Thursday, August 09, 2007

Malmaison Brasserie

Wed 8 Aug 2007

Last night the eating and drinking machine rolled on to the Malmaison Brasserie. The Brasserie is set in the basement of the pretty Malmaison building on Swinegate, just a short walk from the city centre.

We were a little early for our reservation so we started off with drinks in the bar. It was a bit noisy and hotel-bar like for me, though the low lighting, purple table lights and sofas were a good start. I ended up being treated to a glass of Veuve vintage, so no complaining from me!

The Brasserie has a 'home grown' menu where the food is sourced from within 30 miles of Leeds. It's £12.50 for 2 courses or £15.50 for 3, or you can opt for the à la carte menu. In our party of four we had a bit of mix and matching. I started with the risotto milanese. Other starters were squid and scallop salad, pea and leek tart and (from the home grown menu) a niçoise salad.

The pea and leek tart was the star dish - sitting on top of some asparagus spears, it had the most incredibly light, crispy and short pastry. I thought the risotto was very good although perhaps a trifle over seasoned and both the salads were well received.

For main course I chose the Gloucester old spot pork, pan fried, with sorrel and water cress and a gooseberry chutney. It was very good. The pork was moist and the gooseberry chutney was delicious. The lamb chops, with roast garlic, girolle mushrooms and pesto, was a huge portion: 4 fat, pink chops presented on a board with a copper pan of pesto. From the home grown menu the selection was Goosnargh chicken with tomato and cous-cous, and the final choice was streak-frites. We ordered an additional portion of chips, as well as carrots with chervil and a portion of spinach.

By the time we arrived at dessert, we were slowing down. We shared a crème brûlée and a serving of cheese. The cheese comes out on the cheese trolley and you choose a selection of 5 from the menu (there was a choice of over 10 cheeses last night). The crème brûlée was delicious too: a crispy, caramelised top with a soft, just set custard underneath.

Although I didn't get to look at the wine list in detail, it looks monumental, and even contains a table of contents. We started with a Tim Knappstein riesling and followed with an American zinfandel. We wrapped up with a selection of dessert wines and liqueurs: Frangelico, Banyuls and cognac.

The meal stood out for several reasons: the food was 'bloody good' (I quote my father), the spelling on the menu (so often a point of downfall) was good (apart from a very dodgy spelling of liqueur!) and the service was excellent. The staff were cheerful, knowledgeable and all very professional.

The location and style of the restaurant puts the venue firmly in the special occasion league, but without outrageously high prices. In addition, you will get a reservation far more easily than you will at Anthony's, and many diners will find the food far more accessible.

1. Malmaison Brasserie, 1 Swinegate, Leeds, LS1 4AG, phone: 0113 398 1000

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