Malmaison is a marvellous new addition to Brighton Marina which manages to be both super-stylish but at the same time unfussy, comfortable and welcoming.
Following a six-month transformation from its previous incarnation as the Seattle Hotel, Malmaison Brighton is now close to completion and is really rather good.
The hotel group has a burgeoning reputation and the Marina is the 15th and latest hotel in its 23-year history.
During our visit there seemed to be a genuine sense of excitement and pride about being part of the new hotel.
At every turn the service was superb. Staff were universally warm, attentive and could not have tried harder.
Our bright Marina-facing room was a great size and dripping with smart understated design.
A sunshine yellow lounge chair rocked, both figuratively and physically, and together with some plump coral pink bed cushions, provided a perfect splash of colour to the contemporary charcoals and greys elsewhere.
And the bed? The bed was a dream.
A divine divan (try saying that after too many pre-dinner liveners) which was so sumptuous and sleep-inducing it kept me away from the balcony and a ringside seat to the Marina’s nightly sunset display of swooping starlings.
The bathroom was a gleaming triumph with a monstrously large monsoon shower and confidently-branded Malmaison toiletries including: “The Best Shampoo you’ll Ever Steal” and “Better Shower Gel Than You Have at Home”.
The former became a self-fulfilling prophecy and now takes pride of place in my slightly less gleaming washroom.
As soon as the starlings had settled down for the night and we’d freshened up with the cocksure cosmetics, it was time to head downstairs for nourishment and a cool refreshing drink or two.
A new glittering bar is billed as being worth sailing the ocean for and it’d certainly be a welcome sight after a long sea journey, although you’d want to have a nice wash and brush up before rocking up at this joint.
It boasts a perfectly on-trend rose gold bar, some similarly-toned lighting, and bold Brighton-inspired art, all of which helps to create a great place to hang out and sip a Martini.
The Marina isn’t embarrassed with riches when it comes to trendy pubs and cool cocktail bars, so Malmaison’s sassy entry into a less than crowded field is more than welcome.
We kickstarted our evening with a couple of classic cocktails: a Negroni because it’s the closest we’ll ever come to drinking a grown-up cocktail, and a Whisky Sour, because it seemed an appropriately dashing choice in such swish surroundings.
Both were fairly priced and fans of mixology at the Marina will be pleased to hear they can indulge in classic cocktails or modern twists for the paltry sum of £5 between five and eight pm on Friday evenings.
As the aperitifs did their thing our minds turned to victuals and a visit to the brasserie.
Looking every inch an elegant venue and the focal point of this very groovy hotel, we took the short walk down the catwalk into the beautifully-lit dining space, slipped into seats and readied ourselves for the main event.
We opened with a tuna tartare and pan-roasted sea scallops. The tartare was a light and very pretty plate of food, the superbly fresh fish was allied with watermelon, pickled mooli, black sesame, avocado and lifted by some zingy wasabi.
The scallops were melt-in-your-mouth molluscs and made all the better for the addition of an artichoke purée, Paris brown mushrooms and toasted chestnut crumb.
So far, so superb. But things were about to get even better and a whole lot meatier...
For the main we chose one of the brasserie’s Chez Mal Sharing Stands, which proved to be as exciting as it sounded.
As blood-thirsty beasts we were dazzled by the prospect of a fantastic-looking steak stand (those two words go so well together don’t they?)
The stand consisted of a massive 500g slab of thickly-sliced USDA Black Angus Picanha rump, with Béarnaise sauce, chunky chips, sautéed wild mushrooms, a homemade barbecue sauce , confit tomato, watercress salad, and a bottle of South African Pinotage.
We were initially cautious and asked for a medium-rare steak but our knowledgeable waiter proved his worth and suggested it would be in everyone’s interest if it were cooked a little rarer.
The Black Angus is raised on the Great Plains in the US and fed on a diet of herbs and cereals, the Picanha is a tender triangular rump cut popular in Brazil.
After my first taste of the mighty meat I didn’t know who to thank first: the American farmers for their fussy feeding habits, the inspiration of the Brazilians butchers who ensured it had retained a beautiful juicy layer of fat, or the waiter who, politely, averted a minor carnivorous catastrophe.
The stand/platter, which at first looked a little intimidating, was utterly fabulous and was stocked with every element you’d need for the perfect steak supper, but in an excitable blood-lust you perhaps wouldn’t always get round to ordering.
Respect is almost most certainly due to the most amazing chips which were the size of railway sleepers, with an exterior that was golden brown and crisp, and an interior softer and fluffier than an Spring bunny.
The whole endeavour was aided and abetted by the fruity Pinotage which was robust enough to keep apace with the panoply of flavours on the stand, which were true to Malmaison’s mealtime mission statement of mixing French style with generous British portion sizes.
It’s also worth mentioning the music which provided a surprisingly upbeat but unobtrusive soundtrack to proceedings, and became increasing lively as the evening progressed.
The tunes were at an ideal volume, significantly above background music level but never threatening to drown out the conversation, which by this stage was flowing faster than a beer tap on a hot Bank Holiday.
I was particularly pleased to hear some banging techno and uplifting house music towards the end of the evening and it transpired these same fine sounds were being heard simultaneously in all 15 Malmaison hotels.
After a bit of post-steak stand breather it was time for pudding.
My sizzling dining partner plumped for a hot chocolate, which of course was something far more exciting, a mushy melange of marshmallows, whipped cream and a chocolate sauce made from a high cocoa French chocolate.
I chose the sticky toffee pudding which was a tremendous undertaking from start to finish, a light pudding doused in a far-from-lighttoffee sauce, and festooned with plenty of pecan nuts.
Following a quick nighttime promenade around the Marina it was time to hit the hay, and two well-fed souls made their way back to the divine divan for blameless night’s sleep above the boats.
Breakfast was a fabulously sun-soaked affair in a sea-view conservatory area.
I opted the for the Big Mal Breakfast because I obviously hadn’t eaten enough red meat the night before.
A wiser man than I once wrote that Full English Breakfast is the most wonderful three-word combination of words in the English language, and if he’d even the Big Mal he wouldn’t have strayed from that viewpoint.
Sweet cure bacon and award-winning Scottish black pudding should be a part of every breakfast plate. The fairer half of the breakfast duo chose a less meaty start to the day and enthused over her Eggs Benedict and smoked salmon combo which was a wonder of runny-yoked yumminess.
Both breakfasts were delivered with the same supreme standard of service which had been in evidence the previous evening and left us gushing over the professionalism of the staff.
Marvellous food and peerless service were the things that really defined our stay at Malmaison.
It’s nice to be looked after once in a while and it’s even nicer on a full stomach, holding a tumbler of Whiskey Sour.
To book a stay at Malmaison, Brighton visit www.malmaison.com/locations/brighton/ or call 01273 041482.