REVIEW: The new Autumn menu at Chez Mal in Edinburgh
about 1 year AGOIain Fenwick
I was having a chat with a friend last week who had recently visited a restaurant in Edinburgh. I asked how their meal was and their answer… “it was fairly run of the mill, what you expect from a hotel restaurant”. I kind of understood what they meant, but I think more recently some hotels have made a very positive effort to change that perception, and really improve their food and beverage offering so their restaurant appeals to non-residents. Malmaison hotels are a case in point. They have taken some risks, tried a few different ideas, some have worked, some haven’t, but you can see there has been a vast improvement in their restaurant over the last few years.
I was invited to dinner at Chez Mal in Edinburgh last week, joined by a few fellow foodies including Ailsa Harper from Edin Eats and Emma Loane, Sales and Events Manager at Malmaison Edinburgh. Their Winter menu is not long launched, and this was an evening I was looking forward to. As you do when you visit Chez Mal, you start at the bar and go from there. The cocktails at Chez Mal Bar are always rather good, so it would be a waste of a visit were you not to try at least one! That being said, I am not very adventurous when it comes to cocktails, my go to is a Mojito and that is what I ordered. It may be a simple classic, but it was made very well.
The new winter menu has many of the dishes you would expect to see at this time of year. A good seasonal choice of classics like an ‘Autumn Soup’, ‘West Country Lamb’, ‘Coq au Vin’ etc. There is a definite classic French/modern Scottish mix. There are also a couple of interesting dishes to see like ‘Eggs Benedict’ and a ‘Spiced Falafel & Chickpea Burger’. To start with I chose the ‘Game Croquette, Venison, Guinea Fowl, Duck & Pheasant, Apricot, Apple & Cranberry Salad,’ followed by the catch of the day, which on this day was a ‘Stone Baked Sea Bream’, and to finish off I had my first ever ‘Baked Pumpkin Pie with Maple Cream.’
Venison, Guinea Fowl, Duck, Pheasant, all together in one single croquette, a very intense and deep combination of flavours! It really worked well, the crispy breadcrumbs of course always provide a taste of childish luxury, but more than that it helped cut through and separate the flavours. The apricot was a different addition to the norm, the deeper flavour of the apricot and the sharpness of the apple provided a wonderful contrast and as a dish this was very tasty.
Sea Bream is a beautifully light and flaky fish, with a delicate flavour slightly sweeter than the Bass. In my opinion, when you are eating such a wonderful fish then the less is more approach is the road best taken. There are chefs in Scotland like Neil Forbes and Jak O’Donnell that champion the less is more approach. They use quality ingredients and cook them well. The result is delicious. Of course, it’s not quite as simple but you get what I mean. I was delighted to see this approach taken by the chef at Chez Mal. The fish was beautifully cooked accompanied by a small dish of butter with potatoes as a side and some autumn greens. Perfect as a fish dish, uncomplicated, full of flavour, nice and light, quite honestly it is impossible to fault.
Initially I was going to pass on my pudding, however, as mentioned I have never eaten ‘Pumpkin Pie’ before and felt it was something I should remedy. I am not a big dessert fan, I tend to go with a nice light panna-cotta if I do indulge, so a Pumpkin Pie with Maple Cream sounded like it might be quite heavy going. I didn’t know what to expect, I had no idea how a Pumpkin Pie was made. When it arrived, it looked rich and inviting, however I knew after one mouthful I was not going to manage much more. Don’t get me wrong, it was tasty, but wow was it heavy going. There was an obvious presence of evaporated milk and sugar, the other flavours trying to come through were nutmeg and cinnamon. Very festive and I am sure if you like that sort of thing then this dessert will be right up your street. I managed another mouthful before I offered my white napkin as my flag of surrender.
Yet again Chez Mal had delivered. The quality of the ingredients were good, the creativity of the menu was exciting, and the execution of the dishes was excellent. It’s difficult to find fault with what I ate, I may have played it safe but I chose what I like and I liked what I ate. Of course, the menu is the same at Chez Mal in Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen, so you don’t have to travel to Edinburgh to enjoy this menu. It is definitely a restaurant you should go to, and make sure you make some time to visit the bar afterwards and enjoy a few Malchemy cocktails!
Chez Mal website: https://www.malmaison.com/locations/edinburgh/chez-mal-brasserie
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