Malmaison – London

“You need someone to come to lunch with you?”, “Malmaison??? OK why not”. Little did I know what was in store for me…Malmaison is in Charterhouse Square, a lovely square tucked behind Barbican tube station.  Home to the London Medical Deanery and one time Monastery, hospital and school.

Thank goodness I was quite hungry when I arrived because once the food started coming, it didn’t seem to stop.

The Winesleuth and I were booked into ‘The Butcher’s Block’, a private room dedicated to the butchers of Smithfields. They carve up ribs and steaks at the table to share, sounds like fun.  It was a bit dark for my little happy snapper, so we opted for a table in the main dining area.

The entreé was a twist on a classic combination of crab and avocado. The avocado was very lightly crumbed but remained fresh and just ripened inside. The Dorset crab was well dressed with out drowning it. The chilli and citrus salsa left was dressed around the plate so you can have it with a bit of a kick, or not. I loved it, it was gone in a flash.

Luckily my lunch companion was there to check out the wines. She is pretty clued up and being familiar with Bibendum wines, had spotted that they supply Malmaison, before we had even sat down.  Our wine flight was chosen by Stuart, the new Sommelier at Malmaison London. He did very well too, choosing a Chapel Down Bacchus for my crab entree and a Côtes du Rhône and Australian Shiraz, for my main choice. I’m not going to pretend I know much about wines. If you want to know what The Winesleuth thought you can visit her post here.

The chef, John Woodward,  had made a crab bisque and wanted to give us a little try.

Made with crab shells, brandy and pastis, this little soup was packed with flavour. I couldn’t of had a whole bowl, but a little cup was the perfect amuse bouche.

The special for the day was côte du boeuf with béarnaise sauce, feeling like I had the appetite of an Alaskan lumberjack I couldn’t pass it up, neither could the Winesleuth.

Wooh! I didn’t expect it to be that big! Perfectly cooked medium but still pink, it was soft, tender and moist Donald Russell steak. I’ve never had meat from Donald Russell before and it was mighty good. The béarnaise was a little thicker than I would have liked, but now I’m just getting picky. The sides were great as well, great fries, mushrooms, salad leaves and the most delicious sweetcorn and chilli pancake.

I had barely made a dint in the steak and I was full. I guess the lumberjack feeling was a bit exaggerated. Cheeky as I am, I asked for it to be wrapped up to take home. They didn’t seem to mind, I hope they didn’t, but they would have only thrown it out and I got 2 lunches out of it! It was just as tasty then too.

After all that the Winesleuth wanted to try the ports and when the cheese trolley was unveiled to us there was no point trying to fight it.  A good selection of English and French cheeses from La Cave were equally matched by the port.

Dessert was a smooth crème brûlée. A crisp caramelised top with a creamy vanilla brûlée. I have to say I was starting to feel like a small whale at this point.

Malmaison are a small group of lovely hotels across the UK. They don’t come to mind as a place I would choose for lunch. I never expected the food to be quite so good and I never expected them to have great suppliers such as Donald Russell, La Cave and Bibendum. They have a few private rooms off the main restaurant which would be great for small Christmas parties, lunch meetings or small events. The interior was a bit dark for my liking, with alot of black and grey but the food made up for that and I soon forgot about it.

I love to have a peak at the rooms whenever I eat at hotels. Maybe it’s the urge to use the bed and have a nap after eating that spurs me on, although this time I wanted to soak in that tub!

 

Ms Macaroon dined as guests of Malmaison London.

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Summer Cheese Tasting with Patricia Michelson

I love La Fromagerie!! A shop dedicated to the love of artisan cheese and good produce. If you have ever heard Patricia Michelson speak you will understand what I mean. She is madly passionate about her cheese and the produce in her shop.

It all started, for Patricia, when she was skiing in Meribel, France, got lost on the mountain and by the time she found her way to the bottom, had worked up quite an appetite. She bought a slice of Beaufort Chalet d’Alpage cheese, with the little she had in her pockets, and continued to nibble away at it while she walked back to her chalet. From that moment on her life changed and she knew she had to bring good cheese to London.

First to open was the little Highbury Park shop in September 1992, then Moxon st, Marylebone in November 2002.

