New ‘Home Grown and Local’ menu
Dinner for two with wine and mineral water £69.00
Malmaison, 1 Swinegate,Leeds, LS1 4AG Tel: 0113 398 1000 for brasserie reservations.
Lunch 12pm – 2.30pm Dinner Mon – Sat 6pm – 11pm Sunday Brunch 12pm – 3pm
While other hotels in Leeds were still swathed in chintz, the opening of Malmaison nine years ago was a blast of fresh air. Hailed as sexy and super-stylish many copied, but only a few have created the same impression. The French-themed brasserie has equally remained a stalwart on the Leeds dining scene, serious food and even more serious wine.
Those in charge though clearly thought it was time for a shake up, but what? It wasn’t broken and certainly didn’t need fixing. Ah, thought some bright spark, what about this thing of using local food that everyone’s into? The new ‘Home Grown and Local’ menu was devised, only unlike most, Mal wasn’t about to replace their existing menu but serve it alongside.
Confusing for the customer? I was about to find out.
The tables in the brasserie are quite small. Two large menus balanced on my knee, a small folder which turned out to be the wine list and barely enough light to see my husband across the table is a little irritating. But a lovely smiling waiter bearing a delicious New Zealand sauvignon blanc and platter of crusty bread, butter and tapenade quickly soothed it.
There are three choices of starter, mains and puds and at £13.50 for two courses and £15.50 for three is exceptionally good value. The margins of the menu give brief details of the suppliers including their contact details, and showed some Yorkshire favourites; Bleikers Smokehouse, Yorkshire Game, Low Lease Organics, Shepherds Purse and Swaledale cheese and Oldroyds Rhubarb among them.
Ballontine of black pudding and an apple salad was a delightful starter. The chunky pudding was densely flavoured with a crumbly texture, the crunchy apple salad zingy and fresh. A robust smoked haddock and watercress tart was good solid Yorkshire fare. The pastry on the tart so wafer thin I was surprised it could hold the filling, it did and yet crumbled at the precise moment it needed to, a work of art!
Kilnsley Park Trout Farm supplied the two meaty fish fillets for the next course, with Puy lentil, warm spinach and walnut salad. Bursting with freshness there was no bad conscience eating food this healthy and good.
A vegetarian main course of roasted Kohl Rabi filled with Swaledale cheese and roasted peppers shone equally with freshness and clean flavour, though the blue cheese did dominate leaving the pepper struggling to hold its own.
Only one pudding was needed after the food devoured and what an excellent choice we made. Orange tart, caramel and balsamic ice-cream was by far the best pudding I have eaten in a long time. The magician of a pastry chef had been at work again only this time I think the pastry was even thinner. The orange filling was a refreshing change from the overused lemon. To-die-for ice-cream had the sweetness of the caramel cut though with the balsamic, very clever. It was difficult to see how this dish fit with the localness of the menu, but frankly I didn’t care.
For me this idea of a separate local menu worked very well. Rather than losing local ingredients within a menu, separating them out allows them to shine and the freshness of flavour to stand out. Plus, we get to go home feeling a little smug. Not only having dined well we have done our bit to support Yorkshire producers and helped the planet by not choosing food that has travelled thousands of miles to reach our plate.