It's not often that an eating establishment comes to my attention through nothing but compliments. Usually, there's a mix of promising feedback interspersed with the occasional bad review that I'm willing to overlook to give the place a go. Malt, on the other hand, had an untarnished track record. I heard rave reviews from everyone who'd been there.
Last Friday night, Marc and I visited Malt for a late dinner. I had made the booking online ages ago but didn't get a comfirmation call so I rang to check if the booking had gone through. It hadn't but luckily that was easily ammended over the phone.
Malt is located through a small entranceway in an old-fashioned brick building. Add a suited bouncer at the door and you get a very exclusive feel to the place. We entered and saw a bar area at ground level. The restaurant is located in the 'attic' up a set of stairs on the left.
As petite as the entrance was, the dining area upstairs is sizeable. The space is divided by some open brick archways. In fact, the brick facing is carried out throughout the room and that, in combination with the wooden stools and dim lighting gives the restaurant an intimate den-like feeling. The presence of windows and a high vaulted ceiling prevents any feelings of crampedness. A grand piano near the bar exudes elegance. The decor was at once rustic and intimate.
The menu at Malt comprises of entrees, mains and plenty of desserts. I'm currently attempting to cut out sugar from my diet so we decided to forgo dessert and opt for more sides instead. Our waiter was extremely helpful in recommending a bottle of wine to match our dishes.
Complimentary house bread with balsamic vinegar and EVOO
Neither of us are really entree people so we went for a half dozen oysters to start with. They were available natural or with a kilpatrick sauce. We chose the latter.
Oysters beignet - with Malt kilpatrick sauce
Because we didn't read the menu properly (and didn't know what beignet meant at the time) we were expecting chopped bacon topping on grilled oysters. I've since Googled 'beignet' and know that it means 'fritter', which is exactly what these were. The little oyster fritters were hot and delicious... think: sophisticated popcorn chicken. Fritters weren't really what we expected from a fine dining restaurant but there's no denying they were tasty. The kilpatrick sauce was sweet, savory and slightly tangy. It was a great starter for our meal.
Sous vide grimaud duck breast and confit leg - with artichoke pudding and braised napa cabbage
Marc and I chose a couple of mains and sides to share as a feast. The duck was something I had my eyes on since I read the menu online. The first item on the plate I tried was the artichoke pudding. I actually exclaimed out loud when I bit into it because the texture was so unusual. The exterior is crumbed and crunchy and inside, the artichoke filling is silky smooth and gel-like. Both the duck leg and breast were absolutely cooked to perfection. The pieces were tender and juicy, with the fat rendered and not the least bit of unwelcome chewiness. When I order duck in restaurants (quite frequently), there is usually some flaw with the way its cooked, which is hard to ignore because it's such an unforgiving protein. There were no problems here and we savored every bite.
Roast wagyu sirlon - with braised beef cheek, carrot purree, mushroom saute and Malt steak sauce
If I thought the duck had placed too high of a benchmark for the steak to leave any impression on me, I was distinctly wrong. The wagyu sirloin was incredible. Ironically, just on the walk to Malt, Marc and I were discussing steak. He commented that he wasn't often impressed by steak at restaurants because there's a point where they taste 'good' but it's difficult for them to exceed that point. I disagreed because I've had a fair number of exceptional steaks in various restaurants. This sirloin at Malt was definitely one of them. Like the duck, it was perfectly cooked and what I loved most was the caramelized, slightly crunchy crust. It was heavenly. I was less blown away by the braised cheek but the carrot puree was surprisingly moreish.
Snow peas, sugar snaps and beans - with roast garlic butter and preserved lemon
Our first side was the mixed beans and peas with garlic butter. This is such a simple dish but the peas were so fresh they were little pops of sweetness that reminded me of spring. The veggies were just cooked so they didn't taste raw but still had some bite. I can't recall ever being this impressed by plain vegetables before.
Fries - with aioli
The chips were perhaps the only lowpoint of our meal. They weren't horrible but they were slightly undercooked (therefore less crispy) and just didn't have anything that made them stand out. The other thing is, on the menu they are described as fries but they are thicker than my preferred shoe-string variety of fries. Considering how great the rest of the dishes were, the chips were a letdown.
Malt is the first restaurant that I've tried in a long time that has managed to really impress me. I'm getting to the point where most restaurants are variations of the same but Malt stood out in delivering truly delicious and well-executed food. There were no gastronomical flairs or stage elements to the meal but I wasn't found wanting. Our waiter was personable and helpful. What else can we hope for in a restaurant?