We’re in the midst of my favourite season! Leaves are falling from the trees, covering the ground in a red and yellow blanket, the colder weather is an excuse to splurge on new boots and chunky knits, and best of all… North East restaurants have filled their new menus with delicious seasonal produce. What’s not to love?
Chez Mal Brasserie at Malmaison on Newcastle Quayside has created a rather special fixed price menu devoted to Autumn flavours and colours! They were kind enough to invite me and my guests to sample the delights of this menu and I couldn’t wait to check it out.
Malmaison has one of the most enviable locations in the whole of Newcastle. Chez Mal Brasserie is located on the first floor overlooking the Gateshead Millennium Bridge and the setting really has the wow factor. However, when I asked my friends and colleagues if they’d been recently, most said no. I think it falls off people’s radars because it’s inside a hotel but it’s well worth putting on your list of must visit restaurants because the food and service is head and shoulders above some of the more conspicuous options in the area.
So, let me tell you bit more about the Autumn fixed price menu… You can enjoy two courses for only £19.95 or three courses for £24.95 and it’s available for lunch Monday to Saturday and every evening till 7.30pm. There are four different options for starter, main course and dessert and I could happily have chosen by doing ‘Eeny Meeny Miney Mo’ and I would still have been pleased with the result, everything sounded delicious!
Instead, we spent about twenty minutes deliberating while taking advantage of Mal’s ‘Friday Fizz’ offer, a chilled bottle of prosecco is just £19.95 every Friday from 5pm to 8pm. It was so nice to be able to catch up with our lovely neighbours Martin and Carolina while leaving the stresses of the working week behind us.
In the end both Martin and I decided on the Scotch Egg for starter. It was a good choice, my yolk was bright and runny and the rich venison and black pudding was a welcome twist on this classic bar snack. The homemade apple sauce was a perfect accompaniment too and although James and Carolina said their starters of Pumpkin Soup and Autumn Salad were yummy, I definitely wouldn’t have swapped, in fact, I could happily eat that Scotch Egg again right now!
For main course, James and Martin went for Rabbit Pappardelle, but not before we had to ask what Pappardelle actually is! I had guessed that it might be a type of stew but our waiter informed us it was actually pasta, how wrong I was!
There was a generous amount of braised rabbit in among the ribbons of freshly cooked pasta and the flavours of white wine and mustard did well not to overpower the meat, a hearty dish that got a big thumbs up from the boys!
My main of Pumpkin Tortelloni looked rather small in comparison but what it lacked in size it more than made up for in flavour, it was simply divine! I nearly always order a meat dish for main course but I didn’t miss meat one bit while I tucked in to this.
Carolina was impressed with her main course of Pan-Fried Sea Bass. The presentation certainly upstaged the other dishes on the menu, none of us could fail to notice how tasty it looked. The skin of the fish was perfectly crispy and the rustic Italian broth it was served upon was full of colour and texture.
As the time whizzed by the restaurant started to fill up but service remained faultless. Our friendly waiter Don kept our glasses topped up throughout the evening and when it came to choosing desserts he went out of his way to talk us through his specialist subject… cheese!
Don described himself as a ‘Cheese Sommelier’ and I instantly had job envy! There was a mouthwatering array to choose from and we could have easily worked our way through them all. Luckily for the other diners in the restaurant, the fixed price menu includes ‘Malmaison’s Greatest Hits’. This features three of their most popular cheeses (Worcester Blue, Pont-l’Évêque Gillot Noir and Winslade which was a bit like Camembert) served with quince and chutney. We ordered two cheese desserts, a Steamed Treacle Sponge and a Poached Pear Crumble.
All the delicious desserts were beautifully presented and there was just enough time between courses to allow us to savour them without feeling too full. I noticed that there was no additional supplement for the cheese as is often the case so that was a pleasant surprise.
I think when James and I return to enjoy this menu again we’ll share a dessert and then ask for the cheese to be served as a fourth course to share as it really was the perfect end to the meal but my sweet tooth usually gets the better of me when I have to choose between cheese and a sugary dessert. Although on this occasion it was the poached pear that got my vote, I figured that was one of my five a day, right?
I’m sure it won’t be long before I return to Chez Mal. This menu represents excellent value for money and the luxurious setting made it all the more special. I’d recommend a Friday night visit too when you can make the most of the fab drinks offers like Fizz Friday and ‘Thank Mal it’s Friday’ but it’s probably best to book. Check out the website for full details: www.malmaison.com/locations/newcastle