Last weekend was hideously grey and rainy in London so it was a welcome relief to arrive as a guest at the Malmaison hotel. Situated near Smithfields market in a leafy corner of Clerkenwell, amongst the quaint pubs and bars, this boutique hotel is just two minutes walk from Barbican and Farringdon stations.
The charming Victorian red brick facade of the Malmaison stood out even through the drizzle with an alluring but understated elegance. The reception area was alarmingly quiet, decorated luxuriously with dark velvet, an interesting contrast to the lighter exterior. We were quickly and efficiently checked in and taken to our allocated room.
Our room was gloriously light, large windows overlooking the street, a chaise longue adding a discreet sophistication. Clean, spacious and very comfortable, with all the necessities and more: a large plasma screen TV, well equipped mini bar, generous toiletries, and a huge cosy bed. After a busy weekend I was happy to slump down and watch ‘Stuart Little’ which happened to be on TV!
At 7pm we wandered down to the Brasserie to have a cocktail before supper. Low moody lighting offers a calm ambience and it would be an easy place to socialise. A smiling waiter immediately approached us with complimentary salty pistachios, and olives to nibble while we chose our cocktails from the vast list. I wouldn’t expect expert mixologists at a hotel, but Malmaison has it covered, a delicious and unique menu of concoctions, it was impossible to choose just one. Eventually we decided on Bajan Mojito (Bacardi, passoa, vanilla gomme, fresh passion fruit, lime juice and mint leaves) and Garden of Eden (bloom gin, lychee liqueur, elderflower cordial, apple juice and cucumber) - both were divine, carefully mixed flavours to create refreshing, appetizing drinks.
The restaurant at Malmaison London is modern and inviting, we opted for one of the better lit tables as I prefer to eat in brighter lighting. The dinner menu, though not very adventurous, has a varied choice of British dishes, including a particularly enticing ‘Grill’ section. All the meat here is supplied by Donald Russell - grass fed and naturally reared beef. Impressed by the standards we chose the Mal Burger and the 35 day old Rump Steak frites, as our mains.
Fresh warm bread was delivered to our table, with a bottle of the house white. We were then promptly brought our starters: Pea, mint and goat’s cheese salad, and an Asparagus salad. Both were neatly presented and made with the freshest ingredients. My pea salad felt healthy and was an ideal choice before my rich and filling main. The burger was fantastic, every component cooked to perfection and full of flavour. I am a very picky chip eater and am pleased to report that these too were far above average - thin, crispy and lightly salted, I couldn’t help greedily finishing them off. Every sauce and relish you could ever desire was delivered to us without request from our very thoughtful waiter. Pudding came too soon, and I only managed to taste a mouthful of each of the plates we’d ordered: Malmaison Vanilla Creme Brulee and Rhubarb and Ginger Parfait. The parfait married tart and sweet, a lovely juxtaposition of tastes; but it was the brulee that really excelled, a lusciously creamy dessert tinged with real vanilla and accompanied by the most perfect warm madeleine cake. We declined the kind offer of coffee, and stumbled upstairs to rest after the feast. It was lovely to come back to our homely room. I used the complimentary Arron Aromatics bath oil to run myself a lavish bubbly bath before slipping into a deep sleep in the lovely bed.
After a refreshing night’s rest and a power shower we went back down to the Brasserie, but not before grabbing the free Telegraph newspaper left outside our door. Breakfast was perhaps the highlight of the stay for me: an array of delicious fresh pastries, fruit, yoghurt, cereal, everything you could ever wish for, along with a menu of smartly designed hot breakfasts. I couldn’t resist indulging (despite still feeling rather full from supper the night before!) I noticed that many businessmen (not staying in the hotel) were also breakfasting here, obviously the reputation of the Brasserie alone is growing, and rightly so. I’d certainly prefer this banquet over the Pret down the road.
Speaking to a friendly member of the staff about our stay, we discussed the other Malmaison venues, he explained that each hotel very much has its own character...for instance the Oxford Mal is an 'enchanting' old converted prison and the Belfast branch used to be a seed warehouse. The London hotel boasts its own character and appeal - ideal for those staying in the city who wish to avoid the chaotic rush and rip off prices of Central London, and instead relax in a luxurious haven.
Malmaison, Charterhouse Square, London EC1M 6AH (020 7012 3700; www.malmaison-london.com)