed, but obviously not in that order.

I am lately a bit spoilt on this one. The last steak I cooked was a ribeye from Worrall Farm shop in Downholland, a happy by-product of my quietly disappearing from a kids party at Farmer Teds next door. It was the best I have ever cooked or tasted – an open, yielding springy flesh with a good thin fat seam. If you see what I mean. This must have been one happy bovine and I felt like one privileged cow when I got to consume it. Melting.

You are therefore as good as your last tasting job and while the 285g Cumbrian ribeye served here (£21.95) is cooked with the fine, expert hand, you would expect, there is reticence to its texture on this particular piece. But if I have a beef about it, a good Cafe de Paris butter does much to chase it away, as do those moreish Malmaison French fries (£3.50) and some welcome side dishes, excellent runner beans and a fairly ordinary tomato and onion salad (£3.25 each).

Goan prawns (£16.95) is a superb dish which I'd recommend to anyone. I had it at a Cains beer tasting here a couple of months ago and was relieved to hear it was on the new a la carte, but bigger.

By the way, tonight is the first night of the new menu and we are here for this event only by happy accident.

But back to the prawns. If you like your kerala curries, this is the one for you, a huge dish of seafood that's spicy hot, zingy and coconut soothing all at the same time. It's on with sweet fondant potato, but speciality rices are apparently in the pipeline.

Desserts are a delight. My friend won this one, just, with a beautiful creamy, fruity English strawberry trifle (£5.95), while Pimms and Champagne jelly (£5.95) is packed with summer berries and came with a good fruit sorbet.

So the Mal is very much open for business and, literally, ploughing forth.

It's great that it's taken the local thing “one step further”. I suppose they would think that was funny if they saw the state of my feet the next day. But I suppose that's Mal life. Ho bloody ho indeed.

Rating: 17/20
Breakdown: 8/10 food
5/5 service
4/5 ambience
Address: Malmaison Brasserie
Malmaison Hotel,
William Jessop Way,
Princes Dock, L3
0151 229 5000

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 Outstanding

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AnonymousJuly 7th 2010.

Access is a problem to the Malmaison unless you are in a car/taxi. Then the pay and display car park on Princes Dock charges you a fortune to park or risk being clamped!

AnonymousJuly 7th 2010.

I think the comments about the pig were uncalled for!!!

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