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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Pumpkin Soup with Lovage and Cobnuts

I love soup! chilled summer soups are lovely, but as soon as autumn rears its head, I’m thinking of what soups I can make.

The day before I was about to head to Italy for a week, I landed a bag of beautiful looking cobnuts on the kitchen bench after being at the Farmer’s Market in Charterhouse Square. A few of the suppliers to Malmaison all teamed up for a special market.So they were shed of their lovely outer coats and stored in the fridge until I got back.

On my holiday in Tuscany, I stayed at a farm house where the owners wife had planted many herbs.  I found, what I thought was over grown parsley. It smelt very strong, a combination of anise, celery and a peppery flavour. The smell would not leave my hands. Aha this must be lovage! It was the first time our paths had crossed.

After a bit of a tasting session, I though I would treat the cobnuts a bit like hazelnuts, to help me come up with something to do with them.  Pumpkin soup is one of my childhood  favourites. I think they will work well together.

Pumpkin Soup with Lovage and Cobnuts:

2-3 tblspn olive oil.

1 medium butternut squash, or similar size pumpkin, peeled and cubed

1 medium potato, peeled and diced

1 large white onion, finely chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

approx. 1 litre hot chicken or vegetable stock

small bunch of lovage

8-10 cobnuts

Method:

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add oil and onion, soften. Add garlic, and saute for a further minute or two.

Add pumpkin and potatoes, stock (just enough to cover vegetables).

Stir and bring to boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes, or until pumpkin and potatoes are soft.

Remove some of the liquid by dipping ladle or cup into saucepan.

Blend the soup, either with a hand blender or in batches in the food processor.

Finely chop the lovage and cobnuts, mix together.

Serve hot soup with lovage and cobnuts on top.

Other Options:

If you like a smoother soup, blend the lovage and cobnuts and a few tablepoons of mild olive oil or rapeseed oil, in a food processor, before adding to the soup.  I think the lovage/cobnut combination would work with carrot soup and cauliflower as well.

If your just after the pumpkin soup add a generous teaspoon of curry powder before the garlic and stir for a minute until aromatic.