Maze Grill, Mayfair

Maze Grill is known for its superb steaks, but I was keen to visit for its recommended burger. Located in the same building as Gordon Ramsay’s more prestigious Maze (serving award-winning French and Asian influenced food), Maze Grill has a relaxed atmosphere and a menu of British best.

We began with a simple cocktail, sweet but tasty fruit flavoured martinis… my lychee variant was particularly good. Sitting down in the plush corner sofa seats we could voyeuristically observe the restaurant’s running. Busy and bustling, the place was full from early evening and everyone seemed to be having a great time… I was optimistic about the meal ahead.

A cheeky chappy came over with ‘the board’, loaded with glistening hunks of meat. Each had its own story, assets and limitations, I listened intently… after all one of these would soon be on my plate. We rapidly chose our first course, crispy calamari and, staying true to my burger promise I ordered the sliders, with a Maze burger for main. It was a feast of meat, cheese and carbs… a diet dream! The calamari was tasted fresh and Mediterranean strewn with spring onions and a wedge of lime.

Though I was disappointed with the burger, my friend’s steak was definitely in my top three I have ever tried, and I envied his every bite. The burger was neatly presented and served with a couple of onion rings. Despite requesting the meat medium, the patty was very dense and a bit dry, although the flavour was still good. The butter lettuce, tomato and Monterey Jack cheese were all good but the bread was too thick and filling, and I couldn’t finish it all.

Steak is really what Maze Grill is all about and I’m pleased to say that they excel in this area. We experienced the most tender and wonderful 8oz Wagyu “9th grade” sirloin steak. It was so good I could imagine requesting it as my last meal on earth. Along with half a roasted garlic, and a very thick and creamy bearnaise sauce, I really couldn’t fault it. For those who don’t know… Wagyu is the designer steak of ultimate indulgence. The cow is massaged (and some are even fed beer) to create an evenly marbled, melt in the mouth meat.

Chips were delicious too, hand cut and parmesan & truffle french fries are on offer. We tried both, naturally. I was particularly enamoured of the fries subtly seasoned with truffle oil and a modest sprinkling of parmesan.

Wine was chosen according to our food choices – the sommelier picked appropriately and thoughtfully offering us different reds to suit the burger and steak, and a crisp, drinkable white to start.

I must admit I found the service a little suffocating. Seven staff members attended to us constantly throughout the night: concierge, hostess, waiter, sommelier, waitress, meat expert. It was very flattering but also quite distracting; when your mouthfuls are so regularly interrupted indigestion is inevitable. Aside from that the food was commendable… and with steaks this good I’m sure Maze Grill will always be busy.

More information here.

Gordon Ramsay, Royal Hospital Road

I never tire of food – being a blogger I eat out far more than I should and yet the excitement of a new fine dining experience always brings a new wave of anticipation, desire and hunger.

When my grandparents invited me to Gordon Ramsay on Royal Hospital Road, yes the restaurant with the highest accolade, three Michelin stars, I knew it would be a memorable meal. The pressure of looking forward to a meal of this calibre occupied my mind for days before, I couldn’t help but boast to everyone I spoke to.

The restaurant is simple and smart as you might expect, nothing distracts from the food. The atmosphere avoids any stuffiness with personable, genuine staff who enjoy making every guest’s visit perfect. As regulars at the restaurant, my grandparents introduced me to the friendly head waiter Jean-Claude, a warm and enthusiastic character who kindly assisted us at every stage of our meal.

The table was dressed stylishly and we admired the surroundings while sipping superior chilled Rose and nibbling at fresh crusty bread. The preliminaries delighted me… unexpected mouthfuls of joy, created seasonally by the chef to excite and cleanse the palate. We were treated to more than our fair share, warm cheesy choux pastry bites and an adorable ‘English garden’ in a glass which was particularly pretty and pleasing, a lovely pea mousse with soft mild cheese topped with tiny edible purple petals. We cooed as we marvelled over our little dishes, they were far too attractive to touch or eat!

Head Chef Clare Smyth is a magician in the kitchen and what followed was a whirlwind of sensational food, exceptional presentation and exemplary service. The waiters and waitresses must be trained and rehearsed much like a performing cast, as they dance fluidly round the restaurant in a perfectly choreographed routine: replacing, refreshing and replenishing any condiment or extra needed. It sounds strange but the service here is quite beautiful to watch.

The a la carte menu is priced at £95, the daily lunch menu at a reasonable £45, both for three courses. Everything sounded divine so we all chose to stick to the lunch menu – the less choice the better otherwise my indecision gets the better of me, and anyway at a restaurant like this every dish is ‘the best dish’. Sweet smells wafted from nearby tables and my stomach whirled in excitement for the plates to come. The waiters arrived with the most stunning culinary arrangements I have ever seen… no effort is spared here. To start I ate the heavenly Smoked potato and poached hen’s egg ravioli with pak choi, roast chicken jus and leek veloute. It was a striking dish, one plump piece of pasta filled with an egg that burst to reveal a gorgeous silky orange yolk. A light sweet but salty sauce accompanied the softly flavoured ravioli, combined with the mild leek soup, it was a lovely light first course. The Salad of Szechuan pork, tiger prawn, chargrilled, pickled and marinated vegetables, Asian herbs and daikon dressing was a work of art, so delicate and colourful, it looked and tasted spectacular, a genius balancing of flavours with an oriental twist.

