The Leeds Mal were kind enough to invite Charlotte and I (plus our little lady) to try out their food and have a look around the hotel. Here’s what we made of our three course feast!
First of all, thank you to the Leeds Mal for being pram accessible; so many ‘trendy’ or upmarket places make themselves so difficult to get into with a baby that it can put you off even trying. At the Mal, the lift systems and friendly team made our entry as easy as you like!
We were familiar with the inside of the Mal Brasserie after our previous visit to enjoy a delightful Sunday brunch but it is safe to say that the beautiful interior is still stylish, has a good atmosphere and (we can now add) is baby friendly! On the evidence of the people there dining with us (birthday parties, couples on dates etc), it’s clear that although the Mal is still a great place to do business, it really can shine through as a place of leisure at weekends.
Having sat down, we were warmly welcomed by our waiter Alex and were invited to try a nice selection of bread, oil and balsamic vinegar, which was a lovely way to whet our appetites for the feast ahead! I have to say that while we are always big fans of bread before a meal, this was the sort of indulgent bread that made you want to go back for more when paired with the lovely butter, oil and vinegar.
Sitting down with our glasses of fizz (well, fizzy water given our six week old little one was enjoying lunch with us!), we managed to narrow down our choices from an excellent regular menu and a great value seasonal menu.
After much deliberation over our starters, Charlotte plumped for moules Meantime, a Mal speciality, while I opted for ahi tuna tartare to truly test how fresh the food was and to see if the chefs could really hit the mark when it comes to delivering big flavours.
The mussels hit the spot with a great flavour hit from the beer (but in a nice subtle way) and a taste of luxury from the cream and pancetta. As well as this, there was enough bread with the mussels, which is more often than not our biggest complaint when it comes to any mussel dish, especially when served as a starter.
My tuna was intimidating to begin with as the dish itself was not small. In fact, there was a mountain of tuna on the plate! That said, the lovely mixture of textures, flavours and subtle kicks of heat made this the best fish tartare dish I have eaten in a very long time. The black sesame seed topping, mixed with the sweetness of the soy dressing and avocado was nicely freshened up by the taste of the pickled ginger. All in all, it was a real winner for me and I would wholeheartedly recommend this dish to anyone coming to the Mal!
After our wonferful start, things looked set to get even better for our mains after we saw the options! Charlotte decided to go for the Mal classic – strip steak – and I went for a dish of pure luxury: lobster! Oh, and we decided to throw some creamy mash and onion rings into the mix just to make sure we sampled enough sides to give an honest review (honest – we weren’t just greedy!).
With Charlotte asking for her steak rare, we knew that the real test of the cooking at the Mal would surely be whether or not they could deliver on this request – they duly did with little fuss.
It is worth noting that the steak at the Mal doesn’t come cheap, or with sides – or sauce. Charlotte went for the middle size available (350gm) and opted to go for the peppercorn sauce. Given that we went for three courses and had bread too, this was perhaps an error purely based on how filling the steak was, but if you come to the Mal just to try their famous strip steak, go as big as you can. The tender, succulent and well seasoned meat was a treasure and more than lived up to its price tag. Paired with the mash and the onion rings and dipped in the peppercorn sauce, this was an absolutely wonderful main course.
For me, I did have a problem with my meal: I didn’t have a clue how to use a lobster pick properly! Aside from that, the lobster was delicious. I had opted for half a lobster and it was more than enough paired with the chips and salad – though on a greedier day I could certainly have gone for a full lobster! The main body meat was very tender and not the horrible rubbery taste badly cooked lobster can offer. As well as this, the claw was nicely cooked and was already cracked open to make getting the meat out simple. Paired with the lovely bearnaise sauce, this was an indulgent dish that I wolfed down. It is worth noting that at £28 including chips this offered, for me, good value. I will also confess that we didn’t manage to quite finish off the onion rings – though we did give it a good bash!
For me, some of the key things you want to see from a waiting team is a friendly, accommodating (within reason!) attitude, and help navigating the menu. For us, the Malmaison offered more than enough of all of these attributes for us to be indebted to them for a good while! Having misjudged our parking time (fortunately the Mal is close to the Tetley Car Park so I could run down and add another hour onto our parking!), they happily paused our meal, and also allowed us a break when Charlotte had to feed our little one. All in all, we felt very well looked after (and I had burnt off some of the calories from my main course after running down to the car park!).
Before my mad dash to the car park, we had decided to order our pudding from a lovely array of choices. Charlotte opted for the Mal hot chocolate, while I decided to go for the apple tart with Normandie cream. Despite Charlotte’s fears that she was going to be receiving a hot beverage and not a dessert, her hot chocolate appeared looking absolutely divine – and without a drop of liquid save for the warm chocolate sauce! This was a signature dessert that delivered.
For me, the apple tart was lovely. Caramalised nicely, with a decent amount of the Normandie cream (brought on the side for you to pour over the dish yourself), this was a treat of a dessert.
After our delicious meal, we had the opportunity to have a look around the hotel aspect of the Malmaison (a task that was not easy given the amount of food we had eaten!) and we were hugely impressed with the quality of rooms on offer.
Room wise, the cosy doubles (the cheapest rooms) still offered a comfortable option for weary travellers and certainly offered enough amenities to justify the cost of staying at the Malmaison. For those looking to splash out on something special, the executive suite really impressed with a chic and unique appearance that oozed ‘special occasion’, especially when we saw the deep seated plunge bath big enough for two!
All in all, if you are travelling to Leeds and want an accommodation option that is not ridiculously priced whilst offering luxury, the Mal is simply the best option on offer, especially when you consider the quality of food on offer at the in-house restaurant.
We certainly hope to be back – certainly if the main meals were that good the breakfast (Charlotte’s favourite meal of the day!) should be something special as well!
Categories: Restaurant reviews