Restaurant Review: Malmaison Brasserie (Chez Mal), Manchester

Malmaison Manchester – Birthday Brasserie at Chez Mal

Organising a Saturday night group booking in Manchester was a surprising pain in the derriere. Despite the plethora of culinary hotspots the fine city offered, it became oddly frustrating: El Gato Negro (no bookings), Refuge By Volta (limited tapas menu), The Hawksmoor (hates vegetarians), Mr Cooper’s (no availability), Iberica (brilliant, but went recently), Manchester House (too expensive)…Then, down a dreary Piccadilly, the shimmering mirage of Malmaison Brasserie rose from the horizon and my anxiety washed away in the rain.

On paper, Malmaison Manchester ticked the boxes required for a 30th birthday, with a party of foodies. It appeared suitably ambient, dark and sophisticated, while the menu was diverse, interesting and not extortionate. Chez Mal menu looked pleasingly premium without being too expensive to alienate a large group of ordinary people.

On arrival, Chez Mal Manchester was gently buzzing away. Men in jackets and ladies in denial of Manchester’s Baltic conditions filled the space. My large party didn’t register a flicker of emotion with the staff, and I slouched to the bar without anyone noticing. Some bourbon-based beverages were mixed together with too much sugar and not enough rapport.

We slipped to the large, awkwardly shaped and oddly positioned tables in anonymity and given only the Al La Carte and Wine List in silence – The Chez Mal Set Menu was mysteriously withheld. Some well-chilled dry white wine arrived in a laboured manner, sluggishly followed by fresh bread, served with the panache of a prison officer issuing their least favourite death row inmate’s last meal.

To start, the tuna tartare was elegantly presented with sophisticated, vibrant flavour combinations – if only there was more of it. The duck ragu soup could have passed for a school canteen’s Sponge Pudding; fortunately, it was delicious. Despite its suspiciously beige, lumpy demeanour, the depth of flavour and balance of seasoning was superb. One guest was allergic to prawns, and so asked for the tempura calamari and prawns to be adapted – this was ingeniously accommodated by serving half the starter at the full price. The smell of the spatchcock quail made my pescetarian mouth water with jealousy. The dead bird was wonderfully smoked without it drying out, with the pomegranate providing an exotic touch.

For mains, the lobster risotto was suitably al dente, with well-formed, proud standing arborio, draped in well seasoned, rich stock. Unfortunately, the dish was lacking lobster and thus its raison d’etre. The fleshy morsel placed on top was really only a delicious garnish. The venison was an excellent autumnal thing – well rested, properly seared and satisfyingly meaty. I also had it on good authority the Chez Mal burger managed a respectable account of itself.

For desserts, the chocolate fondant was a black hole of sensual cocoa, which I liked so much it was embarrassing. Finally, the gooey le fromage tray sluttily spread itself everywhere and as good as any I can remember. In keeping with the muted rapport, I wasn’t advised what constituted it – unfortunate, as this was Malmaison Manchester’s highlight.

Like most chain hotel restaurants, I suggest Malmaison Manchester offers decent food in good locations for punters with expense accounts. For date nights or more special occasions, I’d look elsewhere.

Chez Mal, Manchester Malmaison
Review Summary

Atmosphere 6  Cost 5  Quality 8  Service 3

Malmaison Manchester Restaurant Review
My Kind of Love Note
Malmaison Manchester Restaurant Review
Zingy Flavours & Stingy Portions
Malmaison Manchester Restaurant Review
Grilled Spatchcock Quail
Malmaison Manchester Restaurant Review
Slow Roast Highland Venison Steak
Malmaison Manchester Restaurant Review
Lobster Risotto
Malmaison Manchester Restaurant Review Chez Mal Food Blog Post
Valrhona Dark Chocolate Fondant
Malmaison Manchester Restaurant Review
Chez Mal Le Fromage Tray

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Malmaison Manchester

Restaurant Review: Su Tzilleri e le Cantine, Cagliari

Su Tzilleri e le Cantine – Scary Sardinian Supper

Visit Su Tzilleri e le Cantine for unpretentious, informal Sardinian food, rich in both history and flavour. If you seek something else, Sardinia won’t be your island, let alone Su Tzilleri your trattoria.

Choosing the taster menu, I naively brought only one stomach. Don’t bother with lunch beforehand and only pencil in tomorrow’s breakfast. Never before had I been intimated by a pending main course. Su Tzilleri e le Cantinea didn’t sell meals but character building challenge. The realisation I’d eaten too much came as I struggled to breathe. Mercifully, my partner’s inhaler rescued me, despite not being asthmatic.