For main I debated long and hard between the Roasted rabbit loin with Bayonne ham, confit tomato, marjoram, broad beans, grelots and chargrilled charlotte potatoes and the Spiced free range Devon duck with Swiss chard, beetroot and grilled onions. My grandparents both ordered the Rabbit so it seemed appropriate that I try the other option. Although lean, my duck preserved every drop of flavour, tender and meaty subtly spiced to enhance the flavour of the duck and cooked with sweet onions, beetroot and refreshing pak choi. The Rabbit, from the mouthful I tasted, was faultless – a unique and imaginative dish that was full flavoured without feeling too rich. Each ingredient served its role without any element stealing too much attention, a delicious composition.

Ensuring our puddings were memorable, Jean-Claude specially adapted the menu to bring us each our dream dessert. First though, a passionfruit and coconut soup cocktail served in a tall glass flute with a fragile straw, a comforting thick liquid with a hint of lemongrass. I opted for the Roasted pineapple with coriander financiers, coconut sorbet and vanilla cream for dessert, a dainty dish with caramelised fruit and various spicy and sweet accompaniments. The soft pineapple paired perfectly with the refreshing sorbet and cream and the slightly bitter coriander cakes gave an unusual kick. The chocolate dessert looked epic, a cylinder filled with a creamy, melt in the mouth, sweet interior… it was very rich and the portion size perhaps a little too generous. The cheese trolley was quite a titillating experience, every variety and speciality was on offer, to pick only a few was almost impossible.

The Petits Fours arriving suggested the sad realisation that the meal was coming to an end: rich buttery chocolate truffles, very odd and slightly disappointing jelly like Turkish Delight (that seemed to be elderflower flavoured) and best of all, ice cold strawberry ice cream coated in thin jagged white chocolate and served in a puff of dry ice. These chocolates were so good I would like to finish every meal with one! We popped into the kitchen on the way out, to see a radiant Clare exhausted after lunch service… and her workstation where all the thrilling cooking happens… it was hard to imagine just how much energy goes into every single plate that leaves this room.

We are lucky to have many exceptional Michelin starred restaurants in our city, but there are only a few restaurants that really come this close to perfection. Temperamental and talented, Gordon Ramsay goes in and out of fashion but Clare Smyth’s supreme cooking ensures that his restaurant on Royal Hospital Road will always provide one of London’s finest dining experiences.

More information and book here.

Lazy Loaf Brunch at Bread Street Kitchen

On Sunday the clocks went forward and it was the most beautiful spring day. Feeling incredibly proud of myself after an exhausting run round the park I felt brunch was a rightful prize. I visited Gordon Ramsay’s newest venture in St Pauls, Bread Street Kitchen when it first opened six months ago and was delighted to be returning to try the brunch menu.

The ambience of Bread Street Kitchen on a Sunday morning encourages a leisurely meal. A band play classics in one corner of the huge first floor dining room and groups of friends sit laughing or reading the weekend newspapers. The new Lazy Loaf Sunday Brunch menu, focused around the concept of a relaxed and languid meal seems to be bringing in the hungry hordes.

We had resisted eating all morning so we could indulge, a ploy I’d definitely recommend as there is so much to try. We ordered Ricotta hot cakes with berries and honeycomb butter, Bacon and egg roll, Ham hock hash with fried duck egg and BSK steak sandwich, caramelised onions and garlic mayonnaise with hand-cut chips. It was a feast of delectable dishes, cooked to perfection and presented beautifully.

The ricotta hot cakes are a little like scotch pancakes, quite thin but dense. If I’m honest I have tried better, and recently my pancake expectations have risen considerably. The flavour was nice but I would have appreciated a dollop of crème fraiche or cream to contrast with the sweetness. It is immediately obvious that BSK use the highest quality ingredients: the eggs had such vibrant orange yolks, I was mesmerised by the colour. The ham hock hash was a lovely little dish, a carefully stacked assortment of elements, contrasting perfectly in flavour and texture. My steak sandwich was divine, a sloppy sandwich with thin sliced grilled meat and the sweetest onions. The chips are triple fried and consequently contain triple the calories but are also three times as yummy with a crunchy crispy outer edge and soft fluffy potato inside. Along with our food, fresh orange juices and frothy cappuccinos arrived.

After eating, we indulged in a couple of BSK special brunch cocktails. The Lazy Loaf brunch offers a whole plethora of Bloody Mary opportunities… the DIY Bloody Mary buffet is found at the bar – here you can concoct and customise your own perfect Bloody Mary choosing from the array of ingredients. I found this idea very appealing but I’m not a big tomato juice fan so instead opted for a Marmalade Fizz made with Bombay Sapphire Gin, Marmalade, Demerara syrup and egg white, and my friend chose the Corpse Reviver #2 with Bambay Sapphire Gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, Pernod and Absinthe. Both cocktails were very strong, my Marmalade Fizz was a unique twist of flavours with inventive use of the breakfast jam, sweet and sour with a frothy top from the egg. The Corpse Reviver was even more lethal with a kick from the absinthe, an eccentric mix of ingredients making a full bodied drink.

Bread Street Kitchen’s Lazy Loaf offers the ultimate Brunch experience with good food and good music, all in all a great place to spend a Sunday morning.

Visit the Bread Street Kitchen website here.