Down on the waterfront, we find an unbeatable way to let the sun shine in

NOW that the clocks have lurched forwards and the nation’s thermal undies have been shed, it’s time to turn our minds away from all that heavy winter comfort food and lick our lips over something altogether lighter, fresher and more suitable for the season ahead.

Down at the Malmaison on Liverpool’s Princes Dock, the new fixed-price spring menu has just been launched and is already proving popular with visitors to the landmark venue. And that’s no surprise. While the distinctive grey building exudes an air of inscrutable cool – it remains the Malmaison brand’s only new-build hotel – its Brasserie bathes in afternoon sun and its long dockside frontage is a great location to enjoy the heady novelty of dining in the open air. Weather permitting, naturally.

Choose two courses for £19.95 or three for £24.95 – either way, the Malmaison has got your spring dining dilemmas sorted

So whether it’s a coat on or off kind of day – and let’s face it, the Liverpool waterfront can offer both in quick succession at this time of year – how does the new selection shape up?

At first glance, this trim collection of dishes offers options to suit every twist in the meteorological menu, from fresh and zingy flavours through to choices for chillier days. Choose two courses for £19.95 or three for £24.95 – either way, the Malmaison has got your spring dining dilemmas sorted.

And once you’ve made your selection and spent a little time taking in the wide river-front vista – or you’ve simply enjoyed the modern elegance of this luxuriously laid-back space – you’ll be pleased to find that the food looks just as good as the surroundings. Presentation clearly counts here – but what about the crucial taste test? 

Liverpool Confidential was lucky enough to tuck into the new-look line-up recently, and here are a few highlights of our visit.

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Grilled masala spiced mackerel
This gleaming length of fish reclined in come-hither fashion on a bed of cubed sweet potato that was slick with a tangy, citrusy oil. It was a cracking combination, with the lightly crisped and spiced fish contrasting well with the just-firm-enough sweet potato and the sharpness of the lime pickle. A generous dollop of creamy cumin raita completed the perfectly proportioned dish.

Cauliflower velouté
The velvety sauce was the main attraction here – a creamy cauliflower concoction served in a separate jug – but a delicately spiced onion frita topped with deliciously sharp-tasting strips of pickled cauliflower gave it the stage it needed. This was lick-the-bowl good, a subtle and suitably restrained way to lift the curtain on a decent meal.

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Pan-fried river trout
As with the mackerel starter, this was another temptingly presented dish, this time featuring a crisp-edged piece of trout riding high on a layer of anya potatoes. The waxy potato slices were, in turn, nestling in a generous portion of pea and broadbean puree, a vivid, verdant setting appropriate to the season. The fish was moist and moreish with a decadent splash of truffle oil adding a fragrant finish.

Gloucester old spot pork belly
A decent piece of pork belly promises a succession of enjoyable eating experiences, from oozy fat to succulent meat to the crunch of the crackling. And this specimen didn’t disappoint. Not only was the meat good, but it was well accompanied, appearing alongside a turret of Ramsay black pudding, a braised gem lettuce heart, garden peas and apple puree. And then there was a crispy husk of puffed pork skin perched on top – and a side serving of roasted jerusalem artichokes ordered separately. No doubt about it, this dish really hit the (old) spot.

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Rhubarb trifle
Good Yorkshire rhubarb deserves much more than to be just the subject of the odd gag on Last of the Summer Wine, and this elegant trifle in a bowl like an oversized martini glass was a great showcase for the rosy vegetable. (Yes, vegetable.) The base of fruity poached rhubarb combined perfectly with the creamy custard layer, and together with a juicy jelly lid and crunchy topping of sugary stem ginger, the dessert was an aesthetic and tongue-tingling pleaser.

Iced coffee and praline parfait
Served as a squat parfait cylinder rolled in a crispy coating and topped with finely grated chocolate, this dessert looked tasty enough as it was. But once the jug of thick chocolate sauce had been poured over, it was upgraded to ‘impossible to resist’. Cool, coffee-ish and creamy, it elicited no end of oohs and aahs, not to mention some frantic spoon scraping along with the dreamy facial expressions.

So that was our take on the new menu at the Malmaison – a wonderful way to welcome in the spring. 

Princes Dock may be short on gambolling lambs and rapidly-multiplying rabbits, but when it comes to a fixed-price feed in contemporary surroundings, it remains a great seasonal attraction.

*The Malmaison Brasserie is at 7 William Jessop Way, Liverpool, L3 1QZ. The fixed price menu,  two courses for £19.95 or three for £24.95, is available all week except for Sunday lunch and not after 7.30pm on Friday and Saturday. To book, visit the website here.