Travels with a Gourmet

a food lover's travels, memorable meals, culinary trials and gastronomic experiences

On our last evening, we booked a table at Gordon Ramsay’s maze which is right at the Marriott Grosvenor Square where we were staying. Our table was for 9:00 p.m. so we spent the afternoon lazing around and packing our bags as we had to leave at 5:00 a.m. for our early morning flight back to Malaga.

There are two ways to access the restaurant, from the street or directly from the hotel bar. From the large wooden screens near the reception area, one can peep into the bustling bar area where several diners were having drinks either at the bar or on the low couches scattered around. The tapas-style dishes are available at the bar but the seats have to be reserved as well.

Past the large square bar with it’s futuristic overhead lighting the back area is further divided into two levels split by a low glass divider of green hedge mazes. This David Rockwell-designed restaurant is inspired by the typical English garden box hedge maze hence the way that all areas of the room may be accessed from different areas thus connecting the whole area. Low lighting and loud instrumental lounge music round off the modern young vibe of the place.

We were seated at a lovely banquette table on the second level and settled in with our menus and drinks. The menu at maze is French cuisine presented in small tasting portions. Our French server suggested that we could choose four small courses or two small courses and one normal-sized main course. We were inspired to try chef Jason Atherton’s tapas-style dishes influenced by his internship at Ferran Adria’s El Bulli restaurant in Spain. We had tried Jason’s cooking before as he used to be executive chef in Gordon Ramsay’s Verre at the Hilton Dubai Creek which we had been to several times when we were living in Dubai.

The tabletop was simple with the all the flatware set on a silver rest, no tablecloths and crisp linen napkins. Bread was served in a silver tumbler and cold unsalted butter was on a glass tile(do I detect a London trend here?). We spent a few minutes sorting through the menu and finally picking our four courses from the varied selection.

I chose the Marinated beetroot, Sairass cheese, pine nuts and Cabernet Sauvignon dressing and A had the Carpaccio of tuna and swordfish with lime and cucumber marinade, soya dressing. Mine were paper-thin slices of beetroot with soft cheese sandwiched in between and drizzled with the dressing while his carpaccio was tart enough yet not too much to deviate from the freshness of the fish. They were both flavorful and simple enough so that each ingredient had a chance to stand out.

This was followed by Roasted Orkney sea scallops with cured ham and maple syrup, egg and peas for me and the Slow roasted prawns with pumpkin purée, rye croutons, crab bisque and vanilla oil for him. A ‘s prawns were soft and just cooked through and served with a sweet pumpkin puree on the side and the warm crab bisque poured over it a very interesting combination of flavours while my scallops were sweet and soft and wonderfully complemented by the salty ham and the sweet maple syrup. Both our first courses were enjoyed with a half bottle of Angelo Gaja chardonnay.

Our two fish courses followed which were then served with our other half bottle, this time of Gevery Chambertin. First up was Steamed daurade Royale with candied aubergine, spicy ketchup and bok choi for him and Baked halibut with Serrano ham, pistou vegetables and ham consommé for me. Both fish dishes were again simply cooked but as always complemented with contrasting ingredients and textures that really made the fish become the main event. The two meat courses were served next – Braised Suffolk pork belly and cheek with spiced lentils, confit baby leek and parsnip purée for me and the Braised shin of veal with pumpkin risotto, aged Parmesan for him. The pork belly was melt-in-the-mouth wonderful, the spiced lentils were thick and sweet and covered the braised pork cheek and the parsnip puree was heavenly. My husband’s veal was excellent as well although there was more of the pumpkin risotto than there was of the tiny portion of veal.

We rounded off our dinner with one last small sweet course – dessert which was the cheeky Peanut butter and cherry jam sandwich with salted nuts and cherry sorbet which I couldn’t resist as I’m a peanut butter fan. A had the Texture of pear with chocolate mille feuille which was a puff-pastry sandwich with a scoop of pear sorbet on the side and some pear compote. My dessert was not really a sandwich but two thin. crispy layers of tuile with a slab of peanut butter parfait in between topped with cherry sorbet and drizzled with thick cherry coulis – a very interesting and innovative combination of salty peanuts and sweet cherries that was very Asian in style.

The food was perfectly executed and the flavours were distinct in each and every dish. If my memory serves me right, some of the dishes we had that evening were modern versions of some of the dishes Jason had in the Verre menu and his technical skill in the kitchen is apparent in the consistency of every dish that came out of the kitchen that night. Service was efficient and courteous and the waiters were always there at the slightest raise of either the hand or an even an eyebrow.

We really enjoy this new style of dining where several small courses are served and a multi-course meal can be enjoyed without feeling overly stuffed at the end. We first tried this many years ago at another London restaurant, Club Gascon (opened in 1998) and then at two outposts of L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Paris and Las Vegas. This is the next step in the modern restaurant scene – it’s hardly ever that dinner is served in a hush-hush formal atmosphere and I think that this casual approach to fantastic food in small courses is the way to go. In one word, our dinner was nothing short of aMAZEing.
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