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Thursday, 10 March 2011
There are few meals I could describe as perfect - but my latest visit at Malmaison was one such. Deep fried seafood, followed by juicy steak and crisp fries with tarragon aioli, and vanilla crème brulée - each was better than the last. I loved it.
Malmaison London is in the heart of Clerkenwell, tucked away in the historic Charterhouse Square, close to the City and West End. A stone's throw from the Barbican, a regular haunt of mine, Malmaison is my latest find in this neck of the woods.
The menu is seasonal and features a range of reinterpreted Classic British and European dishes. The restaurant's head chef, John Woodward, goes to great lengths to find his produce within Greater London. The latest menu has an excellent offer of two courses, a bottle of wine and coffee for only £30 for two people, available by downloading and printing the voucher here.
On my latest visit, the "Fritto Misto" @ £8.50 was a delicious mix of deep fried plump scallops, squid, and prawn served with a lemon aioli sauce. The fish tasted ultra-fresh and tender, and was covered in a deliciously light and crisp batter. A magnificent starter.
For main I had a massive 500g "Cotes de Boeuf" @ £28 which was also outstanding. The meat was beautifully cooked and well flavoured, with a rich Bearnaise sauce. Beef at Malmaison is supplied by Donald Russell, and is grass fed, naturally reared and aged for at least 28 days.
To accompany my steak I had a portion of "Hand Cut Fries" with Tarragon aioli @ £3.50. These were crisp and tasted delicious with the aniseed/garlic sauce.
Malmaison's "Vanilla Crème Brulée" @ £5.95 was another winner. A rich and unctuous custard under a thin layer of hard caramel, it makes me smile whenever I hear it cracking (particularly under my own spoon!).
The wine list is comprehensive and relatively well priced for a restaurant of this calibre. Stuart, the sommelier, is knowledgeable and unlike many others in his profession, will discreetly take your cue and suggest the most appropriate wines within your price range. Malmaison House wine is priced at £19.95, with other options within the £20 and £30 brackets or above. On this occasion, we had a "2009 A2O Albarino from Rias Baixas" @ £35 showing excellent apricot and mineral characters.
Similarly, our choice of red wine, the "2006 Chateau de Lugagnac from Bordeaux" @ £32 was an excellent wine with ripe red fruit notes and soft tannins.
Not so long ago on another visit, Dr G and I had an equally good dinner. We began with a couple of fine starters - "Premier Cheese Creamed Bath Soft" @ £6.50, a lovely dish made of melted cheese, Port poached pear, endive, and salted pecans.
Along with this we had "Grilled Squid, Chorizo and Parsley Salad" @ £7.50. I love the combination of pork and seafood and Malmaison's version did not disappoint.
For main, I chose a "Girolles and Samphire Risotto" @ £17 which was superlative. The buttery rice was perfectly al dente, and intensely flavoured with rich wild mushrooms and flavours of the sea.
Dr G opted for the "Roasted Grouse" @ £22. This was served with puy lentils, roasted garlic puree, bacon and a red wine jus. Grouse can sometimes be a tough and dry bird but Malmaison's was yielding, succulent and unimprovebly good.
"Domaine de Font Sane, Gigondas, 2007" @ £45 was a splendid wine from the Southern Rhone, a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Cinsault. It was full-bodied and well structured with plenty of red and black fruits and fine balancing tannins.
There is no better way to finish off a substantial meal than with a refreshing ice cream. The "Cherry and Amaretto Sundae" @ £5.95 was a delicious concoction of pistachio ice cream, crushed amaretto biscuits and fruit, and was a great end to a magnificent meal.
Cost: The London Foodie was a guest of Malmaison. I estimate that a 3-course meal would cost around £25 to £35 per person (excl. drinks).
Likes: excellent local produce and great cooking skills, very well priced menu (particularly the regular promotions), comprehensive wine list, great location between Smithfield's Meat Market and the Barbican Arts Centre.
Verdict: Excellent restaurant in the heart of Clerkenwell serving British and Modern European dishes with a modern interpretation. Creative and delicious cooking at very reasonable prices matched by a well thought out wine list. Very highly recommended.