As I nosed the glass of wine in front of me and took a sip, it occurred to me how proud my 19-year-old self would have been. I still remember my first ‘nice’ restaurant experience with my then-boyfriend (now Husband) as I became completely perplexed over the order in which to use the cutlery, and why only the tiniest drop of wine had been poured into my glass! 11 years down the line and a few lovely restaurants later, I’m a bit better versed in dining etiquette, but it still always feels a complete luxury to eat deliciously prepared food in gorgeous surroundings.
I’m delighted to say that my recent visit to the newly refurbished Chez Mal Brasserie was one of those experiences. Until the end of 2018, the restaurant inside Malmaison Cheltenham had maintained its classic leather seating and green metro tiling, in place since its reign as The Montpellier Chapter.
While the décor didn’t really fit with Malmaison’s quirky yet luxurious brand back then, it certainly does now. The extended kitchen area is now adorned with a grey Mondrian-inspired feature wall; Marble table tops cover the plush purple and grey velour seating; and large artworks featuring unusual themes from wild flowers through to arctic lorries bedeck the walls.
To start I opted for eggs muerette, featuring poached eggs, pancetta, mushroom, silverskin onion and toasted sourdough. A generously sized portion, the meal is best described as brunch in a bowl. My friend chose the winter salad, combining fried halloumi with shaved fennel, pomegranate, roasted squash and sourdough croutons. Both were deliciously seasoned, with the winter salad being a perfect mix of salty and sweet.
For the main I selected the signature Cotes du Boeuf steak served medium-rare. It was advised that I order a few sides to accompany this mammoth piece of steak, and Chez Mal’s helpful staff recommended the truffle and parmesan fries and the glazed carrots and parsnips. My friend, a vegetarian, chose the spiced falafel burger with grilled Romano peppers, Harissa mayonnaise and fries. She said the mayo was incredible, working perfectly with the spiced falafel; and also chuckled at the cheeky dish the chips were served in, emblazoned with the phrase ‘for your fries only.’
Despite the menu stating the steak dish was a 450g cut, I hadn’t quite considered how enormous it would be once presented in front of me. This behemoth of a dish was beautifully salted, incredibly tender and cooked to perfection, with each melt-in-the-mouth forkful leading to audible satisfaction from my side of table!
To end our feast we shared the Valhrona dark chocolate mousse with honeycomb, cocoa nib tuile and crème fraiche. This dessert was incredible value for money at £6.50, being the ideal size for two to share, due to its rich and intense chocolate flavours, it perfectly provided the sweetness I craved after a meaty main.
While the restaurant’s manager Isabella advised that service had been slightly slower while the kitchen and waiting team worked through teething troubles in their new environment, we didn’t notice a particularly long wait between courses, despite a couple of large groups also being present during the night of our visit.
Customer service was exquisite from our server Lidia, who maintained the perfect blend of welcoming humour and professionalism, ensuring that we relaxed into an enjoyable evening.
While there are a number of vegetarian options in the main a la carte menu, Malmaison also offers a completely vegan menu, including a number of its popular dishes and desserts, recreated with vegan ingredients.
Visiting on this occasion with a vegetarian, we remarked how great it was to see a dedicated vegan menu, giving so much more choice to both vegetarians and vegans.
By Melissa Hamblett
Tuesday 05 March 2019
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