Not just in the physical aspects of this vibrant city, Newcastle has changed, in some places almost beyond recognition. Down on the riverfront within easy reach of the
Millennium bridge, Tate of the North, the Sage Music Centre and Baltic Mills contemporary Arts Centre is another major conversion, the award-winning Malmaison. This one-time cooperative warehouse was formerly a storage facility for grain and cotton from the bustling river trade of the Tyne.
The Malmaison group of hotels has established throughout Britain a collection of centres of excellence where nothing but the best will do. As a concept alone this is exciting, but the reality is brilliant, so that at last there is a hotel group where uniformity of standards is of the same high calibre.
Their 122 bedrooms, which include 14 lavish suites, are exactly what one would expect from a hotel that has genuine regard for its guests and is concerned with every aspect of their wellbeing. Most of them have fantastic views of the River Tyne and the spacious suites on the Chateau floor have personal lounges and little touches like wine and nibbles. The Ark Royal suite, named after the famous WW2 aircraft carrier, exemplifies sheer indulgence with twin baths and two flat screen TVs.
At the hotel's heart is a lively brasserie with strong French influences at play and a widely spread menu that delivers something for everybody. This brasserie is striking and moody with innovative designs and the use of bold colours and decadent fabrics - seductive and alluring rich leather banquettes and chairs are both comfortable and indulgent, while the solid wood table tops and leather place settings are positioned within discreet bays.
Hand tailored paint work of gold and purple curve theatrically toward the candle lit stairway, the top steps of which lead through a heavy velvet drape of rich crimson and once beyond that you enter the intimate and inviting atmosphere, which is the Brasserie. Amidst these elegant surroundings, with spotless gleaming glassware and shining cutlery, an essentially, but not exclusively, brasserie menu is offered by Head Chef Drew Heron and his team.
Lovers of seafood will be delighted to note that their particular needs are well heeded, starting with a delightful halibut with herb crust and creamed leeks or papillotes of sole salmon. Brasserie dishes such as monkfish with chorizo and butter beans rarely fails to please, and a terrine of pheasant is topped with a wild mushroom dressing.
An inspired choice is the chicken Kiev, with roast loin of venison for those seeking by this time a slightly more carnivorous approach. Which leads us neatly to the - wait for it - Mal burger, a 250 gram burger made from ground beef tucked into a floured bap to join bacon and Gruyère, served with homemade relish and some fries.
Over the years the number of outriders surrounding a good honest steak on the plate has grown to unacceptable dimensions. At Malmaison the thought and care is centred on the dry-aged on-the-bone rump and that's it - except for the chips. If you want all the rest go for the side dishes, but steak and real chips on its own takes some beating. Vegetarians are well looked after - the pumpkin and gorgonzola filled gnocchi sounds appealing.
Heading the desserts is the sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce, a triumph of timing and co-ordination, supported by other choices amongst which expect to find a citrus pannacotta, spicy berry compote or splendid chocolate financiers with Clementine sorbet.
The wine list is a symphony of its kind, clearly compiled by an enthusiast who knows his wines well enough not to disappear into a world of hyperbole when describing them.
is a wealth of information that will, I predict, only serve to increase your resolve to make Malmaison your next stop in Newcastle. It is worth noting that you can also make reservations Online on their Website.