Lunch at Ramsey's Maze in London - dilettante's description
Today I enjoyed lunch at Maze in Grosvenor Sq. (Mayfair) and thought I would share a description of the experience.
I found the setting quite nice - I had braced myself for stuffy and highly formal, so was pleasantly suprised by a comfortable booth and relaxed setting. Had a lovely view of the square, too.
When we settled down at the table, my dining companion and I were given some respectable bread, nicely presented. Good quality, but not extraordinary - a multigrain mini baguette and olive-oil sea salt bread sticks. We both opted for the set lunch menu (4 courses). I love this approach because I always end up with dishes I wouldn't order for myself, and that was certainly the case today. In fact, as it turned out the two dishes I would never have ordered for myself were the best.
Now, to the meal...
The first course was one I wasn't looking forward to. Pumpkin veloute. Great. Pumpkin soup. Sigh. But it was actually the best part of the meal. The server brought a small bowl with a dab of cepe puree, and some sauteed cepes (another type of mushroom possibly). On these, he poured the pumpkin veloute with a touch of truffle (but not too much - this dish was NOT about the truffle, but about aroma overall). The pumpkin tasted earthy, fresh, alive and worked beautifully with the mushroom. The server also brought out a small, melt-in-your-mouth cepe brioche with a tiny disk of cepe butter. The brioche was warm, fragrant and mushroom shaped. The whole effect - delightful.
A rich jerusalem artichoke risotto with an accent of duck ragu followed. The risotto was the best I've had in a restaurant (admittedly, the bar's not set very high). The rice had just the right texture. The duck was simply an accent, very rich and flavourful, good texture, and well proportioned. Any more, and I wouldn't have wanted the next course. It was garnished with some lovely lemony sorrel leaves and a bit of olive oil.
For the third course, I chose a lamb dish, with a perfectly medium rare chop and a small portion of braised lamb (from the neck, if I recall properly). These were served with a caramelized onion/olive sauce and some gloriously rich pommes purees. There was also a bit of (braised?) lettuce wrapped around some caramelized onion. Have to confess, I'm not sure what this added to the dish - a bit of colour and maybe a hint of freshness. My dining companion chose the other main option - salmon with pork belly and choucroute. I had only a small taste of it and my description probably wouldn't do it justice because I have been spoiled by the ubiquity of ultra-fresh West Coast Canadian salmon in my home town - just can't get excited by salmon. I will say that it was perfectly cooked (a rarity with salmon in restaurants, no pun intended), with a lovely translucency in the middle. I think my dining companion was secretly jealous of my lamb.
Finally, the dessert. I was dreading this one. "Peanut butter and jam sandwich"... but this was my second favorite dish of the evening. Peanut butter gelato(?) (just nicely creamy), with a thin layer of cherry jam, sandwiched between pistachio tuiles and garnished with a tiny quenelle of cherry gelato. At the table the server spooned on a red fruit coulis. It was truly delightful. And even though it was reminiscent of a PB&J, it was so in a very good way. An indulgent but not overly sweet dessert.
Post dinner capuccino (one of the best I've had in London to date) was followed by a square of the most exquisite turkish delight. I now understand where the "delight" part comes in, because until today I'd only had the stale flavoured, chewy nasty stuff that comes in boxes. This rosewater delight was beautifully tender and fragrant. Oh, and there was also a basil/lemon chocolate that was notable for its basil flavour but not as exceptional as the delight.
Overall, I would heartily recommend the restaurant, although being relatively new to London (and to the Michelin star dining experience), I don't have a lot to compare it to. The service was friendly, prompt but not rushed. The only complaint I had is that I would have liked used cutlery to be removed after a course (for some reason my veloute spoon was carefully placed back in the setting after I finished it - I don't know; is this normal?).
Would go back tomorrow if I could afford it! Although at 28 pounds per person, it's a real deal for London (still can't get used to the high wine prices here).
Thanks for the report, Janna. It sounds like you had a very, interesting lunch and at a good price indeed. Did you have dinner that evening? :-)
The portion sizes were moderate and I'm happy to report that I didn't feel stuffed after the meal at all, just contently sated. Nonetheless, I certainly didn't need dinner... simply nibbled on a bit of etorki with quince paste at about 8pm.
You must be from Portland or Seattle. I'm a Yank, too, and will never get used to the prices. :-) My husband had to get an American, journalist visa a few weeks ago and went by Maze -peeked in and perused the menu. We'll definitely give it a try. Thanks again for the report. Quince paste?? Tell more.
Not quite from Portland or Seattle, but very close. From Victoria on Vancouver Island, about a 20-minute flight from Seattle, which would make me a Canuck, not a Yank. We enjoy the same natural bounty from the sea as Portland and Seattle and and equally good food scene. I love that part of the world.
RE: the quince paste. You can find it in the local Sainsbury's cheese counter and undoubtedly in Waitrose. But it's an absolute steal if you find it in a Portuguese food store (which I'm lucky to have a stone's throw away). I think I paid about a pound for a big tub of it. The portuguese lay claim to inventing marmelade, and quince paste is the traditional form it takes.
We've lived in London for a couple of years now. We recently went to Maze as well, but for dinner. I'm on a quest to try all of Gordon Ramsey's restaurants - we've been to the one on Royal Hospital Road, the one at Claridges, Petrus, Boxwood Cafe, Banquette.
If you liked Maze, you should try Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road - it will blow you away with the food. I never understood the word 'sublime' as a description for food until we ate there. We've been back a couple of times, but definitely for special occasions because it's pricey.
I was a bit disappointed in Maze when we went - we were advised to order 6 dishes for 2 people, plus dessert. It was far too much - I remember feeling like some of the dishes were a little heavy. We did not get the good deal of 28 GBP - overall, dinner was around 130 GBP for two people, which wasn't bad compared to Gordon Ramsay. But I probably wouldn't return.
Of the other Gordon Ramsays, I would skip Boxwood Cafe - a bit disappointing.
The best of the lot are the Royal Hospital Road one and Petrus.
Thanks for the posting!