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Restaurant review: The Mal: Part 2

We have a winner! Our ages-ago competition to find the best restau-rant of 2007 led to Mike Homfray winning a £100 tab at the Malmaison. We hope he liked it...

Published on January 14th 2010.


Restaurant review: The Mal: Part 2

A WHILE back, actually a long while back, amid the excitement of the Christmas elves, our own critic AA Grill wrote up his best and worst restaurant experiences of 2007.

As a footnote, Confidential readers were asked to share their own thoughts on the subject, with the prize of a £100 tab at a restaurant of their choice for the best rant.

Our choice of four
side orders may
have been a mite excessive, even
for two fat poofs, particularly after
the second
helping of bread

Mike Homfray, loyal reader, ranter, bon viveur (and author, it turns out), seemed to know what he was talking about and so he got the gig. He claimed his prize at the Malmaison Brasserie last week, which we were quite glad about because Paul King has taken over from the excellent Mark Bennett as head chef there and we were curious

Reader Mike went on his big night out last week and as a bonus he's even written back to tell us about it. Bless yer, Mike, we're starving now.

So here's this week's restaurant review: The Mal, Part 2.

******************

ANY restaurant which manages to fill up on a Tuesday evening (and isn’t bargain basement/fast food) has to be doing something right, and the postmodern setting of the Malmaison hotel is certainly a good start. Although the only parking available is a £6 a throw public car park, so be warned.

So venturing into the Brasserie of the waterfront hotel, itself just a year old, my partner and I (the Two Fat Poofs) were shown to our seat by one of the many friendly and helpful staff. They train the staff well here: all can give details of the dishes on the menu which is entirely beyond the ‘yer wot’ approach to service on show in so many other venues. Bread appears promptly (with excellent black olive tapenade) and it set the tone for what proved to be a very good meal

My starter, a caramelised shallot tart (£6.50), consisted of a thin and crispy biscuit base with very sweet halved shallots topped with a slice of Brie. The obligatory flourish of balsamic dressing finished the dish. Most impressive, as was the potted crab (£6.50) enjoyed by David. He thought the butter needed a bit of softening, but that the herby crab and the tangy pot of lime crème fraiche dressing were first class.

The mains were excellent. Something worth noting is that the food here is served in hearty northern portions, and our choice of four side orders (£2.95 each) may have been a mite excessive, even for two fat poofs, particularly after the second helping of bread.

But there was no mistaking the quality of the confit of duck (£11.95) , which was melt-in-the-mouth and crispy at the same time, served with well cooked red cabbage, red wine gravy served separately, and a whole poached comice pear. David’s similarly slow-cooked wintry braised beef with parsnip chips and horseradish dumplings (£12.50) which were light and tasty, was equally comforting. The pommes puree, honey-sweet root veg and the cauliflower gratin proved excellent accompaniments, although the fries were too thin and soggy. But then, I am a fat chip man.

Naturally, puddings (£5.95 each) followed, in the form of a very generous bowl of apple crumble with an oaty top and crème anglaise, and a cappuccino cup full of milky-coffee flavour mousse and ice-cream. Both very plentiful. They seem to be following the American pattern of serving the espressos before the pudding which is an Americanism I could well do without, but the little shot glasses of chocolate ricotta mousse served with them made up for it.

The wine list is impressive, with some interesting bins. Sadly, German wine has fallen out of fashion, largely because all the best stuff is kept for the Germans, but I couldn’t resist a bottle of Franken white wine from Bavaria which encapsulates the best style of German ‘trocken’ wine.

The Malmaison is certainly at the high end in terms of the food served, but the atmosphere is relaxed and informal whilst remaining stylish. And we were both so well fed that David eschewed his morning cornflakes the next day....

Malmaison Brasserie
William Jessop Way,
Princes Dock, L3.
Tel: 0151 229 5000.

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