Its Monday, its my birthday and I have the day off. What a better a way to spend it than having lunch with my dad. Today's destination, Maze in Mayfair.
One of my favourite shows on TV is the Great British Menu, a competition putting two chefs from the same region against one another in the vain hope that at the end of it all, one of their dishes makes it to the end of series "banquet". Before this show, I hadn't really heard of Jason Atherton, but he managed to get two of his dishes through to the banquet and I vowed to give his restaurant a visit.
After a relatively painless bus ride and a short trek past the American embassy, we were there. As soon as we entered the front door, we were treated extremely well. Drinks orders taken, menu's brought to us and explained and bread fresh out the oven in the blink of an eye. Excellent service which was maintained throughout the whole lunchtime.
Order of the day was the Set Lunch menu. Maze works on a "many small dishes " basis. From the main menu, the waiter suggested you go for 4 dishes per person. As we were opting for the set lunch we had choices from a selection of 9 savoury and 4 sweet courses. Between me and my dad, we managed to cover all but one of the savoury courses and had 1 sweet each. It was a lot to take in, here's how it went:
Marinated Beetroot, Sairass Cheese, Pine Nuts
First up and pretty disappointing. Although well presented, the cheese overpowered the whole dish and I was struggling to pick up the beetroot. Didn't think the pine nuts added anything.
‘Prawn cocktail’, tomato fondue, lettuce ice, cocktail sauce
This was an excellent dish. Arriving in a cocktail glass, the lettuce ice was sprinkled on separately and added a lovely refreshing twist to a classic dish. The cocktail sauce was in puree form and together with the tomato fondue and the prawns, formed a great contrast in textures and flavours. One of our days favourites.
Smoked Cornish mackerel, mackerel tartar, olive jelly
Owing to my aversion for really strong tasting fish, I stayed well clear of this. My dad thought it was ok.
Braised shin of veal, pea and broad bean risotto, aged parmesan
A soft and flavoursome piece of meat. The accompanying pea and broad bean risotto was fresh as a summers day and the smooth fresh flavours were a fantastic contrast to the deep and meaty veal.
Red mullet bouillabaisse, saffron aioli, croutons
Again, my fish aversion meant I avoided this. Tried the bouillabaisse, which tasted pretty good.
‘Warm Scottish breakfast’ London cured salmon, smoked haddock risotto, egg and bacon
This was the star of the show for me. I'm very wary of "re-inventions" but this dish really worked. First we were presented with the salmon (twice cooked, cured then grilled on one side) which had a deep Portobello mushroom puree along side. Accompanying this was the smoked haddock risotto, containing one quails egg yolk and a sliver of bacon. I normally hate salmon (the fish thing again) but even I couldn't resist this. The flavours of the mushroom subtle alongside the slightly salty cured salmon. Although the risotto was almost a secondary dish, the yolk reinforced the richness of the risotto and was absolutely delicious. A winner.
Confit shoulder of lamb, pea purée
Now, I have eaten a lot of lamb recently. Tayyabs lamb chops (nigh on unbeatable) and loads of lamb at Taste of London (from Tamarind, Benares & Toms Kitchen). All slightly different and all lovely in their own way. This was succulent and melt in your mouth as you would expect, but nothing really that memorable. I'm beginning to think once you've tried one, you've tried them all. I'm still waiting for that lamb dish to blow me away like those lamb chops...
Roasted Barbary duck, parsley root, English cherries
Our last savoury dish and pretty disappointing. The "cherry" gravy didn't taste of cherries and the duck, well, it just tasted of duck. Boring.
Chilled cherry and mint soup, toasted marshmallow, cherry sorbet
More cherry and this time slightly more successful. The cherry and mint soup was sweet, whilst the sorbet a nice tart contrast. It could have done with being more chilled.
Rice pudding, raspberry jam, pecan ice cream, maple syrup
A pecan pie in rice pudding format. Sweet, unctuous and delicious. The pecans added the contrast in textures and added another dimension to an already great dish. Hitting the raspberry jam at the bottom was like unearthing a hidden treasure. A great way to end the meal.
Phew, a lot to get through. A nice concept and a good way to try out what the kitchen is capable of. It was good, but was it great? Hmm, not really. Although the service was impeccable throughout, the food never quite lived up to it. I'm still waiting to be blown away, and one day, I will find that meal that fulfils that criteria on every level.
Maze (website), 10-13 Grosvenor Square, W1K 6JP