I’m a bit of a Francophile. And, it’s true that the French know their brunch, particularly when it comes to café fare like croissants and coffee. A few years ago, Omar Popal, the hospitality entrepreneur behind hot brunch spots Café Bonaparte and Napoleon, opened Malmaison, an enormous, chic events space and restaurant in an abandoned warehouse on K Street on the Georgetown Waterfront.
In addition to a sensible offering of unique, clever craft cocktails, Malmaison’s brunch menu also offers five cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices. Cocktail options include the Morning After, a Bloody Mary, a traditional mimosa, and a coconut-infused champagne concoction.
So much to choose from! I really wanted to try the Bubbly Bun, cinnamon-infused whiskey, maple syrup, and flamed orange, but opted to abstain from alcohol consumption for the day, regardless of the tempting bottomless mimosa option ($22).
My two brunch compatriots also had difficulty deciding which juice to sample. And, after we all ordered one round, we ended up each ordering a second, different round. Juice options are adorable, with the likes of the Beetle Juice, made with apples, beets, carrots and ginger; and The Incredible Hulk, with spinach and pineapple.
Brittney Ann had two rounds of the Popeye’s Punch, customized with pineapple juice instead. She says that it was “absolutely delicious and thirst quenching, especially after a few too many glasses of vino the night before.”
Alex, the fun and friendly beverage director, arrived to our table to thoroughly describe the beverage options, from the house-made Bloody Mary mix to the bitters she was concocting for the cocktails. She even told us about her rationale for choosing her coffee providers and every detail of the coffee program.
Alex, a pretty brunette with purple dreadlocks adorned with a gold hair bow, wore black glittery TOMS and a black glittery tutu. From her awesome ensemble to her laidback demeanor to her passion for coffee, Alex was someone whom I immediately wanted to befriend—and not just because I’d get to sample her concoctions by proximity.
A coffee aficionado, I was pleased to learn about the coffee program. Malmaison gets their coffee from Madcap Coffee of Michigan and Cuvee Coffee of Texas, which is purportedly the best coffee roasted in America, on account of its selection of coffee beans and level of roasting.
Because Malmaison has a coffee shop attached to the restaurant, its coffee menu is thorough, offering lattes, cappuccinos, café Americanos, espressos, chai lattes, Americano, cortado, au lait, pour over drip, and cold brew. Everything can be done over ice as well.
I selected an iced coffee, which had a nutty, chocolatey flavor that I very much enjoyed. When Alex returned, I inquired about the origins of the coffee, discovering it was from Guatemala.
Brittney Ann and Brooke had cappucinos, adorned with hearts. Brooke says, “my cappucino was excellent, and having an education from a coffee guru added to the whole experience. She was very knowledgeable and proud of the coffee Malmaison serves.”
Sean, our sweet, attentive, handsome blue-eyed waiter, was excited to inform us that today’s special was beignets, and we were equally thrilled to hear the news. Truly, what more could you want from a waiter?
The beignets were served in the authentic fashion: small, square puffs of fried dough, covered in powdered sugar and served warm in a cone. They squished when cut with fork and knife and literally melted in my mouth.
As this was a paleo cheat day, I had four beignets. Yes, four. Lovely and ladylike, Brooke had two. Equally lovely but unfortunately gluten-free, Brittney Ann looked on with a polite hint of jealousy.
It was clear we all love a healthy share of fruits and veggies, because after two rounds of juices each, it became clear we all wanted to share the large fruit plate. As we placed our entrée orders, Brooke requested her blueberry pancakes come with extra fruit on top.
“Could you put lots of strawberries and blueberries on top, please?” she asked. A girl after my own heart. My mother always says fruit makes you pretty. That is certainly the case with Brooke.
Brooke ordered blueberry pancakes and asked for extra side of blueberries/raspberries. Instead, they left blueberries out and just put them on top of her pancakes! Nonetheless, she says, “A minor miscommunication, but the plain pancakes were probably the best I’ve had in D.C.!”
Brittney Ann selected the traditional breakfast of two eggs any way (scrambled with white cheese) with either bacon or turkey sausage (she chose turkey sausage), and served with duck-fat breakfast potatoes. She says “The eggs were delish and fluffy with just the right amount of cheddar cheese.”
Miss Brittney Ann said that she very much enjoyed her potatoes and eggs, but that she doesn’t like sausage. Deliberately choosing not to ask why she ordered sausage if she didn’t like sausage, I instead chose to eat the rest of it for her.
From the second my eyes finished scanning the menu, I knew I would be dining on steak frites. The duck-fat French fries were warm and crisp, and sprinkled with parsley. They were good, but the honestly looked yummier than they tasted, as they could have had more flavor. They were served with a side of Béarnaise sauce as well as ketchup, and I found myself dipping each fry into the Béarnaise to add flavor.
Similarly, the steak looked lovely, and was grilled medium, as I had ordered it. But, it lacked the flavor I was expecting, and each bite of steak too went into the Béarnaise. Calories be damned, I was craving flavor.
As a Francophile who’s a sucker for a chic ambiance, I find Malmaison to be a charming spot for brunch, as well as for events, coffee, and for brunch. Omar is quite the visionary when it comes to chic, trendy French restaurants, as he has proven with Café Bonaparte, Napoleon, and now, Malmaison.
Beyond that, the well-dressed owner, Omar Popal, continues to innovate, reinvent, and diversify his spaces. Two years ago, the basement of Napoleon—the Adam’s Morgan location—received a chic makeover for evening dance parties and wild brunch parties. A few months ago, Napoleon’s sparse, warehouse-style basement was converted into a dive bar and art space—known as Hierarchy—that is now host to a series of sold-out art shows and events in collaboration with No Kings Collective. Smart.
Omar has built quite a community in Washington, and, I was pleasantly surprised that brunch at Malmaison was a family affair. I spotted a well-dressed older gentleman in the corner that was the spitting image of Omar. Of course, he was Omar’s father, so we brunching gals were able to meet the entire superbly chic family, as well as hear about Omar’s inspiratin behind Malmaison, named for Napoleon Bonparte’s manor. “Napoleon was the original badass,” said Omar.
In addition to being a charming coffee shop, restaurant, and event space, Malmaison hosts weekday yoga and juice mornings, Samba and Electronic dance nights, and is soon launching Saturday afternoon wine classes and brunch parties. Don’t worry, as brunch-a-holics and oenophiles, we’ll be keeping an eye out.
The substantial food was good, but not amazing. However, the French pastries, gourmet coffee, craft cocktails, fresh-pressed juices, and chic ambiance have us falling in love like an overly passionate French woman. I’ll certainly be back for coffee and a croissant—or that and bottomless mimosas with a gaggle of gals.
The Bitches say: A-. A very chic ambiance for brunch, coffee, and parties. These are things the French do well, after all.
3401 K St. N.W.
Malmaison serves brunch Saturdays and Sundays. The coffee shop opens at 8 a.m. all week long, and serves gourmet coffee and house-made French pastries.