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Malmaison Bar

Elliot Seathwaite loves doing it in the dark

Published on June 12th 2008.


Malmaison Bar

Gloom can be good, even on sunny days. And it's absolutely essential in the evening.

There are a million zillion bars and restaurants which are rancid with too much illumination. Food rhymes with mood and you can't get any moodiness up and going with the lights turned up bright enough for open heart surgery.

After a day traipsing the streets recently this writer collapsed into the former bus company building and craved whisky. Lagavullin was the desired article, a rich beautifully smoky water of life from Islay.

The Malmaison on Swinegate rocks the moody world. After a day traipsing the streets recently this writer collapsed into the former bus company building and craved whisky. Lagavullin was the desired article, a rich beautifully smoky water of life from Islay. A sniff of this and that deep overwhelming peatiness throws you into full relax mode.

The bar really plays its part here though. Set down in a basement to the left of the main entrance with street level windows high above, it wraps you in its arms and lets you slide into near semi-consciousness – until a buddy arrives, of course, by which time it's perhaps polite to wake-up a little. The seats are comfortable with satisfyingly sinking leather. The woodwork is restrained and much of the light comes from candles.

After the whiskies I had dinner in the brasserie - not admittedly the best way round for a whisky blasted palate. The rare breed, black spot, pork belly dish off the home grown and local menu was a lovely thing, with that thick rim of fat and then the tender flesh within. This was nicely accompanied by a poached egg, perfectly presented and beautifully runny and rigorously al dente asparagus (from Yorkshire, apparently). A Bramley apple puffpastry stack with crème Anglais was a delightful follow-up to the main, the sweetly rugged flavour of the Bramleys working well with the gorgeous puff pastry above. This is part of the two course menu at £13.50 (three courses £15.50).

Then it was back to the bar for another whisky. The music was low, the conversation gentle and the people watching gentle.

Time was, of course, when drinking and dining in hotels was unheard of - unless you were a resident. There was something very unappealing about going out to a place in which the food and drink was only part of the job of a business not the whole focus. This atitude might be changing.

More and more people in their thirties, forties and above want a piece of the action. Unfortunately most bars in towns and cities are aimed at twenty year olds and have a music policy to match. People who just want to chat are left with two options, the pub and the hotel bar. If they want a modern, highly designed, space which has bearable volumes then they're left with the latter of the two.

Certainly that seems the case at the Mal. There was a mixed audience on a Thursday night of young and old enjoying themselves, some clearly residents, others who'd made the choice to come here over the banging bars outside.

Rating: 17/20
Breakdown: 4/5 Food
4/5 Drink
4/5 Decor
5/5 Ambience
Address: Malmaison
1 Swinegate
Leeds
LS1 4AG
0113 398 1000

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