Malmaison, The Mailbox

There’s so much to celebrate about Birmingham’s food scene and there seems to be an exciting new launch every week, so it’s easy to forget the old gems. Malmaison is one of those that we’d let slip for a while, so we thought we’d address it. A new menu seemed an ideal excuse.

Firstly, in true Malmaison style, the menu design is a winner and had us at first peek. Minimalist, chic and with great food photography, everything appealed. It wasn’t style over substance either. Full of inventive dishes as well as the classics, we were won over big time.

The only problem with top notch food photography is the pressure to make the dish in real life live up to that. We ordered a chicken satay and roasted squash noodle soup to start whose lip-smacking image featured on the menu and website. In reality, it looked like a different dish, however, it tasted unbelievable. Shredded chicken, toasted peanuts, coriander and spring onion served in a tasty broth was warming and moreish. A pot of red chilli paste/sauce served separately was seriously fiery, so we’d advise caution. Less is more. A small amount was enough for us adding a perfect amount of heat. Such a good dish.

A salt beef and confit pork terrine, with mushrooms a la grecque and burnt onion purée looked a treat. The accompaniments were better than the main event which, without the punchy purée would have been a bit bland, but maybe that’s the balance. Miso glazed short rib of beef fell off the bone and just melted served with a zingy carrot and orange purée and radish salad. We ordered triple-cooked fat chips as a side which were superb. The highlight was a crab & scallop risotto. With fresh white crab meat, crab bisque, samphire and pan seared scallops, this was a perfect risotto in our book. Far too big for one, but perfect.

Dessert was winking. A pineapple upside down cake with rum, caramel and coconut sorbet hit the spot nicely, while a sticky poached pear, raspberry and frangipane tart inspired much cooing. As well as the food, the cracking wine list deserves a nod as does the service which was attentive and knowledgeable. It’s also far enough from that market to pretend it’s not happening. We won’t leave it so long next time.

CHEZ MAL, Malmaison, The Mailbox, 1 Wharfside Street, Birmingham, B1 1RD. Tel: 0121 794 3004