Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Maze, London.

Friday lunch, Grosvenor square. I wanted to eat here after seeing Jason Atherton on the Great British Menu. He seemed a thoughtful chap who had some pretty interesting dishes up his sleeves. The idea of small plates is a good one and seems to be my favourite way of eating these days. Given the success of L'atelier de Joel Roubuchon it would seem that I am not the only one who thinks so, and I wonder if Jason is creating his own particular vision at Maze. Certainly his time at El Bulli shows.. I know he is keen for Maze to get its second star so I reckon it's one worth watching.

The meal almost didn't happen, but thanks to Tina at reservations it did.
As you know the trip had been planned for months and our table was originally booked for 2.30pm. My sister though, asked me to pick my niece up from school, and feeling the absent aunt I wanted to oblige, but this would mean cutting the lunch short or missing it altogether. I phoned up to see if I could get an earlier table to be told the restaurant was full. Of course it is, silly me. Dejected I hung up. Then I thought no, there must be a way, so I phoned up and explained my plight to Tina. I don't know if she is always this nice but she took pity on me and said she would over-book me and put me in for 12pm, which, given that they are not meant to open till half past, seemed very accommodating of her.

We got there at quarter to and there were already people sitting about. For a moment I thought I saw Nick Munier, the maitre' d from Marco Pierre White's programme but then what would he be doing in a GRH place? Doh. Then I saw a sprightly chap who looked like a younger Jason Atherton, his younger brother maybe? No, the man himself! Feeling cheered by the notion that the chef was actually in the kitchen I relaxed considerably.

As all the comfy seats were taken, we perched at the bar and started with some cocktails. When a cocktail meets with my approval it is usually heralded with an exclamation 'It tastes like juice'. This tasted like juice but paced a punch like a donkey.

Mine was a raspberry sunrise with a jalapeno kick and HI was very impressed with his chocolate sazerac.

We were shown to our seats and happily were seated at right angles, without even having to ask! I was immediately taken with this nifty cutlery holder.

Then there was the warm bread with soft butter, points on!

We decided to order from the 'tasting menu' as opposed to the larger plates from the a la carte. What follows is some exceptional food.

Assiette of sandwiches, ‘BLT’ and croque monsieur 9.00
As seen of TGBM, it was very tasty and light. I thought it better than my choice which was the..

Pressed marinated foie gras, Lincolnshire smoked eel, baked potato foam and dill 10.50
I had thougtht I would be clever and order this so I could compare it to the original L'anguille at L'atelier in NY when we go in November. However, I really need to remember you can have too much Foie Gras, and I am at that point. I love butter but I don't eat huge chunks of it (unless on a toasted bagel with jam on..) And I had hoped the eel would have cut through the richness of it but I could not tell it was there.

Two texture white asparagus, ‘two hour egg’, smoked mussels and brown bread velouté 9.00
Beautiful, light. An excellent choice. HI's of course.

Slow cooked quail, marinated foie gras, peach purée and ale vinegar reduction 10.00
The best quail I have ever had. Usually it comes a bit rubbery or tough. This was pefect, but oh no! Foie Gras again!! I had to leave it. Or else my liver was going to go all fatty and someone was going tp turn me into human foie gras. Yeuch!

Rare breed Sussex pork ‘head to toe’, apple purée and spiced lentils 12.00
Pig. I love it.

The toe part- pig's trotter. The first time I have actually eaten this and if it tastes like this, would gladly eat again.

Roasted rack of lamb, hispi cabbage, red cabbage purée and ‘lamb navarin’ 12.50
Perfectly cooked, intense flavour and the peas were soo fresh

The Navarin

Beef ‘tongue ‘n’ cheek’, caper raisin and ginger carrots 11.50
This was intensely savoury. It was moist tender and delicious. Unfortunately as it was my last dish I couldn't do it justice. Very good.

Braised shin of veal, pumpkin risotto and veal kidney powder 9.50 (vegetarian option available)
This was amazing. I have come to realise two things. HI always orders better than me and if there is slow roasted/braised veal on the menu, then order it.

Peanut butter and cherry jam sandwich with salted nuts and cherry sorbet 6.50
I looved this, a peanut parfait with cherry jammy stuff. Probably the only thing David Beckham and I have in common..

Madagascan vanilla rice pudding, raspberry and lemon thyme jam, mascarpone and
pecan ice cream 6.00
An adult version of the classic school pudding, very tasty and not too heavy

Lovely petit four

What made this meal even better was that, as we were leaving, Jason was at the door and spoke to us! How sad am I to get excited?
He didn't have to, but he chatted to us about our meal, what we were up to in London, the TGBM and the fact he is hosting the next series to welcome the troops home. He even helped HI on with his jacket! He came across, as he did on telly, as a really approachable,level-headed interested guy.

Even without meeting the chef I would have to say this was an excellent meal. I like the vibe of the place: modern, formal but without being stuffy or snotty, and I like the concept of ordering lots of tasty food!

This is the future of modern British cooking, in my humble opinion. The formal French fine dining that seem to dominate the scene has had it's day. This is a place I would gladly go back to. Go Jason!

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