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.

The Crown and Two Chairmen, Soho

There are a lot of loud people in the Crown & Two Chairmen pub. When we arrived I wondered where on earth we would sit, and indeed if they even served food. Centrally located on Dean Street in Soho, this rowdy inn has recently been refurbished and is busier than ever. Fighting our way through the crowd, we were led by the multi-tasking barman to a small table at the back as the restaurant area upstairs was booked out for a private party.

What I could see of the interior was warm and cosy, dark traditional colours and comfortable materials. The pub was full of pre-dinner and post-work drinkers, and around eight o’clock the venue began to calm. Although the atmosphere was jovial and pleasant for a friendly catch-up, we found ourselves shouting across the table to be heard by each other, within minutes my throat was sore.

The menu features well-loved pub dishes like fish and chips and burgers, and there are delicious craft beers and a carefully curated wine list to drink your way through. We began to feel more at home once our drinks arrived and we’d decided our dishes from the tempting options. Warmed hummous with bread and vegetables was a healthy and tasty platter to start the meal. The homemade hummous had a coarse texture with a hint of garlic and was particularly nice with the lovely sweet baby carrots. We also tried the Salt and pepper squid with spicy mayonnaise – the seafood pieces were fresh and soft but the coating could have been crispier and warmer.

The staff were extremely friendly throughout our meal, attending to our every need. After energetic gossiping we were ready for our main course. The fish cakes looked a bit sad on the plate, but were well seasoned and carefully cooked. They were served with a punchy lemon crème fraiche, paprika potato wedges and coleslaw. I opted for the 21 day aged rib-eye steak with fries, watercress and peppercorn sauce. It was a good but thin steak, lightly grilled to give a delicious chargrilled woody edge. The peppercorn sauce was very creamy with whole peppercorns adding spice and crunch.

Desserts rotate regularly and we weren’t over-excited with the options. Raspberry and peach crumble with apple sorbet was a strange dish. Presented flat in a bowl with an excess of crumble it was overpoweringly sweet and the sorbet had a slightly fake taste. I think we had bad luck as I’d spied some delicious sounding salted-caramel dishes on the pub’s website prior to visiting.

There is a surplus of pubs in Soho and The Crown & Two Chairmen is a rare venue which pairs a lively ambience and good food. This winning combination would explain why it was so busy when we visited.

More information here:

The Jones Family Project, Shoreditch

Most would assume the Jones Family Project is set up by a family, and in a way it is. Husband and wife team Anna and Duncan have been in the restaurant industry for a number of years and have brought colleague Amit and their trusted chef Christiano on board for this venture. A group of individuals who strive for the same goal, they each bring their own character and assets to the JFP business. ‘Jones’ seemed like a fitting surname to unite the group in this joint project.

The venue in Shoreditch can cater for numerous occasions with a large versatile space. The upstairs bar is often used for private events and parties, downstairs there’s another bar with high stools and booths, also an ever-evolving themed table and a smarter sit-down area for a la carte feasting. We sat at a quiet booth chatting to owner Anna while sipping a deliciously fruity Saffron Sour and a refreshing Langley’s No. 8 gin and Fever-tree tonic served with basil and fresh grapefruit.

The main restaurant area was busy and lively when we sat down for dinner, surprising considering it was a mid-week evening in January. Apparently the eatery is also popular for business lunches, and the special offers ensure guests return again and again. When we visited the seasonal offer was £40 for two burgers and a bottle of Burgundy. Steak is the speciality at JFP, supplied by Ginger Pig and cooked on a Josper grill, it is unmissable. We tried the juicy sirloin and the Pork rib-eye (a unique cut for JFP from Ginger Pig). Both were cooked exactly as we requested emphasising the fine quality of the meats whilst also giving a caramelised crunchy edge. Chef Christiano also offers shavings of luxurious and rich Belper Knolle cheese on top of the steaks, a very special addition which we loved. I was particularly impressed with the pork which was unlike any cut I’ve tried before, presented on a bed of chorizo, potatoes and savoy cabbage. The perfect warming winter meal.

Of the sauces, I would recommend the utterly wonderful Béarnaise – perfect consistency and perfectly seasoned. The classic Argentinian chimichurri is good too, more like a herby dressing for your meat. The peppercorn was a bit disappointing, and tasted more like gravy or red wine sauce. Steak frites is out of fashion and steak and mac is in, it was the truffled macaroni cheese from JFP that caused a stir on my social media, and trust me, it tastes as good as it looks, a cheesy crispy indulgent pasta bake with a hint of truffle.

Fitting in dessert was a struggle after we over-indulged on the savoury delights… but we managed to share a Triple Chocolate Brownie with coconut sorbet and salted caramel sauce! We were pleased to find it served warm along with a drizzle of caramel sauce and a contrasting clean cold boule of white sorbet. In retrospect the Gin and Orange Semifreddo may have been a more palate cleansing option to finish on.

As well as their creative cocktails, the Jones Family Project pride themselves on offering all guests a selection of great wines. Owner Duncan has a keen interest and knowledge of wine and uses this experience to create an extensive and varied list, many wines are available by the glass encouraging you to try something unfamiliar.

The Jones Family Project is a terrific venue for all occasions. They are placed in a great location, with tasty food and drinks, but it is the character and enthusiasm of the team that give the place such a happy, fun atmosphere.

More information and book here: