Seasonal Menus from Malmaison
Malmaison is one of those places that you need to step inside to appreciate. Little has changed from the outside over the past few decades.
The Victorian building was the former Leeds City Transport HQ offices and I well remember having to go there from High School to get my scholar’s fare pass.
However, step inside and Chez Mal Brasserie at Malmaison has been expertly planned, making use of every single space. But this restaurant has one failure – whether I’ve been there on a sunny morning for breakfast or in the height of summer for lunch, because its nearly below ground it is very dark and sombre.
Despite its refurbishment and designer lighting, its only in the winter time that it comes into its own and even then the overdose of heavy oak gives it a heavy overbearing atmosphere. There’s also a lack of signage to the restaurant and one finds oneself wondering through the bar and rather lost. Indeed, finding the small table used as a restaurant reception desk is rather like trying to locate a needle in a haystack.
Chez Mal has an extensive menu but on our visit, as it was summer-time we decided to eat from the summer menu.
We had no sooner sat down than menus were put on the table and less than five minutes later we were asked for our order. This rush procedure continued throughout the meal and to make things worse we were asked questions or for our choices not once but twice by two different members of staff, which after a while became rather annoying.
Whilst we looked at the menu we ordered a cocktail and no sooner had we ordered this than were asked which wine we would like! The wine arrived at our table long before the cocktails. The presentation of the cocktails left a lot to be desired perhaps because the waitresses appeared to be making them – it must have been the mixologists night off!
My Aperol Spritz lacked the lime however my colleague’s Apricot and Pineapple Daquiri had a potential overdose of lime which overpowered everything in the cocktail!
The choice of wine however was a good one – the Maison Blanc was crisp and exceptionally good value and served just at the right temperature.
However, what the restaurant lacks in its service and cocktails it certainly makes up for with its food. Although again the service was rushed perhaps they wanted rid of the patrons to set up for breakfast!
My goat’s cheese, apple and pear salad came with walnuts and raspberry vinaigrette. I particularly liked how the rounds of apple were placed beneath the cheese so you got the fusion of flavour of the cheese and fruit together.
The smoked mackerel pate with pickled beets, horseradish crème fraiche and toasted sourdough certainly delighted my colleague. It was smooth and not overly smoked. The portion was just the right size and like my starter was beautifully presented.
For main course my colleague chose the chargrilled chicken breast and crunchy Thai salad. The chicken was perfectly cooked and tender and the vegetables including carrot, courgette and finely grated potato were a work of art and cooked to retain the flavour.
However, my main was rather disappointing. I asked for the USDA slow roast brisket and blackened sweet potatoes. I noted it came with a Succotash and chimichurri sauce. I asked for the dish to be served without any sauce. My server informed me that both sauces came as side dishes.
When my food arrived I found out the chimichurri was part of the dish and covered the whole meal. So, it was a case of just taking off as much sauce as I could and leaving the rest of the dish. The beef I must add was perfectly cooked, tender and succulent. But servers take note always listen to a customer’s request, it may not be because the client doesn’t like a particular ingredient it could be for a health or allergy reason. I would have been quite happy to go for another dish if I knew the sauce was part of the meal but I was told quite adamantly that it wasn’t.
Our deserts were a bit of a disappointment in that the warm steamed summer pudding with crème fraiche was not a summer pudding but a steamed sponge pudding with summer fruits and my vanilla mascarpone with fresh red berries, although beautifully presented was not cold enough and leaning toward meltdown.
The summer menu at Chez Mal Brassiere at Mal Maison has a wonderful selection of dishes at reasonable prices with special offers for early evening customers
Chez Mal at Malmaison, 1 Swinegate, Leeds Tel: 0113 426 0047 is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Visit Malmaison.com for further details.