Wednesday, 17 February 2010

the last ramsay

as my last wish before leaving london with a broken heart and a fantastic new job waiting for me in uganda, i asked my very best friend m to join me on a last foodie expedition. feeling very affectionate towards england, but not being a fan of fish & chips, i thought of gordon ramsay once again. after all, m and i had never been together, but talked about it a lot.
m miraculously managed to get a booking at maze grill on my very last night in london. having being kicked out of my own flat three days before, i was living out of a suitcase and had no fancy outfit for the evening. which worked just as well, as maze grill is quite unpretentious among the gr’s restaurants and makes you feel at ease even if you can’t resist the temptation to take you phone out to check the exact origin of stichelton cheese or the difference between onglet and rump steaks.
maze grill is, as someone may suspect, a grill, and the highlight of the evening came shortly after sitting down, when a heavy meat board landed on our table and each cut of meat was explained in detail to us. after grasping little about different kinds of marbling and ageing periods, i was truly stunned to hear about cows being massaged with sake every day while entertained by classical music. that seemed to come straight out of a parody of haute-cuisine, although the daily market price, £90 for a steak, didn’t seem funny at all.
having recovered from the shock, we opted for the much less adventurous early supper menu, which at £21 for three courses looked like an absolute bargain at that point, although some of its options, like penne with rabbit ragout, were a tad uninspiring.
my ham hock (???) and confit duck terrine was tasty, but i was immediately taken by food envy, looking at m’s beautifully presented starter. a suede and carrot soup with stichelton blue and pears, where all the flavours blended to perfection without losing their individual character.
we both had steak as a main, the cheap-ish casterbridge onglet, both cooked medium-rare. mine was a bit too rich in nerves and hence a bit difficult to cut, but the meat was in itself terribly tender, juicy and perfectly cooked. the accompanying béarnaise sauce was delicate and never overpowered the meat. we were fascinated by the half garlic head sitting next to meat, baked or broiled (one of the evening’s many misteries) whose cloves resulted soft and delicious, almost melting in our mouths.
although i retain an aversion to green and leafy things, i’ll have to admit the salad dressing was delicious and m overcame her distaste for mayonnaise as its saffron version was an interesting companion to the rather unimaginative chips.
it was, however, the dessert, that really won my heart over. i ordered a simple rhubarb crumble with crème anglais and there couldn’t have been a better way to say goodbye to england and its food. the crumble was crunchy and not too sweet, the rhubarb steamy and never too tart, and the crème anglais was simply divine. light, warm, familiar with a hidden twist at the same time, i could have drank mugs full of it. the elements perfectly combined, it reminded me of how great chefs can also turn the simplest of things in modest masterpieces.
being too full to think, i finished my glass of delicious white wine and ordered a cup of tea, only to be presented with four of the richest and tastiest chocolate chip cookies i’ve tasted in a long, long time. that night for me was a demonstration that great chefs can turn very simple food in a terribly interesting, and tasty, experience. with no pretentious atmosphere, no frills and no astronomical bill, i felt like i was having just a friendly, but absolutely delicious, meal with the very best of all best friends.
and if one day i’ll ever be able to afford a slice of a cow who gets a mani & pedi every wednesday...well, that’s another story.
maze grill 10-13 grosvenore square W1K 6JP london