Louisa (Seb’s sister) celebrated her 21st birthday last week.
A 21st birthday is quite a special one and Seb and I wanted to make sure she had a great day. So we booked ourselves a table at Maze by Gordan Ramsay in Mayfair to celebrate the occasion. After all, you turn 21 only once right?
I have wanted to try Maze for quite a long time. When I went to New York last year, I stayed at the London NYC which was home to another Gordan Ramsay’s Maze. I really wanted to try it but I left it quite late and couldn’t get a table in the end. So I was quite pleased when I managed to get a table with less than a week’s notice at its London sister restaurant.
Maze by Gordan Ramsay is a one Michelin star restaurant in the heart of Mayfair serving up an award winning fusion menu with French and Asian influences. They have also recently expanded the Maze offering to include a sushi bar along with launching Maze Grill next door; which serves up a less refined more meaty menu. Yes, Maze is no longer the multi-millionaire Mayfair playground it used to be, but it’s still a Gordan Ramsay stronghold serving up quite an extraordinary Michelin starred experience.
Louisa, Seb and I got there for about 7.30 pm when we were greeted by the friendly FOH team who showed us to the bar. The interiors at Maze are very sophisticated and luxurious without feeling stuffy or pretentious. I love the vibrant atmosphere at Maze, with the bar and the sushi sections blending in seamlessly into the dining space – the whole space really works well. We enjoyed a few cocktails from their extensive Asian influenced bar menu taking it all in when our friendly waiter informed us that they were going to upgrade us to the Kitchen Table!
We were in for a treat! The Kitchen Table is quite a unique experience – as the name suggests, it’s a table that seats up to 8 people situated inside the kitchen right in the centre of all the action. Not a bad view eh?
Our wonderful waiter brought over some Blue Cheese Sablé while we browsed through the menu – it was a wonderful start to the meal. I am a big fan of blue cheese and these melt in your mouth French sablés definitely whet my appetite.
The menu options are quite simple – you have the option of either going a la carte or choosing the chef’s menu which is a seven course offering with the option of adding a cheese course supplement if you fancy even more food. They also offer a four course set menu for £30 during lunch or between 6pm and 7pm – very affordable for a Michelin starred restaurant. You aren’t going to be short for wine pairings at the Maze; the wine list (which is displayed on a computer tablet) is absolutely extensive. We opted for the chef’s menu with the ‘unusual’ wine pairing – it would be wrong not to considering we were dining at the chef’s table.
We started our seven course journey with some English Breakfast which were presented in a real egg shell on a base of crispy rice noodles and some toasted bread. I was loving the idea of serving up this dish in egg shells. We later found out on the kitchen tour that each egg shell is cracked to perfection by a specialist chef, with the executive chef throwing away anything that didn’t match up to the restaurant’s high standards. Every spoonful tasted of a proper full english breakfast that you always dream of – a very refined take on a British classic.
Our second course of Marinated Yellow Fin Tuna, Iberico Ham and Avocado Purée was perfection on a plate! The tuna was absolutely delish and the Iberico ham and avocado purée really made the tuna pop. My only complaint? I wish there was more tuna on that plate – it really was that good.
I love my foie gras, so was delighted to see the Foie Gras Mousse, Smoked Duck, Almonds, Cherries and Sauternes Gel dish on the menu. Again beautifully presented but what really stood out to me was the texture of the foie gras – it was delicate and rich but was still really light.
Our next course of Dumpling of Lobster, Tiger Prawn, Salmon with Dashi was Seb’s favourite dish. The delicate flavouring and complicated textures just showcases the level of expertise in this kitchen.
I am allergic to prawns unfortunately so went for the Scallops, Coconut, Spiced Aubergine dish from the a la carte menu instead. I normally struggle with scallops – they are usually cooked quickly and tend to be quite bland, but the scallops here were an explosion of flavours in your mouth. I was initially skeptical about this dish but the Asian inspired flavours worked really well together. If you are ordering from the a la carte menu, this dish comes highly recommended.
The highlight of the evening without a doubt was the Duck Breast, Confit Legs, Wild Mushroom, Peas, Broad Beans. The duck breast was cooked to perfection and the flavours on that plate were absolutely beautiful. I couldn’t fault it even if I tried. I am happy enough to admit that this was the best duck dish I have ever had. If you choose to dine at Maze, make sure you order a plate, I promise you won’t regret it!
After all that food, we were more than ready for our desserts. The first one was a very simple Strawberry and Mint Sundae. It was really simple but I really enjoyed it – just goes to show that good food doesn’t have to be too complicated.
Our second dessert was the complete opposite. The Chocolate Profiteroles, Ginger Ice Cream was quite a complex dish. I was loving how the team here have deconstructed a classic favourite with the different elements of profiteroles laid out on a plate. The ginger ice cream worked really well in this dish too. It was the perfect last course to such a well constructed menu.
Watching the team of chefs perfecting their plates for the executive chef to inspect was such an unique experience. A lot of people don’t realise the amount of stress, effort and love that goes into every single plate that is dished out from the kitchen. Sitting right in the heart of it, we saw first hand the amount of stress these chefs undergo – definitely not an easy job! In our three hours at the kitchen table, we saw two fights, one chef walked out and endless screaming and swearing (mostly from the executive chef)! Inspite of all this, we had quite a few of the chefs come up and talk to us – you can tell how proud they are of the food they dish out.
The team even forked out a special treat for Louisa’s birthday in between all that stress, which definitely brought a smile to all our faces.
If you opt for the chef’s menu at the Maze, I would highly recommend opting for the ‘unusual’ wine pairing. The pairings work really well and some of the wines are options you wouldn’t normally try. My favourites were the Birbèt Brachetto, Angelo Negro, 2013 from Italy and the Areni Noir, Karasi, Zorah, 2011 from Armenia – different but quite a treat! The lovely Italian sommelier at Maze definitely knows his wine and is also a treat to talk to. Fair to say, we did go through quite a few glasses by the end of the meal.
The team at the Maze had one final treat for us before we left – chocolates and madeleine!
They even gave us a box of those wonderful chocolates to take home.
If you want to experience something a bit different, I would highly recommend the kitchen table experience – it really is something else. It’s like watching an episode of Hell’s Kitchen live and is bound to make any meal a tad bit more special.
So what’s my verdict?
I really wasn’t sure what I was expecting when I booked ourselves in but I can happily say that this Michelin starred restaurant has still got it! The menu is inspirational, the food is spot on, the plating precise and the faultless service is smooth. Maze is a well oiled machine and Ramsay should be proud. I am still not too sure about the sushi bar and the decor might need some TLC but the overall concept of this always evolving French-Asian restaurant works. I cannot wait to go back.