This was a seated tasting, the first to commemorate the release of her second book, CHEESE.

When I arrived I was shown to a more secluded area in the shop where I was presented with a glass of Cremant d’Alsace Rose. Then came the La Fromagerie  ‘signature event nibbles’, gougeres and Parmesan twists. The gougeres were amazing, as usual, although the cayenne hit to the twists was a bit strong for me. After a top up, I strolled around the shop.

The tables, which usually seat a high turn over of hungry people, were being prepared for our evenings tasting.

The first plate to be presented to us was a selection of ‘summer cheeses’.

INNES BUTTONS, Statfold, Stafforshire:  a prize winning, light mousse-like goats cheese, where the goats are played classical music whilst being milked.

SAINT TOLA, Co. Clare: fresh crumbly texture, made with organic milk. When aged has a more citrus taste. These goats are rested for 3 months after Christmas when the cheese is unavailable.

TICKLEMORE, Totnes, Devon: one of my favourites!! semi-soft, using unpasteurised goats milk. This cheese is fresh and gentle. In autumn and winter layer it with celeriac and potatoes for an amazing  gratin.

WIGMORE, Riseley, Berks: an unpasteurised sheep’s milk cheese using vegetable rennet. This cheese is from a cheese maker intent on keeping there cheese Artisian and not overproducing.

WATERLOO, Riseley, Berks: THE TABLE WINNER! a semi-soft cows cheese, made with vegetable rennet. It was rich, bold and very buttery, with a gentle earthy aroma.

KIRKHAM’S LANCASHIRE, Goosnargh, Lancashire: probably my least favourite. A semi-hard unpasteurised cloth bound cow’s milk cheese. This type of cheese has been made for hundreds of years. Patricia feels that it hold all the signs to pre-date Ossau cheeses of the Pyrenees.

Wine Pairing: Chateau Le Roc Cotes du Frontonnais, SW France. 50% Colombard and 50% Ugni Blanc. A wine made south west of Toulouse. A light zest wine giving an intense aroma of grapefruit and orange whilst tasting lovely and fresh with a long fruity palate. What a perfect match to the cheese Patricia had chosen.

 

As an interlude to the cheeses, we were served Asparagus with buttered breadcrumbs and Berkswell.  The green and white asparagus were a welcome relief but the breadcrumbs were soaked in too much butter for my liking and I left most of them.

Our next plate was a surprising Irish selection.

MILLENS, Eyeries, Nr Castletownbere, Co. Cork: rustic earthy cheese made with pasteurised cows milk.

ARDRAHAN, Co.Cork: Favourite on the plate! a semi-soft washed rind cows milk cheese made with vegetable rennet. Style similar to a French Munster or Livarot. It was earthy, rustic and nutty.

ST. GALL, Fermoy, Co. Cork: brine washed cows cheese with a earthy creaminess.

Wine Pairing: Chateau Beaulieu, Marmande, Lot et Garonne, nr Bordeaux. A Blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and a local grape, Abouriou. We all thought it worked perfectly with the cheeses and very enjoyable to drink.

 

The Blues

Crozier Blue, Co. Tipperary: lovely sharp flavoured, soft textured sheeps milk cheese

Devon Blues, Totnes, Devon: we LOVED this, rich and creamy unpasteurised cows milk cheese. Buttery and gently earthy….delicious!

Harbourne Blue, Totnes, Devon: made with goats milk, this is an unusual blue. You seldom find goats blue as it takes alot of goats to get enough milk to make a large wheel. It was very full, sharp and fruity.

Colston Bassett Stilton, Nottinghamshire: made with pasteurised cows milk using traditional rennet. The makers allow the cheese to mature for 3 months before introducing the blue. It is nutty and rich, a more complex blue.

Bellingham Blue, Castlebellingham, Co. Louth: this cows milk blue will ‘knock your head off’. It is the strongest blue I have EVER tasted. It is sharp and salty (wait for autumn I think).

Wine Pairing: Quinta de la Rosa Tawny Tonel No. 12: delicate, soft with caramel and honey aromas. Perfect.

It was a hot night, and I left, to make my way home in the cool summer breeze with a tummy full of cheese and a happy feeling that I had been well looked after. Patricia was the perfect hostess. Thank you.