Sometimes when I go out for dinner, I expect too much and the experience can never quite match up. On this occasion, it was quite the opposite.
One of our Christmas gifts last year was a voucher for Sunday supper for two at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze. We eventually got around to arranging a visit a few weeks ago and genuinely had no idea what to expect. Of course we’d heard plenty about the place over the last few years and had seen the menu described as ‘French with Asian influences’. It sounded like it could be a bit well, risky. They even used the f word – ‘fusion.’
Sometimes when I go out for dinner, I expect too much and the experience can never quite match up. On this occasion, it was quite the opposite. I suppose we’d assumed that Maze would just rest on their laurels and rely on the name above the door to pull in the punters. Fair’s fair though, some of the food we had here was top drawer.
The restaurant’s concept is a little confusing. As you enter, Maze Grill is on the right, with Maze and the sushi counter to the left. I’m not sure who would eat sushi here, we didn’t even know about it. I guess most people are in the same boat too as throughout our meal, nobody ate at the counter. It’s a good job that the chefs were kept busy preparing items for the a la carte or I’d have started to feel sorry for them.
The ‘Sunday supper’ deal gave us the choice of any four courses from the set menu. These are described as small plates so we both chose four savoury courses and a dessert from the a la carte menu as an add-on. This seemed a good plan to guarantee that we wouldn’t leave hungry.
As it turned out, the portion sizes were far more generous than we’d anticipated and in the end, it was lucky that we’re a couple of pigs or we would’ve struggled to eat everything. The menu certainly got off to a rich and satisfying start thanks to the duck and foie gras terrine, pomegranate and Sauternes gel. Fortunately a couple of lighter, fresher plates followed with the smoked mackerel, beetroot, horseradish and citrus vinegerette and the excellent Asian influenced steamed sea bream, enoki mushroom, dashi.
Another highlight was the braised veal – a real treat, tender and with real depth of flavour. We also loved the lamb belly, the skin was crisped up nicely and it wasn’t too fatty as lamb often can be. The spiced lentils added a little kick.
As is often the way, dessert was by far the weakest course. The cider glazed apple, custard ice cream, warm apple cake was the better of the two desserts but overall it just wasn’t sweet enough. Far worse was the chocolate profiteroles and ginger ice cream. It was perhaps the poorest profiterole dessert I’ve eaten. I chose this as it sounded safe but it most certainly wasn’t. The profiteroles were tiny, the chocolate sauce was watery and I can’t fathom why it was served on a plate. The only redeeming feature was the chocolate bombs filled with ice cream. It’s a shame though because you can see that a lot of work went into creating it.
Besides the dessert fails, we were very happy with the food overall. The presentation was first rate and the menu makes great use of cheaper cuts of meat, elevating them to delicious, tender and flavourful dishes with clever cooking. What does still confuse me though is the concept of Asian influence. The dishes we ate were either French or overtly Japanese with nothing in-between. Looking at the a la carte menu reaffirms this. For example, you can have a sushi platter to start, followed by pigeon breast, consommé, wild garlic and pâté en croûte. This seems like a bit of a harebrained idea but then again, perhaps it’s preferable to the hodge-podge of mis-matched ingredients and flavours that I associate with out-and-out fusion.
Service was fantastic all evening, we were never kept waiting between courses. At the end of our meal, we were given petits fours and told the waiter that they were far better than the ones served at The Square. He was kind enough to give us another helping of them, not that that was what we were hinting at!
We were then lucky enough to be offered a tour of the kitchen, which we felt would be impolite to refuse. It certainly seemed to be very well run, was very tidy and there were no signs of any flapping despite being in the middle of dinner service.
The voucher itself makes a lovely gift and represents good value at £64 for two people. £32 per head for four courses in a Michelin starred restaurant isn’t bad at all. We were greedy and added on dessert as an extra and chose a bottle of wine at around £40, plus cocktails at the start, which meant we paid £110 on top of the voucher. We still felt this was fair enough for a nice evening out.
Meal for two with wine and service: £180
Address: 10-13 Grosvenor Square, London, W1K 6JP
Tel: 020 7107 0000