The Malmaison has been nestling in its cocoon of scaffolding, quietly going about its business, for the past 12 months. Opening during 2007, the liverpool branch was the first Mal not to regenerate an old building. Thus, instead of residing in an old warehouse, bus company office or prison, this hotel has its own new build. It may not be everyone’s idea of beauty, but it does at least dare to stand out against the tedious Crown Plaza next door: a building so boring and unoriginal, if I ever met the architect I would feel morally obliged to punch him in the face.
The Malmaison chain fashions itself as a great food and drink destination, offering chic bars and contemporary restaurants. With the liverpool branch’s self imposed cocoon (it was a problem with the cladding), this hotel has been biding its time before a relaunch later this year. I took my seat on a busier than expected Tuesday evening, hoping that the food would live up to the modern and clean interior.
At first glance the menu appeared to be following the overly common bar and grill format, although closer inspection revealed some far more interesting dishes. It’s not that the bar and grill format is bad, indeed done well the food can tread the fine line of being hearty and delicate, done poorly however and I’d rather spend my time admiring the architectural nuances of the Crown Plaza.The grill section contained the usual aged steaks and fancy burgers, but it was the mains the fish sections that caught my eye, with more brasserie style dishes.
Service was friendly and professional, the waitress effortlessly explaining the cut of meat used in the veal dish and recommending the way it should be cooked. I did as suggested and chose the Brixham Crab for my starter and Veal Onglet, cooked to medium, for my main.
The Brixham Crab with Waldorf salad (£7.95) came as a large flat circle of white crab meat dressed with celery, walnuts and avocado, accompanied by walnut and poppy seed toast. The soft and delicate crab was balanced by the gentle crunch of walnuts and the crispiness of fresh celery. The toast worked well as an additional texture, and nothing over powered the gentle crab flavour, however I would have preferred a pinch more seasoning.
The Veal Onglet with Cafe du Paris sauce and fennel (£18.95), was an interesting dish. The cut of meat, as explained, was from the underside of the animal, a cheaper cut, full of flavour, usually requiring a touch more cooking. So against my better judgment, I chose to have a steak medium, and it turned up perfectly cooked with just a hint of pink in the middle. The meat was soft and tender, the crunch of grilled fennel worked well as accompaniment and was balanced by the sauce. This, I was informed, is a version of secret recipe from France, which I later found out was from Geneva. It was essentially a herb butter packed full of a variety of ingredients, and was delicious a perfect addison to the veal. Good enough for me to contemplate drinking it straight from the little pot it arrived in. The grilled courgettes with parmesan (£3.25) made for an excellent side.
I ordered the caramlised banana waffles (£5.95) with chocolate sauce and ice cream, a heavy comforting sounding pudding that I hoped would stick to my ribs. However, it mainly stuck to the roof of my mouth. The waffle itself was light and had a lovely brioche like texture and flavour. The chocolate sauce and banana, which turned out to be raw with a layer of caramel applied to it, were far too heavy and made the dish overly dry and uncomfortably thick. It could have benefited from a dollop of whipped cream, a drizzle of maple syrup or some other lubrication.
Dessert aside, the meal, and the service showed skill, professionalism and attention to detail. Two of of three ain’t bad.
William Jessop Way, Liverpool