SCORE: 72/100 / CCC Rating: *** / Cost Rating: ££££
Ambience: 8/10 / Wine: 2011 Cuvee M, Grand Malbec, France, £22.50, 7/10 / Toilets: 6.5/10 / Service: 8.5/10 : Food (excl. steak): 14/20 / Steak: 12/20 / Menu/table quality: 7/10 / Value for money: 6/10 / +1 Wifi bonus
Gordon Ramsay ranks third worldwide amongst the global uber-chefs for commanding 14 Michelin stars in his restaurant portfolio, and tonight, the council convenes at the one-starred Maze. Or rather, convenes at its adjacent sister restaurant, Maze Grill. This promises not-quite-the-same haute gastronomy of its big brother, but a high quality steak, befitting of Ramsay's name, amongst the reassuringly plush opulence of the Grosvenor Square arena... and within spitting distance of Richard Caring's fantastic 34.
Maze Grill is full on this Tuesday night, and whilst we've had a 'booking malfunction' (blame unclear), they accommodate us with grace and professionalism - unaware they are being reviewed. As tonight's guest (Uther Pendragon, King Arthur's father) awaits the arrival of a full Council, he samples the fascinating 'hickory-smoked oil' that accompanies the hearty, doughy white loaf, which makes this appetite-whetter genuinely engaging, and promises little gastro-touches in the meal ahead. This is exciting - though it should be noted that the council, when all present, has enjoyed better stand-alone bread elsewhere. As you take in the long-but-shallow, well-invested corridor that makes up Maze Grill, the chilled ambience makes itself obvious. It's immediately less formal than 34 and Cut - the sort of place you can bring your friends. And why not - it is after all a diffusion line to the 'haute couture' restaurant next door, in much the same way that Emporio Armani is vastly more accessible than its bigger Giorgio 'Collezione' sibling. This space is neither achingly trendy, nor stuffily opulent, instead skirting with both but forcing neither upon you.
The ordering process is rapid, supported by the friendly, well dressed, knowledgeable and superbly professional staff (and assisted by snazzy iPad wine lists). With their expert guidance, the Council arrives at an 8oz Fillet (medium rare), a 10oz Rump (medium rare), and a 31oz bone-in Ribeye for two (medium rare). And when they arrive, the presentation of the steaks is excellent, resting upon heavy wooden boards, accompanied by a sheathed steak knife in its own 'medium-rare'-branded scabbard, and an array of elegant little sauce-pots.
However, here, things start to go a little wrong. The Fillet - ever the dependable offering of
quality - is just too tough for Caesar, though the charring is very strong. The Rump is juicy but comparatively chewy and dense, which is perhaps the nature of the rump texture, but altogether too challenging for the jaw here. Most criminal of all though, the Bone-in Ribeye is indeed flavoursome, but some pieces are medium-to-well-done, not medium-rare, and the texture through the cut is so varied as to render each bite an utterly random walk. This 'off-the-menu' specialty vastly over-promises and under-delivers, which amidst the lofty confines of Grosvenor Square, is simply unacceptable. You can almost hear Hawksmoor and Goodman chuckling.
In terms of sides, the hand cut chips are vast, homely and fairly well executed, except that they could be significantly crispier and are almost soft. Mac and cheese is vanilla - I.e. it's plain and uncomplicated, and lacks any intriguing hook. Similarly, the spinach, French fries and coleslaw are equally without fuss - this disappoints after the gastro-promise of that 'smoked oil' which accompanies the bread. One can't help but feel Ramsay could (should?) have been more innovative around this. Likewise, the crème brûlée is adequately executed, but is so plain as to be instantly forgettable - this is a dessert which totally invites flamboyant flourishes, in a premises which deals in pure Michelin inventiveness!
And therein lies the point. Everything at Maze Grill is pretty good, but they haven't taken any risk at all, nothing is excitingly edgy. It doesn't live up to what the Ramsay name should inspire - which can be the problem with steak - it's all too often a money-spinning commercial device as opposed to a medium by which you demonstrate your prodigious cow-skills, especially in the hot 'steak-house' market that is London. Maze Grill risks being exactly that. They seem to have started with 'what margin do we want to make on our steak' and back-solved from there. It prices itself in a bracket that it doesn't really occupy, and the rest-rooms are a prime example of this; they're clean, modern, but just aren't lavish or indulgent in a way which Mayfair's finest absolutely are. Similarly, the menu feels like a cheap place-mat, and at £93 for a steak, that is not on. A bonus point is reserved for the delightful little steak-knife sheath, perhaps, but London's finest steak eludes the council once more...
http://www.gordonramsay.com/mazegrill / 0207 495 2211 / 10-13 Grosvenor Square, W1K 6JP