Does an average diner reach the same conclusions about restaurants as a food pro, who may get special treatment if recognised?* Rebecca Seal and olive reader Beth Rose compare notes on Sesame.
Rebecca Seal is a food and drink journalist and presenter on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch. Her latest book, The Islands of Greece, is out now. (£25, Hardie Grant)
Becky Williams lives in West London and works in TV production. Her favourite eating out experience was the carte blanche tasting menu at Chiswick’s Hedone.
Inspired by the grill rooms of Manhattan, this is the second of three Maze Grills in London. Brick walls, leather banquettes and parquet floors create a relaxed vibe reflected in an unpretentious menu. Expect a huge selection of steaks (from £14); fish such as salmon fillet or halibut on the bone (£18 and £22); short rib burgers (£14); and fried chicken (£16).Veg, carbs and steak sauces can be ordered separately (from £2), and there’s a raw bar for sushi and sashimi – try the salmon nashi, with nashi pear, red chilli, crisp rice and ponzu (£10). gordonramsay.com
This is Gordon Ramsay’s second Maze Grill (the third opened on Royal Hospital Road in May). If staff at all the branches are as well chosen as they have been here, the group will thrive; they were charming. There was no pressure to leave, and tap water was given and refilled readily. *I don’t think I was recognised.
We were greeted like old friends and taken to a table at the back of the restaurant, which, despite the location, still enjoyed a great atmosphere. Our waiter introduced himself, talked us through the menu and brought us bread and butter, as well as two glasses of Thames’ finest when we asked for it.
Maze Grill Park Walk is in one of the wealthiest parts of London and although it’s not exactly cheap, it’s also not as pricey as it might be. That said, £5 for a bowl of butter lettuce or £4 for a pile of chunky chips is just silly. There are a few healthy options – like an excellent, shimmeringly fresh, if incongruous, sashimi platter (£16) – but mostly it’s about posh fast food; steaks (from £14), burgers (£14), buffalo chicken (decorous fillets, not messy wings, £4 for a small plate), or delicious little soft shell crab sliders: crisp battered crab spilling out and oozing with cocktail sauce (£11 as a starter).
The short rib burger was crammed into a glossy brioche bun with melted cheese escaping from the sides and plenty of juicy pickles and bacon. The gratuitous macaroni cheese (£5) I had on the side seemed to be mostly cream, which was fine with me. The kitchen was running a special offer of steak and chips for £14, as a way of encouraging customers to eat more British beef. Surely, though, an easier way of encouraging us to eat British meat would be to take the USDA beef and wagyu off the menu? Frozen lime yogurt with toasted meringue was a sharp and zingy treat, and the strawberry Eton mess was a riot of fruit and cream (both are £6).
Vegetarians will be a little disappointed, as this menu consists primarily of meat and fish. My starter of soft shell crab sliders were mouth-size bites of crunchy tempura crab – a paprika and coriander-seasoned batter balanced out the sweet and succulent crab, which came with generous dollops of flamingo-pink cocktail sauce (£11). The doll-sized brioche buns that held it all together were soft and buttery. We also tried English asparagus cooked al dente (£10), topped with a perfectly poached egg.
My rare breed 10oz, 28-day dry-aged rib-eye was full of concentrated flavour and had just the right level of smokiness and fat-to-meat (£30). A mac and cheese side (£5) was extra cheesy and had a pleasing, crunchy breadcrumb lid. The 8oz fillet (£24) was just as juicy, full of flavour, perfectly seasoned, and it cut like butter. A side dish of sautéed spring greens was spinach cooked with finely chopped garlic (£4). Delicious, but maybe a little pricey for the small portion.
As for drinks, we enjoyed the French malbec (£10.50) – plummy, jammy with lots of chocolatey richness. I was too full for dessert, but liked the sound of spiced monkey bread with pecans and vanilla ice cream (£12 to share).
The bottom line
With green leather banquettes and eclectic art, there’s nothing outrageously individual about how Maze Grill looks; but the Americaninspired, fashionably indulgent food is served prettily. If Mr Ramsay ever wants to open one in my neighbourhood, I won’t complain. Bill was £110.25 for two, including service
FOOD 8/10; ATMOSPHERE 7/10; SERVICE 9/10; TOTAL 24/30
We loved our evening at Maze Grill. The food was delicious, the service top-notch, and a lovely atmosphere bubbled away all evening. I’d definitely like to go back. Bill was £115.88 for two, including service
FOOD 9/10; ATMOSPHERE 9/10; SERVICE 9.5/10; TOTAL 27.5/30
Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) rating:
The British beef is pasture-fed, from the Lake District. The pork, lamb, chicken and eggs are free-range.The majority of the seafood comes from British waters and Maze Grill has a sustainable seafood sourcing policy.The vegetables are seasonal. Back of house there’s plenty to admire, with energy efficient kitchen equipment and smart meters to ensure the environmental footprint is minimal. Other measures that help with that are recycling food waste and offering customers doggy bags for leftovers. thesra.org.
Written August 2015