Sunday, 27 July 2008

spoilin' for a broilin'... squaring up to Maze Grill

It's some weeks now since I went to Maze Grill, but y'know, I've been busy, stuff gets in the way, the cat got sick, etc. The usual, in other words.

You'll know already that I'm a bit of a fan of Jason Atherton. So having been to Maze and loved it, it wasn't ever going to be long before a trip to Maze Grill was called for.

Just to clear up any confusion. Yes, it's a separate restaurant. But yes, it's also housed in the same building as Maze. You go in by the same door as you would to go to Maze, but then you turn right instead of left. (Although you won't go too far wrong, 'cos if you go left, you'll end up in Maze. Which is hardly a short straw.)

Got that?

Maze Grill exterior

Go in. Go right. Not left.

So we went in, turned right, were shown to our table by the window, sat down. Perused the menu. Perused the wine menu. Dribbled happily to ourselves. And admired the interior, a vision of contemporary loveliness.

Maze Grill interior

Maze Grill interior 2

Is that lamp stand drunk? Or is it me? Or is it art?

And then a waiter came, bearing 5 not insubstantial slabs of meat.

"All for me?", I asked. "Already? How very kind."

(Well, actually, ok, I didn't. But I was tempted. Wouldn't you have been?)

It transpired that we were to have a lesson in HOW TO RECOGNISE DIFFERENT TYPES OF STEAK. Or, more precisely, the different beasts from whence they come. So, the roll call: Casterbridge grain fed, aged 21 days; Hereford grass fed, aged 25 days; Aberdeen Angus grass fed, aged 28 days; Creekstone prime USDA corn fed, aged 35 days; Wagyu '9th grade', Gold style.

Being UK born and bred, I'm familiar enough with the first 3. I wanted difference. Bring on the Wagyu, matey.

Oh, it's £120.00? Er, I'll, er, have the Creekstone, then, please. The Noo Yawk strip steak. (Again, not a cut we hear much of here, let alone see or eat.) Ta very much.

First, though, we had to choose something to start. I use the words 'had to' advisedly. I would have happily moved straight to the steak, but I'd had a reliable tip-off that the starters were worth the short delay. A quick debate, and we settled on seared octopus and salt and pepper squid.

OK. Let's go.

Maze Grill octopus

Maze Grill salt and pepper squid

Beige. But good.

The seared octopus was good. Seared to that meaty, slightly charred taste, but not overcooked. Just what the menu said, to be honest. If you like octopus, you won't go far wrong with this.

The salt and pepper squid was (were?) terrific. Coated with a fantastic light, crispy, tempura-like batter, the squid was cooked beautifully. A little bite, but not remotely rubbery. Just a little something to chew on before it melted away in the mouth. As fresh as could be. Really, I could have eaten it all day.

But we had the steak coming. And I intended to be ready.

Hang on, though. Why all the fuss about a simple steak?

The fuss is because (a) Jason Atherton is a damn fine chef, and (b) Maze Grill houses what it is believed to be the UK's first and only broiler. That, my friends, is why going to Maze Grill was such a big deal. As a fan of Anthony Bourdain's high-octane, ascerbic Kitchen Confidential, I have long since wondered what the big deal was with these broilers. Did they really make such a difference? Could you not achieve the same effect with a good old-fashioned British grill? Apparently not.

So when Atherton bought his broiler and made it the centrepiece, the entire raison d'etre, of his new restaurant, you might forgive me for wanting to hot-foot it along there quicker than you can say 'Creekstone prime USDA, corn fed'. (Obviously you can do quite a few things quicker than it takes to say that, but you get my point.)

The moment arrived. I'll let the photos do the talking. For the moment.

Maze Grill strip steak

Maze Grill fries

Maze Grill strip steak sliced

Look at it. Just look at it. And weep.

Maze Grill finished

I did my best.

I'm not sure what to say at this point. It was simply as good a steak as I have ever had. Tender, juicy, sumptuously meaty, melty. Just wonderful. Cooked to absolute stunning perfection. I wanted it to go on forever. Sadly, it didn't. Life can be very cruel.

A shout-out and very honourable mention should also go to its accompaniments. The fries were a real surprise and joy. Unlike so many fries, these actually had real bite, were fluffy inside, and tasted fantastically potatoey. The horseradish cream was light, just the right side of creamy, and with a hint of fire. The mayo was a rich, gloopy, eggy dream. The roasted garlic bulb was a great add-on, of which I ate every single nutty clove.

Together, the whole lot was every inch the meal we'd hoped for, and then some. Any cow should be proud to die for an ending like this, for it really is as good as it gets.

But, you know, there's more. Just when you think it can't get any better.

I mean, would you have resisted:

Selection of British cheeses £8.50
Sorbets and ice creams £5.00
Cider apple trifle with financiers, cider granitĂ© £7.00
Chocolate praline delice, peanut and olive oil ice cream £7.00
Yoghurt cheesecake, yoghurt sorbet, blueberry compote £7.00
Cinnamon doughnut, cafĂ© coupe, hot chocolate £7.00
Red fruit Eton mess, mascarpone ice cream £7.00
Bitter chocolate brownie, bitter chocolate ice cream £7.00 ??

Well? Would you?

The problem was choosing. Regular readers will know I like to go for things with a difference and/or things I wouldn't make at home. So, although anything with the word 'chocolate' in it draws me in like a pig to truffles, on this occasion I held out. And plumped (being the appropriate word by this stage) for the cider apple trifle instead. And The Other Diner opted for the cinnamon doughnuts. Good choices, both.

