Donald Russell 35 day aged entrecote
During a week when snowfall in London brought flights to a painful standstill, our city weekend break at the Malmaison Hotel in Farringdon was a little piece of utterly relaxing bliss. The fact that it houses the largely undiscovered gem that is the Malmaison Brasserie was just another bonus along the way.
I love staying in hotels. I love the fact you can mess the bed up and someone makes it for you while you're off having breakfast. I love the big fluffy towels that I don't have to wash. I love any shower that isn't our crappy shower at home. Our night at Malmaison was just a brief change, but it felt like a rejuvenating holiday - without having to spend the night sleeping at Heathrow under space blankets wondering when we'd get on the next flight out of there.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...
The view from our room at Malmaison, overlooking Charterhouse Square
Best of all, the Malmaison Brasserie is just downstairs. The only thing I recalled about the brasserie before going there was that its burger made Young & Foodish's list of top 10 burgers in London (at number 4). Of course we had to have it.
The brasserie's location right by the Smithfield meat market is a clue to head chef, John Woodward's, passion for quality, local sourcing. All beef is sourced from Donald Russell who selects only grass fed, naturally reared beef, which is matured for a minimum of 28 days in Aberdeenshire. Cheeses are sourced from La Cave a Fromage and oysters are from Maldon Oysters. The list goes on.
|Salmon & fried baby squid|
|Boudin noir with crispy poached egg|
My seared, marinated salmon is perfectly cooked and moist, with ringlets of tender, fried baby squid and roasted hazelnuts (£7.25). TPG has the rich boudin noir with silky champ and crispy poached egg (£6.95). Both dishes are immensely enjoyable and the quality is clearly there.
The 250 gram entrecote is dry aged on the bone - tender, pink and sweet, it even came with some rich bone marrow on the side, and a smashing bearnaise (£20.95).
|The excellent Mal burger|
Which brings me to the excellent Mal burger - a 250 gram patty of ground beef with Gruyere, bacon, pickle, tomato and onion on a toasted sesame bun. It comes with homemade fries for £13.95. Lovely, pink and juicy on the inside, crunchy and well caramalised on the outside; it is indeed one of London's best burgers. Terrific stuff.
|Creme brulee with a madeleine|
|Baked white chocolate cheesecake|
To finish, a creamy vanilla creme brulee with a spiced madeleine combined 2 of my favourite sweets - both elements were quite lovely on their own, although putting them together doesn't really work as a combination. A very decent baked white chocolate cheese cake was sweet, smooth and dense. (Both desserts are £5.95).
The decor lacks some character. Despite that they've gone for dark tones and subdued lighting to create a slinky, stylish look, the brasserie has not quite shrugged off that feeling of being in the basement of a boutique hotel. But it's ok. And service is of a friendliness and quality to match the food. The private butcher's block room, with its exposed brickwork and long wooden table, would (I imagine) be a great nook for a large dinner party.
The brasserie also offers a set price menu - any 2 courses from the a la carte menu for £21 or any 3 such dishes for £25 (only very few dishes carrying a supplement).
From there, it was just a short toddle upstairs to our spacious room complete with fluffy carpet, chaise longue for reclining with a good book, dressing table (I totally want one), flat screen TV, wifi and a lovely, deep bath. The powerful shower with its big shower head is also great, and the toiletries at Malmaison deserve a special mention - they smell divine. Even better that the packaging requests that you take them home, so we happily obliged. There's also a decent little gym downstairs, which I tried for about 5 minutes and TPG for longer.
Any criticisms? There are no fluffy dressing gowns. This is a not a small thing for me - I love a big, fluffy dressing gown. If I had one, I'd be wearing it right now. And the mini bar is not amazing, but I never use it anyway. These quibbles are all I can think of - I loved the hotel, and the brasserie, and the location is terrific, with the Smithfield meat market, St Johns, Vinoteca and North Road Restaurant all within a few minutes walk. The short break has inspired me to do the whole city break thing more often - a change can be as good as a holiday, without all the travel hassles.
If you feel like some of the same, I recommend the Malmaison hotel, but I also recommend trying the brasserie for the steak and burger in particular, regardless of whether you're stumbling back to a bed upstairs.
Malmaison, 18-21 Charterhouse Square, Clerkenwell, London, EC1M 6AH (Tel: 020 7012 3700)
Greedy Diva was a guest of Malmaison, however room rates generally range from £205-£250 per night, with suites from £295-£475.