Monday, January 30, 2006

Gordon Ramsay's Maze

menu from maze

On the whole I'd have to say the whole experience of eating at the Ramsay group's newest venture, Maze, gave me what I can only describe as temporal dislocation; the sensation of being felt pulled forwards and backwards through time and space simultaneously. For one the location felt a bit strange, the enormous towering edifice of the American embassy, now clad in it's bomb proof cordon, looms large over Grosvenor Square and the various road blocks and security points make it feel a bit like going into a restaurant on the west side of the Berlin Wall circa 1985. In fact, the interior carries on this illusion, the curved surfaces and stark use of colour giving the whole place a very eighties vibe, yet, somehow, it manages to convey a sense of something very modern as viewed from 1973. It's an odd space. I liked it.

Whilst Maze is owned by the Ramsey group, the head chef, the very talented Jason Atherton is a Ferran Adria protégé, and the menu is a selection of tapas style dishes, from which you are advised to choose between 5 and 7 dishes to enjoy. On the last page of the menu there is a concession to those who like starter and a main with a selection of the very same dishes writ large. I could have chosen pretty much everything on the menu but since I was being treated then I had to be content with one of the Chef's menus, of which there are a 5 course and a 7 course to choose from. Luckily, the 5-course menu was full of death dealing crustaceans so I had to plump for the 7 courses. Bummer. Wine-wise we all went for a selection of flights, with the girlfriend going for the Sommelier’s selection and myself and the lovely folk who invited us out going for 3 New Zealand Pinot Noirs.

I'm going to take each of my courses in isolation for you because frankly it was a bit of a gastronomic rollercoaster ride. The first two dishes to arrive were Orkney sea scallops roasted with curry, spiced apple and celeriac puree and Carpaccio of tuna and swordfish with lime and cucumber marinade, soya dressing. A decided hit and a bit of a miss. The sea scallops were just sensational, two jewel like pieces of shellfish, ever so slightly charred with tight textured flesh but a sweetness that worked beautifully with the other surprising flavours. They were so good I couldn't share them. The carpaccio I doled out liberally, the flavours were clean and simple but I felt the fish was lost amongst the lime and cucumber. Next up, came Wood roasted pumpkin with aged parmesan and wild mushrooms. This is just the sort of thing the girlfriend loves, and the warm flavours worked well after the clean tones of the first two dishes. I enjoyed it, but was still raving about the scallops. A little pause, and then Duart Salmon, pork belly with choucroute and smoked raisin reduction. This was good, this was complicated; this was one to really mull over. You'd think that with so many competing flavours your tongue wouldn't know where to settle, the deep saltiness of the pork, the refined salmon or the sweetness of fruit, but it all worked well together. Last up, in terms of what would have been considered mains, was Grilled lamb with braised lamb neck, cos lettuce, bacon and onions, ras el hanout. Deep dark flavours to finish, the hunk of neck drippingly tender and the balance working well, the lamb and ras el hanout delivering a surprising North African tone to the end of the main courses.

Last up where two incredible desserts. A shot glass of Apple and Caramel trifle with cider granita and a tiny cinnamon doughnut and a dish of Pineapple carpaccio with ginger lime syrup, coconut sorbet and pink peppercorn. I was falling over myself for the granita, it really was an epiphany in a glass, the clash of cold cider with the cloying caramel was just perfect, a truly sublime moment. The pineapple was fun, as it featured lots of involved pouring of sauces from the waiter. It was a bit confusing and frankly after the trifle it was always going to be second fiddle.

With my coffee arrived a selection of chocolate and on little brushed aluminium stands four lollipops appeared. A dollop of ice-cream surrounded by soft meringue and a moment of comic bliss, I had to ask the waitress back to tell me exactly what it was I was eating and I still forgot because I was enjoying it too much. The tiny squares of rose water Turkish delight where just the right side of fragrant and so delicately wobbly that they were quite tricky to pick up.

So, all in all, some comedy, some truly sublime moments and the odd disappointment. To be honest I wouldn't have had it any other way; it is inevitable that when your eating like this then one or two of the dishes will not match up to the rest, and that's fine, since the ones that work do so, so very well. As we were leaving, I heard a rather well rounded city fella say to the waitress; "That lamb was lovely, really good, I just keep wondering where the rest of it is".

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Greg said...

The food sounds wonderful. The only experience I've had with the horrible T.V. show he had in the U.S. He must be talented but comes off as an arse.

Anonymous said...

It all sounds wonderful - am very envious! (By the way, it's "Ramsay" not "Ramsey"!)

Monkey Gland said...


Dagny said...

I had a hard time getting past the description of the scallops. As soon as I saw "scallops" in boldface, I said to myself, "I bet those were great."