Maze Grill, Royal Hospital Road

The Gordon Ramsay group is expanding at speed, with his eateries popping up all over London. Last week I was invited to sample the menu at the new Chelsea branch of Maze Grill, arguably Ramsay’s most successful casual brand. Located on Royal Hospital Road it is the neighbour of his renowned 3 star establishment down the road.

The restaurant feels boutique-y, but with a cosy ground floor area there is enough space for a decent number of covers. I was sat, along with a few select food bloggers, at an upstairs table. We discussed recent food discoveries and inspiring travels whilst enjoying a glass of fizz.

With Maze Grill, Ramsay hopes to emulate the offering and atmosphere of the American sushi and steak houses. The menu focuses on these cuisines, with a few other tempting dishes for vegetarians. An impressive plate of sushi arrived for us to pick at, and the vibrancy of the colours indicated just how fresh the food was. It looked beautiful. We also enjoyed a few of the sharing starters, addictive Sweet Potato chips with Mexican-inspired smashed avocados and spicy crunchy Buffalo chicken fillets with chilli and lime.

For main course, an array of decadent dishes arrived. The star of the show was the wooden platter of steak which I strategically ensured I was close to. We tried the USDA Prime Sirloin (£3.40/oz) and the special but expensive Wagyu triple seared fillet (£14.50/oz). Despite the wow factor of the wagyu I preferred the flavour and texture of the American sirloin which was cooked to perfection with a lovely charcoal hint to the crispy edge. I’ve never seen steak served with lime, but it was a nice citrus addition to the dish. Every variety of sauce is available, usually peppercorn would be my preference but at Maze Grill I thought the (alarmingly orange) hot sauce or béarnaise were the tastiest. It was strange to not have fries with the steak, but my gluttonous streak was satisfied with the rich Mac & cheese and huge puffy onion rings.

Delicious wine from Washington accompanied the starter and then we moved on to a hearty red with the steak. The service was quietly attentive for the duration of the meal. Staff stayed out of the way as we arranged the plates and photographed everything… a group of food bloggers are not the easiest people to serve!

Indulgent desserts soon covered the table, a blur of sugary treats. The highlight was the ‘Monkey bread’ a soft cinnamon flavoured bread, that sunk invitingly as I dunked my spoon in. Topped with caramelised pecans, sticky caramel sauce and melting vanilla ice-cream, it was not dissimilar to a luxury version of my brunch favourite, French toast.

We left Maze Grill a few pounds heavier, but happy and content after the sushi and steak banquet. I’m not sure how much input Ramsay has in his ever-growing chain of restaurants, but either way they seem to be enjoying continuing success, with or without him at the helm.

More information and book a table at Maze Grill Chelsea here.

Hélène Darroze Sommelier’s Table

I am lucky to have tasted the culinary creations of Hélène Darroze on several occasions. Her restaurant at the Connaught Hotel is renowned for its spectacular food and exemplary service. Using rich memories of her upbringing in south west France, her beautiful cuisine illustrates a love of fine ingredients and family heritage but also an imaginative spirit that means her ideas evolve as she travels more of the world.

A few weeks ago I dined at the exclusive Hélène Darroze Sommelier’s Table Supperclub, along with a group of London’s top food bloggers. Beneath the kitchens, down a discreet staircase, the chilly cellar is found. Holding an impressive collection of valuable, exceptional even, bottles of wine, this cellar is only used for the most elite meals, a special hideaway for wine connoisseurs and food lovers.

A seven course menu was designed specially by Hélène for the occasion, and master Sommelier Mirko Benzo selected unique vintages to complement each course. Sitting around the grand circular table, I felt like we had travelled back in time, a regal feast in a secret cellar. It is an enlightening experience tasting dishes with wine that balances so miraculously with every ingredient and flavour. We were invited to blind taste the wine initially, a task which I did spectacularly badly at, but one that really stirred my interest in this world.

Meanwhile Hélène’s head chef Alex Dilling was presenting plates of food that thrilled the Instagrammers round the table. Caviar with crab, radish and hass avocado looked like a dreamy garden in the bowl. Foie gras with wild strawberry, rhubarb and lemon verbena looked pretty, pink and perfect, but was complex and sophisticated in taste, the sweetest of the fruit cutting through the rich smooth foie gras. Coco bean with eel and shimeji then Lobster with asparagus, botargo and seaweed followed. The kitchen continued to wow with luxurious ingredients prepared in inventive and delicious ways.

Though I can be squeamish the Sweetbread course was a resounding success around the table, I heard whispers of ‘this is the best dish I’ve tasted all year’… which is high praise from people who eat and judge food for a living! The sweetbread was like very tender pork, paired with earthy indulgent morels, fresh seasonal asparagus and vin jaune (from the Jura region of France). It was paired with a glass of 2008 Gevry-Chambertin “Les Jeunes Rois”, Domaine Geantet-Pansiot.

For the double dessert extravaganza (courses six and seven) I had to engage my second stomach. Traditional Baba Armagnac (using the Darroze family Armagnac) was up first. A light but boozy treat accompanied by strawberries and fluffy banana cream. I imagine it would be the kind of grown-up dessert James Bond would order when out on a date. The second dessert – Chocolate with ginger and bourbon vanilla provoked childish oohs and ahhs from the team of eaters. Once all the photographic evidence of the chocolate masterpiece had been recorded, the table was silent as we consumed the delightfully indulgent pudding.

Satisfied and stunned by the array of culinary creations and magical wine journey we had experienced, we ate our final mouthfuls of French patisserie and sipped the last of the dessert wine before saying our goodbyes and stepping back into the real world upstairs.

More information on the Sommelier’s Table here, learn more about Hélène Darroze here.