Restaurant review: MalmaisonBy Caroline Cook
November 22, 2012
For a while I have had something of a Berkshire restaurant wish list.
The Fat Duck at Bray is on the list, as is The Bladebone Inn in Chapel Row and, until last Friday, Malmaison in central Reading.
I must have walked past its looming white frontage hundreds of times but Friday was the first time of going inside.
Dashing through Narnia-like glass doors, we stepped into a cosy lobby, which seemed miles away from the soggy, gray railway station outside.
Our rain-dripped jackets were taken away to be hung up and we were shown to our seats in the dining room.
It has a modern feel with bare brick walls and low lighting, creating a relaxed haven away from the bustle of shoppers and workers outside.
The specials board was shown to us, with a slightly unnecessary explanation of what dauphinoise potatoes are (although helpful for some I am sure) and we were offered apéritifs, a Cosmopolitan for me and a Mojito for my guest (both £8.95).
We took a look at the menu while sipping our cocktails, which were both exactly as they should be – a flamed orange taste mingled with cranberry in mine and a fresh mint zing in the other.
To start I chose chicken liver parfait with grape chutney and toasted brioche (£6.95), and my companion went for the special of scallops with black pudding (£6.95).
The parfait was creamy and trimmed with butter, a nice change from the usual pot of butter you find next to your parfait, and the brioche warm and slightly sweet.
My guest said the scallop dish was full of flavour and well-thought out, with the black pudding chopped into small pieces and nestled under each scallop so you could easily pick both up with a fork for each mouthful.
To accompany our meal we chose a bottle of Macabeo, El Muro, a fresh and crisp white wine from Spain (£18 for the bottle, £4.95 for a 175ml glass), which was light with a fruity edge.
Our waiter Ryan was friendly and attentive, filling up our glasses just before they started to run thin.
For our mains, I decided to go for the fillet steak (£29.95), accompanied by a side of grilled garlic and chilli flat cap mushrooms (£3.50).
The thick steak, which the menu told me was dry-aged on the bone for a minimum of 28 days, was tender, cooked so it was pink in the middle (I had asked for it medium) and juicy to taste.
The mushrooms had more of a chilli taste than garlic, with the occasional sharp kick from a particularly firey chilli slice.
After nearly being swayed by The Mall Grill – a hefty platter of fillet steak, ½ lobster and tiger prawns (£33.50), my guest opted for an equally mean feat of The Mal Stack (£19.95).
A new addition to the menu, the stack is made up of a 250gram patty made from 28 day aged Donald Russell beef, Gruyère cheese, bacon, gem lettuce, onions, tomato, onion rings and a foie gras slider. Phew.
When it arrived he took a deep breath, branded it ‘intimidating’ and got stuck in.
Even our waiter admitted most people struggle to finish the dish, but my companion gave it a good go, polishing off everything except a little bit of the glazed sesame seed bun, and winning a ‘congratulations’ from our waiter.
The onion rings were a little greasy but, when he managed to catch his breath after devouring the stack, my guest said the meal was very tasty.
There were comparisons to Man vs Food for the size, probably not what Malmaison is going for, but the dish was of a much higher quality than anything presenter Adam Richman takes on across the pond.
It was served with chips and a tomato sauce which had a lovely smokey taste to it, one that I have never tasted before in other tomato-based sauces but would love to know how to recreate.
After a pause to relax after our mains we were presented with the dessert menu, myself choosing The Mal ‘Hot Chocolate’ and my guest the Late Victoria Plum and Cassis Crumble (both £5.95).
My pudding was another well-thought out dish, with white chocolate and vanilla ice cream in a hot chocolate style mug with marshmallows on top and a jug of hot chocolate sauce for pouring.
The marshmallows looked homemade and were fluffy and slightly sticky, and the chocolate sauce was rich with a slightly bitter chocolate taste.
It was a nice idea but the white chocolate made the ice cream a little too sweet for my tastes and I couldn’t finish it.
The crumble was homely and comforting for a cold November night and was served with a warm vanilla custard.
With our bellies full – particularly his after the stack – we slipped back into our coats and headed out into the night, although it was so cosy inside it was almost tempting to stay in the Malmaison haven for a bit longer.
- Telephone: 0118 956 2300
- Website: www.malmaison.com/locations/reading/
- Address: Malmaison
Great Western House
18-30 Station Road