October 14, 2010 by bethanjthomas
Despite my love of TV food programmes, the sight of Gordon Ramsay often turns my stomach. I am therefore feeling slightly ashamed that my first michelin star dining experience was at one of his London restaurants – Maze.
In my defence, it was less Gordon’s angry orange face that tempted me to visit but rather a discount – 3 courses for £30. It appears that I’m willing to sacrifice my personal preferences for some money off.
As I made my way to Grosvenor Square, I was slightly nervous about what awaited me. I was laden with four bags, a heavy coat and scarf on a warm day, and I was hoping that I didn’t look too tramp-like. Luckily, the staff were welcoming and happily took my bags without looking down their nose at me.
I proceeded through to Maze’s stunning bar for a drink and also to be subjected to some awful chat from the middle-aged city boys at the table next to me. Listening to a fifty year old man call a twenty year old prostitute was certainly an interesting way to pass time as I waited for my friends to arrive and I was quite glad for their despicable company.
As the light dimmed outside, the backlit bar made the restaurant feel slightly like a Scandinavian disco as diners and waiters moved in and out of the pine and cream leather furniture.
We were given a choice of 9 main courses and 3 desserts when we reached our table, all of which would be bought to us in ‘tapas style’. Having lived in China for a few years, I am a big fan of sharing dishes amongst a table but I’m used to doing this with plates of fried noodles, stir fried vegetable and meat. I was intrigued to see how it would work in a fine dining environment, particularly as a table of ten people sat behind us…how would they ever reach all the dishes without a rotating plate in the middle of the table?!
Our decision was hard to make, but with the help of our waiter we managed to agree and were able to sample a huge variety of flavours in one sitting.
Chilled watercress soup, cured sea trout, shimeji mushrooms, horseradish granita was the first to arrive, accompanied with Roasted Salmon with piperade, white bean purée, cockles, bacon and fish soup. The small dishes were perfectly formed and the only criticism I can make is that the fish soup consisted of only a few spoons of purée rather than the steaming broth I had been imagining.
Our plates were cleared as soon as we licked our forks clean, and more dishes arrived. My favourite of the night was the roast poussin breast and leg, maple jelly and sweetcorn risotto. The risotto itself was sweet and creamy with crisp sweetcorn pieces that were a delight to eat. And the poussin itself was beautifully cooked with the sweet maple jelly. I was beginning to regret only have a small plate of it to share with two hungry friends.
Pink lamb arrived, officially ‘Rump of salt marsh lamb, fennel, samphire, sorrel cress’. Absolutely delicious. And yet there was more – ‘Soused mackerel, mackerel tartare, salad of beetroot and coriander’ accompanied by ‘Ham hock rillete, golden raisin purée, slow cooked quail’s eggs, radish’. These dishes didn’t stand out as much as the poussin, lamb or watercress soup, but they were cooked to perfection and beautifully presented.
As we leant over one another, grabbing small forks of what we could reach, it did feel a bit of shame not to be enjoying these dishes in a more civilised manner, and was incredibly grateful that there were only three of us….at least we weren’t having to pass dishes to one another. I was certainly not entirely convinced by the service style, but the flavours were faultless.
Desserts were our final reward, and they were possibly the peak of the meal. Unlike the savoury dishes, tapas style desserts worked wonderfully well. Their rich, sweet flavours were perfect in small portions and being able to dive between different dishes was fantastic.
Our three choices were ‘strawberry cream soda parfait, sweet olive emulsion, strawberry jelly’, ‘pistachio cake, Kentish raspberries, pistachio crumble’ and ‘rice pudding, bitter chocolate, orange and thyme marmalade, orange ice cream’. The list of ingredients was as good as it sounds. The rice pudding was my favourite, and I can’t stand rice pudding normally. However, the bitter tang of the chocolate and the sweetness of the orange flavoured rice pudding was stunning. Pistachios are also a weakness of mine, I think its genetic as my mother could devour a kilogram bag of them, and the bright red tart rasberry sorbet was incredible with the creamy nutty taste of the pistachios.
Petit fours were equally delicious – salted fudge, dark chocolates and fruit of the forest jelly. A sweet high, to what was a slightly confusing savoury main course. The staff were faultless though, and fellow diners were a step above from the seedy inhabitants of the bar when I’d arrived. A fantastic meal was had by all, but it has done little to endear me to Gordon Ramsay. As much as I loved his poussin, his caricature of an angry chef is still too much to detract me from my devotion to Michel Roux Jnr.