Brasserie at Malmaison
18-21 Charterhouse Square, Islington, Central London, EC1M 6AH
Situated in a picturesque cobbled courtyard, just a stone's throw from Barbican tube station, is Malmaison, a luxurious boutique hotel housed in an imposing Victorian red brick building. Such an impressive setting provides an excellent backdrop for fine cuisine - and lovers of outstanding food cannot fail to be amazed when faced with Brasserie at Malmaison's expertly put together seasonal menu, created by head chef John Woodward. At the heart of the hotel is the Brasserie; the luxurious dining room is bedecked with sumptuous fabrics (think plush velvets and rich silks in jewellery-box hues), black chandeliers and a rather striking feature fireplace. Surrounded by such luxury, the scene is set for a memorable dining experience. Needless to say, service at Malmaison is faultless; the waiters are attentive without being in the least bit overbearing. After seating us in the dining room, our waiter brought us plenty of rustic bread and butter, as well as a delectable olive tapenade, which was so delicious I could have happily eaten the entire bowl. With starters like chicken liver and foie gras patéwith raisin chutney and toasted brioche, and Maldon smoked mackerel battling for my attention, I found myself feeling a little overwhelmed; but my salt and pepper squid with lime aioli proved an excellent choice. The squid was beautifully cooked, and the aioli added a pleasant tang to the dish. Mains might take the form of roast guinea fowl with confit leg, peas and bacon, and pan-fried sea bass with tomato, fennel, lemon and capers; I, however, could not resist the new season rack of lamb with spiced aubergines and garlic new potatoes. To finish, I opted for the steamed lemon sponge, paired with a fabulous blueberry compote and a creamy vanilla custard. Feeling a little more indulgent than usual, my guest and I ordered a chocolate and praline truffle cake with milk ice cream to share, which we enjoyed with our coffees. If, like us, you find it difficult to come to a decision when faced with Malmaison's dessert menu, why not order a trio of desserts 'façon du chef'; if you don't have a sweet tooth, perhaps order a selection of French and British cheeses, accompanied by walnut bread, biscuits and chutney. Brasserie at Malmaison is just the place for an intimate dinner with a loved one, but the lavish surroundings also lend themselves perfectly to a business meeting or dinner with colleagues. So, if you find yourself in Islington in need of a little indulgence, look no further than Malmaison.