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Malmaison - The (Partial) Judgement

Lunch. Bit of a gloomy day in Manchester. I have figured out this weather thing now......

Published on January 6th 2005.

Malmaison - The (Partial) Judgement
Lunch. Bit of a gloomy day in Manchester. I have figured out this weather thing now. If you want it to lash down, leave the raincoat and brolly at home, it’s very simple. Having spent the morning arguing with some idiot from London, I needed a good lunch.
The week before, I bumped into Julie Calcutt, the marketing supreme of Malmaison at the Cow Parade launch (that was good, by the way, terrific nibbles, the only problem being the fact that they had run out of Budweiser and I was forced to down Stella instead). Waking up at three thirty the following afternoon with a raging hangover and little recollection of what happened, I was reminded why I should never be given Stella. It’s a Mogwai and water thing. Don’t worry about it…
I do recall meeting those three lovely marketing ladies from Selfridges, Angela Sawyer, Sara Jones and Nikki Marsh. Nikki, apparently, is the big boss, whilst Angela and Sara look after Exchange Square and the Trafford Centre respectively. What a pair of mega cuties Angela and Sara are. Nikki looked a nice type of lady, bit old for me normally but I thought it may be worth a pitch for dinner. She was clearly just playing hard to get when she burst out laughing telling me I must be kidding and that I was a sad old git. Nikki, I know you are gagging for me so I have ordered you a copy of Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People from Amazon to help you get over your shyness. Just call when you’re ready.
Anyway, I digress. Julie, who has very lovely eyes, if you know what I mean, along with a fabulous smile, was reminding me that I had said that I would score the restaurant in the original piece I had written, (Click here to read), so I agreed to go over for lunch. In fairness I must warn you that it was freebie (none of that holier than thou ‘we accept no freebies’ nonsense from Gordo). The serious point is that if they had kept up the standards from the lunch when they were unaware that I was coming, I would be giving top marks.
We were joined by Scott Harper, the recently installed General Manager, who turned out to be a proper bloke, and got the pitch. It’s weird, but I have always felt the restaurant a little detached from the bar and reception. It seemed a bit daft to me that you hide it away from the punters. People arriving in a hotel tend to look to go out for food, but more often than not give the restaurant a try if it catches their eye. I was about to say this, when Scott told me that they were intending to knock the wall down between the bar and restaurant. This guy clearly understands people, and how to create a buzz. The room itself is classy, lots of dark wood and crisp white linen. Waiters in black with spotlessly white starched aprons, I am reminded of the Rib Room at the Carlton Tower in London, a restaurant which has not changed a lot in twenty years and is still packing them in for what is some of the best beef in London. The bar is open to the restaurant. The atmosphere is electric. The River Room at the Savoy? Sitting room overlooks the restaurant. Atmosphere, electric. Derek Lilley and his Olympic standard missus have just trousered god knows how many millions from the partial sale of Restaurant Bar and Grill, Piccolinos group. Bars all in the windows, next to the diners. Do I need to go on?
Once the wall comes down, everything in my mind will fall into place; It will make for one of the best bar/restaurants in town. As long as the punters enjoy the food and booze. And, what of that?
I hate soup. I mean, what’s all that about? All its good for is illness. So, I had that. Veloute of broad bean and savoury with a herb crème fraiche. It was bloody gorgeous. I haven’t the faintest clue how broad beans can be gorgeous, but they were. It was velvety, with three flavours (don’t ask, you have to try the bloody thing yourselves) filling my mouth. At £4.50, somewhat dearer than reaching for a can, but it isn’t five times better. It’s a bloody million times better.
Cote de Boeuf. Massive, rib served on the bone, gaufrette potatoes and roasted bone marrow. For those who haven’t had correctly prepared bone marrow smeared on your correctly hung Scottish beef and smothered in sauce vierge. Let me explain in Manc terms - it’s the difference between having a shag and making love all afternoon. It blew my mind. I come from four generations of butchers, and have blown thousands of pounds eating my way around 80% of France’s three rosette restaurants. This steak will stand up to any of them. I happen to know the supplier, Neil Frost at Frosts The Butchers in Chorlton - http://www.whfrost.co.uk. He is the best buyer of British beef I have come across. He could have given my Uncle Tom a run for his money. You should try them for your Sunday roast, by the way.
Back to work. The attention to detail that this newly challenged management team are bringing to the restaurant is underscored by the mustard trolley. A bit strange at first, but there are sixteen types of mustard to choose from, all in there own little pots, all in perfect nick. I have never seen this before, it’s a great idea.
The chips are as good as last time, but in a bigger portion. Well done people. Carrots with cumin, real ones these, not babies, served whole. Nice and tender. Don’t like cumin personally, but that’s, as said, a personal thing.
The cheese. You may remember my comments on Establishment’s cheese board, a clear winner – click here. Here they have pulled their finger out as well. A well chosen short selection, served from a trolley at room temperature. Great accompaniments.
Didn’t drink alcohol (feeling ill, eh Gordo – Ed) at this lunch, so I cannot tell you about that side of things at this time; It looks classy though, and some sensible prices were catching my eye.
All in all, this lot have moved up a gear into top five territory. Scott, get that wall knocked down, keep the standards up and you will have a commercial success on your hands, this to me is as important as a critical success. I don’t want our restaurants going under, because they are not using their brains and us punters are confused. I want to be celebrating my Grandson’s birthday with you in eighteen years time.
I am still not scoring yet, I am trying to work out a points out of twenty system like the Gault et Millau guide in France, which I think will be fairer than my far more professional colleagues at the MEN and Metro. But I suspect I would give between 16 and 17 out of 20 once the wall is knocked down, definitely in amongst the top five in Manchester.
Now, I have negotiated a Gordo Comp with Scott. Email me at ( mark@2mmedia.com ) before Monday the 20th and I will pick one of you out of the hat. That person will have an £80.00 bar/restaurant tab at the Hotel to do with what you please.
I recommend The Malmaison Brasserie for taking clients who you want to impress, family stuff, pre-theatre food, nipping in for a quick main course as well as getting your pals together for a right old bash at the weekend. Oh, and a little light lunch with a bottle of champagne as a prelude to making love all Sunday afternoon ;-)
Malmaison Brasserie
The Malmaison
0161 278 1000 Tell them Manchester Confidential sent you!

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