"Outstanding value for the quality of food on offer"Review Rating: Reviewed by KimT
What’s the collective noun for a group of restaurant reviewers? Let’s be kind and call it a taste of reviewers. And where do four key All In Londoners go for a festive lunch? To a Ramsay establishment of course.
Nestled by the side of the Grosvenor Square Marriott Hotel and tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street you have to first work out whether you are booked into the Grill (busy, busy, busy) or the Restaurant (calm, calm, calm).
I awaited my companions in one of the eclectic chic armchairs in a delightful shade of hot pink under the soulful gaze of a Mick Jagger black and white limited edition photograph. An army of black-clad staff glided back and forth silently in front of me while I admired the soft purple glow of the back lighters behind the curved wooden New York arty walnut covered bar. Achingly chic. You almost don’t notice that an adjacent similar structure is an open kitchen area.
While our table (reminiscent of a bit of a battered school desk) offered us a great view of the trees and greenery on the square, it was a little shut off from the main restaurant area. I guess it would be perfect if you wanted a some privacy. But it didn’t stop us spying Mr Ramsay himself when he arrived without ceremony and slunk away to the hidden kitchen area.
The four of us settled down to inspect the menus. When one asked about vegetarian options she was given a separate menu. Nice. Gin and tonics and glasses of wine (Sauvignon Blanc - £8 and Pinot Noir - £9.50) arrived while we considered our choices.
As tempting as the seven course Chef’s menu (£75) looked we didn’t feel we could quite manage it in the time available. So three of us – after a quick look at the a la carte – decided on the set menu of four courses for the amazing price of £30. Also, with four choices you get a chance to sample more of the food.
Even though some of us made the same selections, they were careful to serve them so that we enjoyed them at different times.
The slate of warm bread rolls arrived with ordinary and smoked butter options. My smoked mackerel, beetroot, horseradish with mandarin vinaigrette was delightful – an interesting blend of flavours each complimenting each other well. My colleague grumbled a bit about the skin not being crispy until I pointed out that it had been steamed.
My colleague’s duck and foie gras terrine was a presentation triumph and he polished it off quick – before we could all beg to share. I didn’t get much of a report on the crispy chicken thigh, charred baby gem, turnip with lettuce mayonnaise – the chicken had been opened out like a butterfly and disappeared off the plate with equal speed.
I was lost in my sea bream, enoki mushroom, seaweed, ginger with dashi. The warm broth with flecks of seaweed actually looked like a rock pool and the delicate sea bream melted in my mouth. Three of us had chosen the steamed pork bun, sweetcorn and fried onions which was probably our favourite.
Beetroot was a bit of a theme as our companion tucked into heritage beetroot, burrata, red chard with a Cabernet Sauvignon dressing (£9.50). She then made us all envious with a Jerusalem artichoke and pearl barley risotto, baby onions, parsley with artichoke crisps (£11.50). That looked amazing. So yellow.
The Clementine parfait was light and citrusy and the clove ice cream just hinted at Christmas while the hazelnut and Cointreau gel confirmed it. Loved the broad brush stroke backdrop to this dessert. Our companion had to fight us off of his chocolate and peanut bar with caramelised banana – not only was it as pretty as a picture (showered with tiny milk and white chocolate shavings) but it tasted mighty fine too. Almost rude.
We were replete. And they then served up mini mince pies. We were disappointed that they weren’t warm and also that the pastry seemed a little old and dry. It wasn’t a happy ending to an otherwise extraordinarily good meal.
We argued quite a bit about whether it should be rated a 10 (amazing service, incredible food, stunning value for money) or a 9 (tired table, shut out from the main restaurant, miserable mince pie). Majority rule won.
However, we were all of the view that Mr Ramsay has again demonstrated that it is possible to provide incredible food cooked to an amazing standard in a thoroughly delightful restaurant with impeccable service – without requiring customers to take out a mortgage to enjoy the privilege. The bill came to £190 for the four of us which we thought was outstanding value for the food we had enjoyed. I won’t be reserving Mr Ramsay’s establishments for special occasions any more.
KimT reviewed Maze on Mon 16 Dec 2013