Achingly hip Clerkenwell has its fair share of fantastic restaurants, particularly if you are a carnivore, due to it proximity to the infamous Smithfield meat market. So any restaurant that wants to go the distance has to impress. Even more so a hotel restaurant as it needs to shine to bring people in and make them come back. The Malmaison London, on Charterhouse Square, does just that. It provides a comfy, intimate, subterranean setting to escape the madness of the city. The bar and restaurant are set in the cellars of the Victorian building which is not where you want to spend a sunny day but in this rainy weather or for a cozy evening, it is perfect.
I started the evening as I meant to go on… with a cocktail at the chic bar. The Garden of Eden (£8.25) is a refreshing combination of gin, lychee liquor, elderflower cordial, tree apple juice and cucumber – very easy to drink and not too sweet. There was no rush to go to our table but it wasn’t a particularly busy evening.
Moving through to the low-lit restaurant, it was a relaxed place that we were happy to eat and drink in until the wee hours. Warm rustic Italian style baguette served with a tapenade and butter was brought to the table – however the olive oil on the table was beautifully grassy and flavorsome, I preferred too have my bread with that and a pinch of salt.
To start I had the Pumpkin Ravioli with sage & pine nut butter (£7.95 for starters or £14.95 for main). The flavours were complex, rich and full, I tried not to eat it all as I wanted to ensure that I had room for main but I simply could not put down my fork! The Fritto Misto – scallops, squid and prawns with a lemon aioli – also looked fabulous.
The Brasserie is known for its grill so for main course I went for the Donald Russell aged-on-the-bone entrecote with Bearnaise sauce (£20.95) – a lovely cut full of flavour. Trying to be good I went for a side of spinach which was well seasoned and flavoured with lemon. Several of my dining companions opted for the Mal burger (£13.95) which looked amazing and apparently tasted just as good.
For dessert it was hard to go past the Valrhona chocolate brownie (£5.95) though I had left no room for the sweet treats to end the evening.
Head chef John Woodward’s passion for the best seasonal ingredients is apparent despite the simplicity of the menu. So if you want to combine an intimate evening in a comfortable surround that will get you out of the hustle and bustle of the city, look no further. And if you are too tired to make your way home, you can even get a room!
The Brasserie at Malmaison, 18-21 Charterhouse Square, London, EC1M 6AH – 020 7012 3700