Chez Mal – Malmaison, Newcastle
I remember when Malmaison opened on the Quayside, 20 years ago. Newcastle was very different then, and somewhere of this calibre opening was a big deal. It was *THE* destination for a fancy meal or night out at the time. Mal was a place that featured strongly in my early dating life as somewhere to go for anniversaries, and I was even proposed to after a meal there on the Millennium Bridge. I’d say that you couldn’t get a more Geordie proposal, but I bet someone has on the Tyne Bridge and celebrated with Greggs and a bottle of Broon afterwards 🙂
Anyway, that was a long time ago. I visited with Raf in Sept last year for Sunday Brunch and was saddened at how the mighty had fallen. The service was terrible, the food was only ok and the furnishings had seen better days. I remember returning from the Ladies & telling him that everything was in desperate need of a lick of fresh paint.
A few weeks ago my partner in cake crime Laura asked if I wanted a girlie night out and suggested we headed to Mal for a change of scene. After my previous experience I was wary, but she told me they had a 3-course special offer. I was feeling the pinch after car servicing/insurance/new tyres so thought it was worth giving it a shot.
As we walked in it became clear that we’d missed the memo about a refurbishment as everything was a little bit different. The layout had been altered back to how it was when the hotel opened originally, with the restaurant river facing and the bar at the rear. This was always more pleasant, in my opinion, and could never understand why they changed it in the first place.
We sat in the bar and ordered a glass of Prosecco while we waited for our table. The area was quite dark and loud, with a DJ playing loud ‘choons’. It felt a bit jarring at 6:30pm, especially considering the clientele. I wasn’t sure what the idea was behind this – to attract the younger folk? It was a bit early in the evening to be kicking the Friday night off!
We moved through to the dining area, which is lovely now. The refurbishment was evident here with new prints on the walls, lighting and furnishings. The only complaint we had were the lights kept flickering during our meal. The staff fiddled with the settings the whole time we were there, which made it feel like an impromptu disco. Clearly that was on a snagging list for the refurb team 🙂
The food was considerably better than my last visit. I ordered Thai Pumpkin Soup, which was delicious. It had some heat from the chilli, which worked well with the sweetness and creaminess. It was a mammoth portion and I worried I wasn’t going to have room for my ‘fancy’ Steak and Frites, which I’d ordered for main.
Laura ordered Prawn Cocktail, with the dressing served on the side as she’s following Slimming World at present. I wish I had her willpower. Any more cake & I should probably force myself to the gym!
We both decided on the Steak, and it is something I’ve consistently ordered when visiting the Mal. They always served fantastic cuts of meat, historically. I was disappointed at how fatty this was, which Laura agreed with. But, because of the price of the meal, we couldn’t complain too much about it.
Service was slow by this point as the restaurant was almost full, which meant we waited ages for the table to be cleared and to see what options there were for dessert. I also asked for another drink which they seemed to forget about. It was a shame as it had been pretty good until then.
I ordered Creme Brûlée, which is one of my absolute favourite desserts. It wasn’t quite up to the standard of The Silk Room’s version, but it was a good effort. I was absolutely stuffed by this point and not up to any more alcohol either, disappointingly. It was also 9:45 by the time we’d finished, which was a long meal for us. I think because of how busy Mal was it had delayed everything and, because I needed to dash back for Jnr, I ended up leaving poor Laura to settle the bill. Bad friend!
The offer we dined on is no longer available, but I believe it was £22 for 3 courses and a glass of wine. This was excellent value for money, especially with the quality of the food and portion sizes served to us. There are other options though, so check out their website. I was impressed by the refurbishment and am looking forward to returning to give their Sunday Brunch another try. It was a shame it had languished for so long, and pleased time and money has been invested in Mal to return it to its former glory.
Thanks for reading,