I do occasionally make trifle and, as a kid, was fed buckets of the stuff every summer. But a cider apple trifle? Definitely a twist on the theme. I was suitably intrigued as to what it would be like.

Luckily, I didn't have long to wait.

Maze Grill apple cider trifle

Maze Grill apple cider trifle 2

A thing of real beauty.

Golly. What a sexy way to finish a meal. First, it looked good, you know? Gently luminous. Gently come hither...

The granita was, as you might expect, meltingly cooling and cidery. No childhood trifle was ever topped by anything so daring. Underneath, some unctuous cow-fresh cream, a layer of soft vanilla custard, and then a just-set, saliva-inducing fruity apple jelly. Like I say, sexy. Truly gorgeous.

On the other side of the table, meanwhile, The Other Diner was silent. But for the sound of contented munching.

Maze Grill doughnuts

The doughnuts were, I'm told, "Yummy. Really cinnamony. Soft and doughy on the inside in a very good way. With a lovely crispy shell. Perfect." So now you know. I understand the dunking components, the hot chocolate and cafe coupe, were equally as good.

But we weren't actually finished yet. Nope, we needed one of these each:

Maze Grill double espresso

... which we had to have in order to wash down a few of these...

Maze Grill biscuits

That's right. Some tantalisingly delicate pistachio and chocolate sable biscuits. Because, you know, we really hadn't had enough to eat by then.

And then, finally, we were through.

I mean, what else can I say? Go. Just go.

Maze Grill on Urbanspoon

Friday, 18 July 2008

no, I don't eat much meat...

... really, I don't. But there are times when only one of these will do...

Maze strip steak

Oh. God. Yeah.

(More on this to follow. A prize of a pat on the head for anyone who can guess/identify - without cheating - the restaurant. The same for anyone correctly identifying the type of steak. The judge's decision will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.)

Friday, 11 July 2008

back in the kitchen... kind of. Oh, and a no-bake cheesecake.

Those of you who read this blog will know that (1) we've been having a new kitchen built, and (2) it's become a saga of epic proportions. I have spared you most of that saga because (1) it's simply too tedious, and (2) I'd only depress myself even further.

So - an update of sorts. No, it's not finished yet, and yes, there is now a sort of light at the end of the tunnel. For those of you who are interested (why???), the floor has yet to be put down, the bar lights need to be fitted, the top of the oven needs replacing, a cupboard needs reconfiguring, and some paintwork needs redoing. Looking at the end of the month at earliest, I guess.

Still, in the last couple of weeks, we've started to move stuff back in. Just odds and ends to ensure I can cook our meals again, which is a mighty big improvement on the past 3 months or so. Nothing fancy, just basic stuff. All the fancy-schmancy equipment and ingredients are still packed up in boxes.

Yesterday, I pushed the boat out a bit further in honour of a flying visit from my dad. I went out into the hell-hole that is our garage and rooted around for my chef rings. Not easy - garage is unlit and dark and has about 20 boxes of kitchen stuff in it. I also had the pleasure of finding a huge* toad in there - about 4-5 inches big. No, I didn't squeal. I can't vouch for the toad.

*Yes, 4-5 inches IS huge. In my book. For a toad, that is.

Anyway - found 'em.

Result - cute little cheesecakes (recipe courtesy of Mr Ramsay, tweaked a teeny bit), adorned with wonderful, seasonal raspberries from Kent, my home county. And no, it's not a coulis. I wanted the raspberries to be slightly softened, but still more or less whole and with a little bite left in them.

raspberry cheesecake 1

and zoomed in a little...

raspberry cheesecake 2

I had one. Dad managed 2.5. Good going, Dad.

Friday, 4 July 2008

So, Luxembourg...

So, anyway, we went to Luxembourg. Met up with an old (as in long-known, not aged) and very dear friend. Had an ace time. Didn't do any high-end, Michelin dining (Mr. Bank Manager, please take note) but did partake of some rather yummy food and drink nevertheless.

Oh, you want to see?

Rightio. Here are a few tasty little samples for you to be going on with:

Lux cakes 1

Mmmm. Cakes. Behind glass. Must get self on other side of glass.

'croque monsieur'

'Croque monsieur' (so where's the bechamel, then?). And beer. Natch.

cherry tart

A very, very delish cherry tart. And cappuccino. Not beer.

eclair and hot choc

A very, very delish chocolate cream-filled chocolate eclair. With hot chocolate, obvy.

cheese plate

Fab cheese plate. The uber-runny one was arguably the best. Oh, and that's some Moselle with that.

cheese selection

I'm glad I don't shop here. Really. I'd spend the entire week just choosing what to buy.

Lux beer

If in doubt, order some more beer.

Lux fish

Your cat's best friends.


Big, fat sea crustacea.


The best tartines. Ever. Beef carpaccio with pesto + parmesan, cream cheese + chives, and smoked salmon.

meringue 1

No, you're not seeing things. It's a meringue as big as a dinner plate. Why, I have no idea.

meringue 2

Breaking and entering.

meringue 3

Breaking and entering some more.

La Table du Pain cakes

Rustic cakes. At La Table du Pain. Behind glass again.

rustic bread

Rustic bread. In arty black and white.

chilled Moselle

Chilled Moselle. Yes, we drank quite a lot, thanks.

BBQd sardines, Lux

BBQd sardines. On a stall in the Portuguese quarter on National Day.


Mettwurst. Or hot dog, to you. Also part of National Day excesses. Face pixelled out to protect the guilty.

So there we have it.

Four days in Luxembourg, doing not a great deal of note other than eating. And occasionally quenching our thirst.

Some holidays are tough like that.