TÊTE-À-TÊTE DINING WITH A LUXURIOUS VIEW
Who knew? I’ve taken long walks around the Brighton Marina, taking in the stunning chalk cliffs and enviable view. The Marina has long held a special place in my heart as a somewhere you can escape to and forget the outside world and the hustle and bustle of Brighton. Then if you want, you can return to it, refreshed.
As the place to be seen on the weekend, I wouldn’t have expected Chez Mal Brasserie to have a sense of this solitary at all, but clearly a handful of lucky people are in the know about this secret location tucked inside a secret location, specifically the edgy, modernist inside of Malmaison, the Marina’s flagship luxury boutique hotel.
First Class Style
This alone doesn’t do justice the impact of the surprise, when arriving through the hotel’s discreet entrance, past colourful murals, hip sculptures, giant installations and the odd pair of Louboutins, you finally reach the grand Brasserie that is Chez Mal. Nor does it cover that jaw-dropping moment, when you see the size of the dining space and realise that the table with the stunning view of the Marina is actually for you.
Without exaggeration, Chez Mal is gorgeous.
Vast, adult and luxuriously comfortable, with chain curtains, Tom Dixon-esque copper fittings and low-hanging lamps, and stylish alcoves created by barely-there lattice walls. It is both elegant and upbeat. I get the feeling the early evening diners have somewhere genuinely exciting to be afterwards. I wish I knew where that was.
Now how often do we expect great service from a stylish-looking venue, only to be disappointed by overly-snooty waiting staff? Cara, our waitress, is the antidote to that kind of pointless formality. She epitomises the kind of service you find in high end members’ clubs – personable, attentive, helpful but ultimately, always professional. She chats us through the menu, “the scallops are also a good choice. The steak is excellent, but it would make sense to try one of our other signature dishes,” with exceptional knowledge. We feel welcome and trust her implicitly. We are in good hands.
Like many things at Chez Mal the wine list is refined yet simple. The well-selected showcase here is worthy of a top French Brasserie within a luxury hotel and holds that touch of New World glamour. There are staples – an Argentinian Malbec, a fresh and fruity Portuguese rosé – but there are exciting surprises too – a Royal Tokaji (Hungary) and a Cabernet Sauvignon from Ningxia, China. Yes, really!
We mill over Albariño and finally settle for a delicious sounding Gavi di Gavi from the Piedmont region. It’s so dry my mouth feels like the Sahara and just as I like it! Even the house wines are from Languedoc and come well-recommended. And many of Chez Mal’s wines are available in a handy 500ml demi-carafe, for those who want to drink a little less.
FRENCH BRASSERIE-STYLE COOKING
We decided that fresh bread could not be passed up and were delighted by a warm stonebaked Fougasse, which when pulled apart by hand released the fragrance of rosemary into the air, turning heads throughout the restaurant. It was accompanied by a black garlic aioli.
I’ll apologise now for what ensued but the promise of seafood was like a red flag to a bull. If I was vegetarian I’d have been beguiled by Mushroom & Truffle Arancini or Summer Pea & Courgette Broth – both fine-sounding examples of wholesome brasserie food.
SPRING VEGAN MENU
As I didn’t declare myself as vegan, vegetarian or a gluten free diner, staff at Chez Mal didn’t bother me with their dedicated Spring Vegan Menu or impart their intimate knowledge of gluten free options. A quick nose through a stolen menu revealed a huge array of dishes including Fregola pasta, a Squash Tagine with rose, coriander and apricot couscous, and delicious sounding animal-and-gluten-free chocolate fondants.
GREAT BRITISH MENU OPTIONS
It sounded so good I may have abandoned the pull of Pan Fried Sea Scallops, although they were seared perfectly with just the right hint of charring. With Samphire, olive tapenade and red pepper puree, they were fresh and inviting, like a glossy contender for The Great British Menu.
Crispy Tempura of Courgette, Calamari and Prawns was paired with chilli jam, a vegan version of which appears again on that Spring Vegan Menu sans the crème fraiche. Ahi Tuna Tartare was accompanied by pickled ginger, avocado and a healthy dose of wasabi, carefully placed on the side for those who don’t enjoy that comic little flare of the nostrils as the flavour hits.
The Crab & Sea Scallop Risotto arrived with more of those delicious scallops nestled on top. A cassoulet-like Sausage Stew was packed with tarragon and cumin. Carnivores must delight in an enormous range of aged steaks on offer. A retro-looking Pineapple & Coconut Cheesecake with a modern hint of Thai Basil arrived, followed by a Banana & Chocolate Crème Brulee, which succumbed perfectly to my spoon with a satisfying crrrack!
TRADITION OF GENEROSITY
Servings at Chez Mal are very generous in that New York diner-style way. They are so generous in fact that I had to take a big walk around the giant dining room to the huge terrace that stretches across the side of the hotel and looks out into the endless sea of yachts and clear blue water.
On my walk, I came across the private dining space which is an equally impressive affair and would surely provide a stylish solution for group celebrations – for those in the know. Sunday Lunch here is apparently a huge affair, with a Chef’s Table of delicious hors d’oeuvres and of course traditional British roasts.
INTIMATE BRITISH DINING
With enviable views, a buzzing atmosphere and huge selection of seasonal food and wine, Chez Mal Brasserie is a great introduction to relaxed British luxury dining without the snootiness of yesteryear. Menu options for sophisticated visitors and travellers are plentiful, and the setting and staff are so superbly discreet you’ll feel you and your guests are the only people there.
- Make a reservation on 01273 679799
- Read the Chez Mal feature page
- Check out the other restaurants at Brighton Marina