A Civilized, Casual Lunch at The Maze at the London
On Tuesday, I went to the London Hotel trying to get a taste of what Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen is capable of. Beyond his brash TV personality, he is an accoladed chef in London (the only person to have 3 stars in Guide Michelin, I’m talking about the original French guide, not the controversial New York guide that has a few food writers boiling). I’ve read a lot of good things about the The Maze saying that it has pretty delicious food and the service trumps The Bar Room at the Modern recently from reading the Chowhound boards, I might as well give it a whirl.
Since my lunch was around 2 PM, it’s not really surprising to know that there aren’t that many diners eating there with the exception of business lunch meetings that has been extended with their own conversations, the European tourists who having a ball due to the shrinking American dollar, and the lone diners like me, are trying out the food.
As the hostess walked me to my table, several waiters and bus boys were kindly welcoming me to this restaurant and inquired if I wanted anything to drink, etc. Strangely, the menu hasn’t been brought to me until minutes after I got my glass of tap water.
I’ve viewed The Maze’s menu via their website and I was actually hoping that they would serve a la carte since some of their prix fixe options were a little less intriguing than desired. Regardless to what I’m hoping for, it’s a prix fixe lunch only. From their options, I’ve chosen the chicken liver and foie gras parfait, Gilthead bream with with native lobster risotto, and for dessert, a Valhrona chocolate fondant. After I told him my order, he stated that, “The bread will be brought over to me soon.” I thought it was odd that he announced that frivolous statement since it’s usually implied in a fine dining establishment. In a few minutes, another person appeared before me with a large silver tray with a silver tin of sliced baguettes and butter on a thin, shale plate.
The baguette slices were served warm (a huge plus) and it tastes addictively good. It tastes like it’s been toasted with melted butter and salted right before serving, hence the light yellow hue that is present. Add on a pat of soft, room temperature butter, I’m in a temporary state of bliss.
Not too soon, my first course has arrived, the chicken liver and foie gras parfait, herb salad and toasted brioche. Usually, I’m not a fan of chicken liver because of it’s strange gamy flavor that never appealed to me when I was a child. But since the use of foie in there, it toned down the off-taste a bit and adds a luxuriously creamy, mousse-like texture to the parfait. I don’t really see the point of the addition of the “herb salad” when it’s actually more like a small pile of frisée that doesn’t really add anything to the dish; unless they are trying to balance out the fattiness of the parfait with something slightly healthy. The sweet apple chutney was a good addition though.
After taking a while to eat the appetizer, since I practically took a hundred photos, the entrée has arrived. The Gilthead bream was perfectly cooked: sautéed the fish until the skin was ethereally crisp with the flesh still moist and intact. The lobster risotto was tasty from the sweet, tiny chunks of lobster cooked with the creamy, salty risotto rice combined with lemon grass and Thai basil to add some bright notes to contrast the sweetness of the dish. It’s good but not particularly inspiring.
Then came my dessert, a Valhrona chocolate fondant with a sphere of green cardamom caramel, sea salt and almond ice cream. In ways, I was expecting a bit more than what was presented before me. Personally, this dessert was a bit underwhelming. The chocolate fondant was the textbook type: a partially baked, gooey chocolate cake. The ice cream fared a tad better, considering the interesting flavor combinations. It tasted like eating a creamy, caramel ice cream with a shot of saltiness to highlight the sweetness of the ice cream with a touch of roasted almonds. The cardamom flavor was practically muted.
After finishing my dessert and wanting nothing else beyond that since I felt full, I asked for the check and paid it. However, the unexpected thing that occurred while I was waiting for them to process my payment, was that a server presented me some petit fours: small dishes of truffles and peanut brittle. I don’t remember reading about this from any blog or review…but hey, it’s gratis, so why not enjoy them?
The truffles were actually filled with salted caramel with some kind of roasted nut. The chocolate itself tasted somewhere along the lines of 62% cacao; not too bad overall. The peanut brittle was slightly less brittle than it should be due to the moist air that day since it’s so cloudy. It tasted good though; the thick, sweet, slightly salty, burnt sugar candy filled with chunks of roasted peanuts. Quite good. Frankly, I might as well have these instead of the chocolate fondant that I had earlier.
Going back to the beginning of this post, the service was overall friendly and attentive, a bit more than Mr. Meyer’s establishment, The Bar Room at the Modern, after eating there twice. In terms of food, it’s good but it doesn’t send me to food bliss to the umpteenth exponent. I still think Jean Georges still rules in terms of food, overall.