MAL MAISON: PAS MAL
About three years ago a new branch of Malmaison opened in Clerkenwell.
I rather liked it. The bar was good, the staff were friendly and the restaurant served simple, well prepared if slightly over priced food. Dos Hermanos, as is our want, went there a lot in a very short period.
Then we stopped going. I have no idea why. We do that a lot. I guess it is like going out with someone. At the beginning, you are besotted, then fatigue sets in and you start noticing other more intriguing options, then you just don’t bother anymore.
We have passed by a number of times and pondered on the menu, but still not bothered to give it another try. That is, until last night when HP fancied a DH supper and I was willing to tag along and, rifling through my little black book decided to give an old acquaintance another try.
Again, much like bumping into an old flame, Malmaison was looking rather good. Much better than remembered. Isn’t that always the way? The lobby has a smart little champagne bar. The lighting in the lower bar is more favourable to an, er, older crowd and there are lots of little nooks and crannies to hide in.
The restaurant itself has changed little apart from seeming to be slightly less well lit. The menu, though, does seem to have had a bit of an overhaul and there were lots of things on there to entice.
Initially, the service seemed a bit on the formal side for a brasserie and the presence of a sommelier with a big leather book seemed a little out of place but, our waiter was charm itself and reeled off a list of decent sounding specials.
First up, while we drank an insipid and over priced glass of Albarino (£6.75 – I think ) HP ordered a Chicken Liver & Foie Terrine which had gone long on chicken and short on Foie lacking richness. Accompanied by some passable brioche, it was perfectly OK but we have both tried much better terrines recently.
Better was my “classic” shrimp cocktail although I was slightly alarmed to find that the sizable shrimp were warm. Still, the marie rose sauce was exemplary and I wiped the bowl clean with my fingers, it was that good.
For main courses, we both plumped for the special of a 450gm Cote de Boeuf. Well of course we did and a very good choice it was too. Perfectly cooked rare and with a good char, HP ranked it at number three in his London Steak list behind Anchor & Hope and Hawksmoor. It did not have the depth of flavour that recent steaks at Hawksmoor have provided, but then I suspect, their supplier is not The Ginger Pig. Still it was a good stab and provided me with another first, a mustard trolley offering a selection of condiments including a range of Dijon mixed with fennel or Champagne or any number of things. All they need now is a mustard sommelier.
The real sommerlier seemed a little bit miffed that we chose our own wine, A L’etranger Cab Sav from the Barossa Valley that stood up to the steak but clobbered us over the head with a huge 14.5% bite in the way that Australian wines tend too. He kept asking us if we were “ happy” with our choice right until the point he opened it. All a bit odd. I think he may find himself underused in these surroundings.
Desserts were a bit crappy and overpriced at £6. Scoops of three “homemade” ice creams all tasted the same and a chocolate cheesecake was too dense and fridge fresh. Not worth the effort and they did not make us want to try the petits which were on offer for £10 for two people. Bloody hell. I didn’t want to buy the place I just wanted some choccy with my tea.
So we forwent tea and coffee, got the bill and headed off home. A not insignificant £142 for two inc service which was definitely deserved.
So, that was it. It really was like having dinner with an old flame. It looked good, better than I remember and there were plenty of things that made me remember why I was fond of it in the first place. At the same time there were enough faults to make me realize why I am not so involved anymore.
Emotionally exhausting this restaurant game, no?