Now I see why Italians are so fusilli fussily protective of their pasta. The Culurgiones (Sardinian Ravioli) with goats cheese, tomatoes and mint were perfection. A minimalist celebration of summer on a plate. Seeing the tomatoes basking in the sun outside, was iconic as it was romantic. The antipasti produced cured wafer thin lamb so good it would be illegal in England. Ensuing Su Tzilleri e le Cantinea highlights included delicious rabbit, tasting like a gym-obsessed chicken pampered in luxurious oils, and a perfectly balanced, angelically light tiramisu. All washed down with local Cannonau and Barbera which was embarrassingly rambunctious for its frugal price point.

Dining wasn’t faultless; meatballs yearned for seasoning, rigatoni flirted with being raw, plates were cold, and the menu didn’t always match what arrived. However, all this can be forgiven when the same euros in Milan only get you some prosecco and a scowl.

Su Tzilleri e le Cantinea haphazard, customer is always wrong philosophy of Italian service wouldn’t survive in England. I didn’t suggest the dishes weren’t strictly as ordered, for fear of a skillet-wielding emotional chef. However, the food was so memorable I had no right to complain. Walking out into the warm, clear Sardinian night I was disorientated, shell-shocked but jubilant. Su Tzilleri e le Cantine served a truly memorable dinner and provided bagged-up bunny for brunch to boot.

Su Tzilleri e le Cantine
Review Summary

Atmosphere 9    Cost 9   Quality 9    Service 4

Su Tzilleri e le Cantine: Soaking Up The Sunshine
Su Tzilleri e le Cantine: Soaking Up The Sunshine
Restaurant Review Su Tzilleri e le Cantine
Exceptional quality antipasti
Restaurant Review Su Tzilleri e le Cantine
Leftover rabbit boxed up and reheated for brunch!

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(Cagliari)

Restaurant Review: Ristorante Luigi Pomata, Cagliari

Ristorante Luigi Pomata – Poor Attempt At Fine Dining

Foodies visiting Cagliari (or Sardinia) for the first time, will, as I, fall in love with the food. It is simple, fresh and delicious. It is food that has been sun-kissed, honest, and direct from the land and her people – precisely the kind of food lacking from British mid-week dinner tables. It speaks volumes of the Sardinian culture and should be celebrated; however, presentation is rarely considered, menus are incredibly insular in technique and ingredient, and restaurants rarely expect guests in anything smarter than T-shirts. Ristorante Luigi Pomata on paper provided a refreshing, modern alternative.

Unfortunately, Ristorante Luigi Pomata was the worst kind of restaurant: it thought it was sophisticated, but wasn’t. The only thing worse than a snob is an inept snob. I can only assume Luigi saw Michelin star restaurants on TV and tried to emulate them without leaving the house.

Luigi Pomata’s staff for all their running around and snooty faces were entirely unintuitive and inefficient – as though Italy’s declined industry was paralleled in the dining room. The atmosphere, unless eating shortly before sunrise, is non-existent. I find our continental cousins evening dining habits strangely sophisticated, so arrived when it was suitably dark outside. Still, it was quieter than lunch in Islamabad cafes during Ramadan. I’m English; admittedly, but wasn’t staggering in, chanting “Vindaloo, Vindaloo!” I had the decency to turn up before midnight, yet received less rapport than on my driving test.

In Italy, the idea of pushing the boundaries of flavour is daringly swapping oregano for rosemary on focaccia. At least Ristorante Luigi Pomata was serving unique dishes for a 100-mile radius. That said, never eating octopus and chickpeas together won’t keep me up at night. The food, although thoughtfully presented, was largely style over substance; however, the quality of ingredients was self-evident across all dishes.

Ristorante Luigi Pomata thought it should only sell food, not ambience. At least their extra dry Prosecco is as good as a champagne three times its price in England.

Ristorante Luigi Pomata Review Summary

Atmosphere 2    Cost 3    Quality 7    Service 2

Ristorante Luigi Pomata Restaurant Review
Swordfish & Mozzarella
Ristorante Luigi Pomata Cagliari Restaurant Review
Octopus & Chickpeas
Ristorante Luigi Pomata Cagliari Restaurant Review
Tuna & Vegetables

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(Cagliari)