You'll be amazedbut not by the service

Maze

10/13 Grosvenor Square, London W1

020 7107 0000

Open daily: noon-3pm, 6-11pm

It is not cosy. Just about the first thing you notice – after the
enthusiastic greeting from the receptionist who doubles as a cloakroom
lady – is the egregious lack of gemütlichkeit. You wouldn’t bring
mother.

We arrived, my first wife and I, for a late Sunday lunch; had rung
to ask whether bookings were necessary, been told not, “but give your
name anyway”, after which Miss Poland 1991 requested a contact phone
number.

The place was about half-full, but no one asked us where
we would like to sit – which steadily pisses me off – and we were taken
to a table between three 30ish, orientalish businessmen and a mature
version of Jamie Oliver with a late teenage Yoko Ono. They might have
been married; they did not talk.

A waiter arrived with a raised
eyebrow, when I had a rather expected a menu. He intoned, “Drink?” and
I ordered a bottle of Badoit mineral water for me and a glass of red
wine for wife. I looked around for a menu.

Lots of staff
circulated, big pile of menus stacked in a corner; 10 minutes passed
before I was able to catch eye of former to bring me latter.

I
went to Maze because the estimable Time Out had voted it London’s Best
New Restaurant. It is tremendously clean and shiny with glass and
silver; one sits on a white leather banquette and when they lay up your
place setting, there is a silver device like you might find in a
deskset on which to rest knife, fork and spoon rather than soil the
table (spoon and fork face down, as in nouvelle cuisine) and on a
sideboard stood an unopened bottle of Ch̢teau P̩trus Рas if they were
waiting for Comrade Abramovich to arrive.

The menu, which
mentions that “smoking is not permitted in the restaurant”, is, well,
different. On page one you learn it is a showcase of the best
seasonalingredients: Spring (they print the word in italics perhaps
because it is October) consists of small dishes – “we recommend
choosing between six and eight”. There is also an à la carte menu
comprising proper grown-up portions, headed by roasted brill with
provençale cockle vinaigrette, pistou and baby spinach (£16.50). I was
concerned about cockles from Provence.

But what Maze is really
about is the 20 tasting dishes, none costing more than £9, all
original, beautifully presented and
delicious-if-you-care-for-strange-assortments. My Scottish lobster with
white radish and asparagus, sweet and sour dressing, fennel shoots
(£8.50) could not be faulted: the quantities, had they been in hard
drugs, would have been treated by the police as “for personal use”.

Jill
had Cornish crab mayonnaise with avocado, sweetcorn sorbet and oscietra
caviar (£7). I tasted five of her 14 pearls of oscietra, for which the
melting sorbet did little, but my pot-roasted pork belly with plum and
star anise purée, choucroute and Alsace bacon was not only excellent
but contained some fresh chanterelles (£8.50).

There is a dessert
menu: dishes cost £3.50, or £6.50 for larger helpings. We had a
pannacotta, which was brilliant; a trifle, which arrives in three
parts, among which a freshly baked almond cake was memorable; and a
terrific hot chocolate confection, served with a sea-salt ice cream –
without question the best seasalt ice cream I have eaten. Then fresh
mint tea: £4.

Throughout, the predominantly young, Polish serving
staff (who have sensibly been trained not to ask customers whether they
liked the food) tried to pour my sparkling mineral water into my wife’s
glass.

It is in the nature of a waiter to act in a way that
persuades clients that, but for their attention, the meal would have
been less enjoyable.

Service is 12.5 per cent added to the bill, which in our case came to £72.

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