When you expect nothing but the best, think of The Malmaison group of hotels, a collection of centres of excellence, that has firmly established itself throughout Britain. 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.
Hidden behind a Victorian-brick façade in the cobbled courtyard of leafy Charterhouse Square you will find the atmospheric Malmaison London. An oasis of calm in the heart of trendy Clerkenwell yet on the edge of the Square Mile and just minutes away from the Barbican and Smithfield Markets - the best of all worlds. Architecturally superb, in its past life it served as a nurses' residence for St Bartholomew's hospital. The bedrooms are all that one would expect from a hotel that has genuine regard for its guests and is concerned with every aspect of their wellbeing.
The hotel has ninety-seven elegant rooms and one suite, all of which are great for business trips or luxury weekend breaks. A calm yet fresh milieu is created by the understated décor of lilac, dove and earth fabric tones.
Amidst elegant surroundings, with crisp linen, spotless gleaming glassware and shining cutlery, an essentially brasserie menu is offered. The original vaults have been opened up to provide for intimate dining spaces, while cosy corners with plumped silk and velvet cushions create a warm relaxed environment.
Lovers of seafood will be delighted to note at once that their particular needs are well heeded, starting with a delightful mussel, leak and saffron tart or a smoked haddock fishcake. Other choices that seldom fail to please include treacle cured salmon, squid, clam, chorizo and chickpea salad, the assiette of charcuterie, and the chicken liver and foie gras parfait.
Head Chef John Woodward and his team bring to the table inspired choices such as the roast monkfish tail, and braised lamb neck fillet served with carrot puree, cabbage and salsa verde, for those seeking by this time a slightly more carnivorous approach. Which leads us neatly to the - wait for it - Mal burger, a 250 grams burger made from ground beef tucked into a floured bap to join bacon and gruyere, 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 35 day aged rump steak frites and that's it - except for the chips. If you want all the rest go for the side dishes, but steak and chips on its own takes some beating. Vegetarians are well looked after - the sautéed wild mushroom and truffle risotto sounded appealing, and there is an excellent green salad as well.
Heading the puddings is the Malmaison vanilla crème brûlée, a triumph of timing and co-ordination, supported by other choices amongst which expect to find apricot and frangipane tart, chocolate fondant or a splendid crêpe suzette with Grand Marnier sauce.
Their 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.
Their Website is a wealth of information that will, I predict, only serve to increase your resolve to make Malmaison your next stop in London.
It is worth noting that you can also make reservations Online on their Website