Great Western House, 18-20 Station Road, Reading, RG1 1JX
On entering the Malmaison Hotel in Reading, you're immediately struck by the hotel's railway theme, with its tribute to the golden age of steam. The original building was purpose built as the Great Western Rail Hotel in 1844 by legendary railway engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and remained a hotel until the 1960s. The Malmaison Hotel group have now given this building a new lease of life, with its chic decor, gourmet food and plush bedrooms. As well as being an indulgent place to stay, Malmaison also has a Café, bar and brasserie, all open to the public throughout the day and evening. Continuing the railway theme, the brasserie and bar has framed photos of steam trains and bridges, but this is no meeting place for anoraks. This is everything you would expect from Malmaison - dark, sexy interiors, innovative design, unusual artwork, funky furniture and, of course, a sumptuous menu of decadent food. The brasserie menu is classically French-inspired but with a modern twist. The dishes are simple and prepared with passion using ethically-produced local ingredients. If settling in for a night of indulgence, there's no better way to start than with chicken liver and foie gras parfait with raisin chutney and toasted brioche, or choose a starter portion of one of the beautifully created pasta dishes. Move on to the likes of confit of duck with red cabbage and spiced comice pear, or a classic steak from the grill menu served with a choice of sauces. Choose to accompany your dish with tempting side dishes such as creamy dauphinoise potatoes, or rocket and tomato salad. With such a theme of self-indulgence, it wouldn't be right to miss dessert, so delve into steamed ginger pudding with rhubarb sorbet, or the wicked Valrhona chocolate fondant with pistachio ice cream. And that's not all, there's also the outstanding Café, which serves tasty takeaways and nibbles throughout the day. Whatever you're looking for, Malmaison offers it in a seductive setting and with superb service.