It’s back to work today after an extremely eventful weekend and there’s one thing sticking in my mind – the wonderful stay at the Malmaison in Manchester on Friday evening. I was invited to try out the new restaurant and cocktail bar Smoak and Embers, along with an overnight stay. We arrived, threw our bags down and retreated to the buzzing restaurant. We were sat on a table for two right next to another couple who took great pleasure in listening to our conversation more than concentrating on their own. And despite taking pictures of the food themselves on a small compact digital camera, they looked gobsmacked when I got my DSLR out. Luckily they only ordered a main and were gone before our mains arrived.
Malmaison Manchester is situated in the heart of Manchester, literally a stones throw away from Piccadilly station and I get the feeling that Smoak is a destination restaurant in it’s own right, rather than just the usual run of the mill hotel restaurants. Having visited the London Malmaison and enjoyed my meal at the restaurant there, the two differ somewhat. I hate to use the words cool and trendy but that is pretty much a good way to describe Smoak. Old hessian coffee sacks line the windows and old crates line the partitions between the seating areas. There is even a beautiful old gas pump sitting in the entrance. The menu isn’t half bad either. As we had been awake for 17 hours by the time we sat down to eat, we weren’t ravenous so ordered a main each, a side and a salad to share. I opted for the special of slow cooked lamb with cheddar mash and a redcurrant jus (£17). Jack went for the peppercorn seared tuna with bok choi and a butternut squash hash brown (£16.50). We shared a side of tenderstem broccoli with a hazelnut crumb (£3.25) and a caprese salad with heritage tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella (£6).
But that was after a few Cornish oysters (£2.75 each), of course, which were delicious as always. The lamb was very tender and the mash creamy, although I didn’t even get a hint of cheddar. The tender stem broccoli was cooked perfectly with just the right amount of crunch and I loved the addition of the hazelnuts. The tuna was perfectly seared and the sweet butternut squash hash brown contrasted well with the fiery peppercorn crust. I couldn’t help thinking that some kind of dressing would have worked well though, perhaps a honey soy. The caprese salad was a delight – the mozzarella smooth, creamy, gooey and the tomatoes firm, juicy and sweet.
We managed to save a little room for dessert and after a quick glance at the menu decided on the baked New York cheesecake (£6) and the profiteroles with ice cream (£6). When they arrived, we picked up our spoons, delved in and indulged. Unfortunately my cheesecake was a big disappointment – since having one at Pizza East in Portobello, I’ve been ordering cheesecake left, right and centre. Smoak’s version wasn’t a patch – the base soggy and the top underwhelming. The profiteroles were ok but not a huge amount better. I thought that they would be similar to a dessert that I ordered at Bistro du Vin in Clerkenwell, alas no. A slight disappointment after such a lovely meal.
Struggling to keep our eyes open, we were invited to have a cocktail in Embers, a delightful little cocktail bar off the back of Smoak. We arrived to see the barman shaking cocktails for a couple canoodling in a dimly lit corner and another couple also fresh from a dinner table not too far from us. After perusing the most fantastic cocktail menu I think I’ve ever seen, I settled for a fizz with pomegranate and dragonfruit. Being a huge fan of grapefruit, jack ordered one called The Criterion and it was sweet, delicious and almost too easy to drink. At first the bar felt a bit quiet and I was conscious that we could all hear each other’s converstaions but as soon as another group came in and filled the space, we felt that we had a bit more privacy.
After one cocktail, we retired to the most comfortable beds I have ever known in a hotel. The rooms at Malmaison are roomy, and extremely comfortable – each has a chaise lounge, a flat screen TV, a docking system, dressing gowns and slippers. Ok, so it’s not TOTAL luxury but there is air conditioning for those hot nights, feather duvets and pillows for extra comfort and a huge bed fit for a king!
After a 10 hour sleep, we were down for breakfast. Malmaison has a consistent breakfast menu across all of the hotels, which I rather like. We opted for eggs benedict and took advantage of the freshly cooked pastries, fresh fruits and juices before setting off on a tour around Manchester for the day. After having stayed at two Malmaison hotels, each different in their own right, I have got the Malmaison bug and I can’t wait to see what other cities have to offer.
Rooms at Manchester Malmaison start from £119 per night.
Food For Think was a guest of Malmaison Manchester.