Chef’s tables are usually right next to the kitchen so you can see all the action. The chef’s table at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze takes things a step further and is slap, bang in the middle of the kitchen. It’s quite an experience and even involves getting behind the stoves at one stage of the meal. Let’s just say never has the phrase “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” rung more true and I was very happy to return to the relative comfort of the air conditioned alcove the chef’s table sits in.
Cannon of lamb
I was invited to Maze along with TehBus, Pritesh and Nick to experience a new degustation menu called the “unusual pairings menu”. Rather than a standard pairing of food with wine, each of the dishes was paired with an unusual drink from sake to bushfire ravaged chardonnay. It was especially interesting to eat at the “new” Maze in the week that former Maze head chef Jason Atherton opened his new restaurant, Pollen Street Social.
Smoked haddock and cauliflower velouté
At the chef’s table each dish was presented by the chef responsible for it and the sommelier also talked through each of the pairings. The menu started with an immensely savoury dish of a bowl of smoked haddock and potato which a creamy, thick cauliflower velouté is then poured over. This was paired with an English sparkling wine, an anachronism to some, but not to those in the know, the Nyetimber blanc de blancs 2001. Pritesh thought a sweeter sparkling was needed to cut through the savoury strength of the velouté but I was not as fussy as I tend to think a good sparkling wine goes with everything and enjoyed the citrus flavour.
Chef’s plating up in the kitchen
Next was some Salcombe crab which was gussied up with spots of grapefruit fluid gel and a sweet mango purée. The crab was topped with a quenelle of wasabi ice cream with the chill of the icecream taking some of the heat out of the wasabi so the strong flavour did not overwhelm the delicate crab meat. Going along with the Japanese bent this was teamed with a sparkling sake which the sommelier told us was a very rare drink, particularly since the recent events in Japan. The Tarumoku Dewakazura NV Yamagata-Japan was over powering by itself but worked well as a palate cleanser post a bite of the crab meat.
“My” finished cod dish
Then came the moment I had been waiting for, the chance to get behind the stoves. We were all given aprons for a tour of the kitchen but in the end it was Pritesh and myself who were set to work “assisting” (otherwise known as hindering) in the preparation of our next dish. Our job was to pan fry the cod which was then served with a smear of field mushroom purée, chips made of salisfy, a tiger prawn and a foam of truffle cappuccino. Clearly cooking the cod was the easiest part of the whole dish but it was still quite an eye-opener to experience for 10 minutes the intense heat and pace of a commercial kitchen. It was literally almost impossible to stand anywhere near the ovens and hot plate so I rather timidly cooked my cod from as far away as possible.
I tried to quiz the chef for tips on how to tell the cod was done but he just shrugged and said: “I have cooked hundreds and hundreds of these, I just know.” So unfortunately I have no pearls of wisdom to impart. Back at the chef’s table and out of our aprons the cod was paired with a buttery 2008 chardonnay from Arthur’s Creek. The vineyard is in Victoria’s Yarra Valley area which was devastated by bush fires in 2008 and this wine was one of the few to remain unscathed. It was buttery and creamy even without its interesting history.
Following this was a cannon of lamb which came with a brilliant sausage like roll of braised lamb shoulder mixed with a turnip and pistachio purée. This was paired with Innis & Gunn oak aged beer from Scotland which was injected with single malt whiskey giving the beer a smokey after taste.
Next was the cheese course, which was well kept but I think I would probably skip it if I was ordering myself as there is no cheese trolley and you are not able to choose the cheese yourself like at other Michelin star restaurants. The sommelier paired the cheese selection with a Cline small berry, late harvest 2008 Mourvedre from California which had an intense berry flavour and added a sweet note to the savoury cheese.
The most impressive dish of the night though was the blackberry and apple crumble, a description which really undersells what arrived. This was unlike any crumble I have had before with a blackberry sorbet, apple mousse, streusel and blackberry and apple soup. It was a very playful and fun dessert which really delighted all of us. We finished off the food and drink pairing with a glass of sticky, a 2010 Moscato d’Asti Bricco Quaglia from La Spinetta in Italy.
Apple and blackberry crumble
Maze has found it’s feet in the wake of Atherton’s departure and I would highly recommend the chef’s table experience for a special night. However I would probably opt for the standard tasting menu rather than the unusual pairings unless you are prepared for a slightly unusual sore head in the morning – mixing sparkling wine, beer, sake and wine in one meal is a little bit dangerous!
Details: Maze, 10 – 13 Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, W1K 6JP (Ph 020 7107 0000) Tube: Bond Street
Damage: Budget breaking. Six courses is £70 while including the drink pairings the cost is £125. However, on this occasion I did not pay.
Gourmet Chick was a guest of Maze