Sunday 7 December 2008

Malmaison Brasserie, Charterhouse Square, Farringdon, central London

Belonging to the Malmaison chain of smart boutique hotels, the brasserie is housed in the basement of a fine Victorian red-brick building - a former nurses' residence -overlooking a pretty cobbled courtyard. After entering through a grand white archway, you pass through a large ground floor reception decorated in dark, cool colours and head down the stairs to the slightly dingy brasserie, brightened only by a few skylights and the gleaming white tablecloths. Service by the young staff tends to be over-enthusiastic and the prices rather high. The main courses (around £17) are an unusual and contrived mix of two conventional meals, such as mildly-curried monkfish served with a clam chowder or roast saddle of rabbit, diced into anemic slices, accompanied by a stingy pot of shepherds pie and some slim orange and yellow carrots. The main courses typically need a side order of carbohydrate, such as a tray of creamy mash potato (£3.75) to fill them out. Deserts (about £6) include some respectable vanilla ice cream served with honey and a tepid chocolate sauce. Not surprisingly, Malmaison can be half-empty on a week day lunchtime as, unfortunately, you don't get what you pay for. 5/10