MAZE: THERE MUST BE SOME KIND OF WAY OUT OF HERE.
If there is a restaurant with a more appropriate name in London than Maze, then I want to know about it. Because, the moment you enter you can’t help thinking “how the Hell do I get out of here?”
It’s not just the food, which is standard El Gordo style fodder. It’s not just the room, a weird “L” shape with arguably the most uncomfortable seats in the capital many filled with people who seem to neither know nor care what they are eating. It’s not just the noise, with piped music pumping at levels that would challenge what HP still refers to as “discotheques” nor is it just the service, which is awkwardly formal, yet still hapless and determined to up sell at every opportunity.
In the end, the reason visiting Maze is such a dispiriting event is a combination of all of the above added to the fact that you are always aware that you are being processed by El Gordo’s machine with little thought being given to your enjoyment at any point in time.
If it were not for the fact that I was asked to write about it for a paying gig, I can’t think of any reason I would have visited Maze and the fact that it is, apparently, the second highest grossing restaurant in London (The Wolseley being number one, fact fans) gives even more cause to be depressed about the current state of our dining scene if it were needed.
The small plate concept works well in principle, but with dishes at £10 + a pop, the bill can soon rack up, particularly when the server incredulously asks you if you really mean to order “JUST” four dishes before then trying to sell you two of each dish. Add that to the eye watering mark-ups of the wine list and you can see why entering this maze is not something you should take lightly
Their website talks of “French Cuisine adopting Asian influences” but there is precious little sign of that in a list of plates that, even with the input of Jason Atherton, are pure Gordon and, in truth beginning to look a little old fashioned and dated. The execution is spot on, this group nearly always gets that right and a starter of foie terrine with smoked eel was very good even if a “baked potato foam” added little. Two roasted scallops too, were cooked perfectly but doused in a sharp muscatel dressing to try and cover up the fact.
A “head to toe” of pork came in a trademark reduction that made our lips pucker about as much as our arses at the £12 price tag for the small chunk of pig with a sliver of deep fried breaded head meat and the only real skill involved in a roasted hake in parma ham came when HP expertly cut it in half (even when we are not enjoying a meal, we have to be miserable equally)
Puddings at the best part of “£bugger me” a time added as little to the meal as the cold bread and hard butter did at the beginning and with a bottle of Chinon, priced at £32 one of the cheapest on the list, brought our total to just over £100 leaving us to trudge into Grosvenor Square shaking our heads.
Picture one show’s HP’s succinct and eloquent verdict on the meal as we left and, later as we sat having an excellent Sazerac at The East Room, I could not help thinking of the last time I was in a maze on a childhood holiday to The Isle of Wight. HP’s advice to me then was the same as last night as I thrashed around in misery.
“It’s your own fault, you went in there in the first place”
He’s right, of course, I’m a fool to myself.