In Grovesnor Square, in the heart of London’s Mayfair, hidden in plain sight insofar as it looks like the myriad of embassies and other stately buildings around it, is Maze. One of Gordon Ramsay’s Michelin starred establishments.
Thanks to a friend who was watching for such offers with zealous frequency, I booked a £25 set menu (which included a drink) and started to think what the experience would be like. I’ve previously blogged about my experience in a Ramsay establishment and how I was disproportionately disappointed at the pursuit of technical excellence at the expense of flair; something others, like Roux, seemingly understood better.
The arrival and subsequent service was as technically excellent and as precise as you would imagine; the dining room laid out equally in a precise way; everything had these Ramsay hallmarks. The inclusive prosecco aperitif was technically excellent, but somewhat uninspiring and unimaginative.
The wine list arrives on an iPad, with an interactive menu to help you choose your bottle by grape, country, region, price etc. Unless you know a at least something about wine, it’s daunting save for the technically excellent and precise sommellier.
The set menu was a self-selecting tasting menu; by which I mean there’s a list of savoury dishes and a smaller list of sweet dishes, from which you choose 4. All of them are medium sized portions, and arrive in the order you choose. This is great as you can have 2 desserts or an extra savoury if you so choose.
All of this was coming together to reinforce my expectation that it would be a repeat of before, none more so than when my duck and foie gras terrine arrived. Beautifully presented (there’s some photos below, the lighting was not conducive for photography, so I apologise) I eagerly took my first mouthful. And nothing. Bland. Boring. All my suspicions as to what the experience was going to be like were coming true.
Or, rather, it started that way, and then the flavours started to develop. And they kept on developing, becoming increasingly more complex in a gastronomic snowball effect that went on long after I mentally repented for doubting Ramsay’s empire.
Then came a crispy chicken thigh with lettuce mayonnaise which was delightful; no bone, the meat came in a perfect rectangle from a deboned joint. It was also great to see a good amount of brown meat in there, which speaks volumes about the provenance of the bird; something that was a resounding disappointment in my visit to Jamie’s Fifteen recently.
And onto the one technical error of the evening; the menu had a typo – warning me of “led” shot in my partridge; one assumes I was looking for “lead” to avoid the ruination of my molars. Not withstanding that, this was another delightful dish – the pearl barley being made into something of risotto consistency which worked wonderfully with the bird. I would’ve preferred a steak knife with it, on account of partridge always being tough to cut but never tough to eat, but that’s just personal pedantry.
My friend’s pork belly with razor clams and grey mullet both looked as epic as my own courses; alas, I wouldn’t know as I didn’t get a look in.
We only ordered 3 courses to begin with; and then when the time came to ostensibly order a pudding, I was conflicted. I very nearly ordered another terrine (it was that good), but instead, at the last minute, went for the rice pudding parfait, which was offset wonderfully with lemon thyme and a sorbet.
Oh, and if you can extend to it (this is the most I have ever spent on a bottle of wine in a restaurant, ever), the Domaine Saint Nicolas La Grande Piece by Thierry Michon is an absolutely wonderful Loire Valley Pinot Noir; so much so I am really trying to track some down but struggling.
All on all, a solidly great experience and clearly worthy of a Michelin star. The competition in the area is extreme, though. If it were not for the set menu offer, would I have gone? Maybe. I certainly would like to try it full blown one day, but that would mean I would have to make the decision not to go to Benares, which isn’t an easy one to make if many other things are equal.
P.S I still hate cover charges, but the artisan home made bread is worth it.