Chef-director Jason Atherton has taken inspiration from the steakhouses of New York for the new Maze Grill in London - and it seems to be just what London wants. Joanna Wood reports
It's hard to keep up with the number of Gordon Ramsay Holdings openings these days. If you blink, you'll miss one. As it stands this week, the last to open was Maze Grill in mid-April.
Like its sister restaurant, the hugely popular Maze, this newcomer is under the eye of Jason Atherton and so its opening was eagerly anticipated. Atherton is regarded among his peers as one of London's most talented chefs. More importantly, he's an astute restaurateur and he's done his "grill" homework on several trips to New York over the past year, using the Big Apple's best steakhouses as inspiration for his boss's latest restaurant foray.
The 80-seat Maze Grill is more upmarket than you might expect. Perched alongside its older sibling on a north corner of Grosvenor Square, it has the same air of modern elegance. Various shades of brown - from the blond wood floor to the darker table tops, through some carefully placed caramel vases and chocolate circles on the ceiling - cultivate a sense of sophistication.
The pricing of the central menu element - the beef - reflects the surroundings it is served in. It's not cheap. But that's because, as in its New York counterparts, beef sourcing is taken seriously in this restaurant. There are four types of beef on offer, all aged a minimum of 21 days and all in rib-eye or sirloin form at the very least.
Options start off at £17.50 for a 10oz sirloin of 21-day-hung grain-fed Casterbridge beef from Dorset and go up to a 10oz sirloin or 8oz rib-eye of Wagyu "9th grade", which is listed at "market price" but probably won't give you much change out of £120.
In between are cuts from grass-fed Hereford (aged 25 days) and Aberdeen Angus (28 days) and corn-fed USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Creekstone Prime (35 days). The 8oz Casterbridge onglet (£10) is particularly good value but, at the moment, customers are going in droves for what they know best - the Aberdeen Angus.
The rich meat of the pampered Wagyu is certainly not something that most people will want - or be able to afford - to eat every day, but it is delicious, with an almost livery, foie-gras-like quality. However, you won't be short-changed by any of the steaks at Maze Grill. They all deliver melt-in-the-mouth tenderness with excellent flavour depth, quite distinct texture characteristics - the Creekstone, for instance, is very dense - and a characteristic smoky crust imparted by being finished off on Atherton's pride and joy: a high-powered broiler capable of reaching 650°C.
Good as the steaks are, they need offsetting by other ingredients, and Atherton gives his diners a choice of sides (£3.50) and sauces (£2) to match with their meat. The former range from French or garlic fries to lovely sweet braised carrots or spinach with Gruyère gratin while sauce options include a boiled egg béarnaise, a punchy peppercorn and a back-biting barbecue.
However, Maze Grill isn't all about beef. The menu also incorporates small plates (aka tapas) at £6, a range of starters and salads and some further meat and fish options. In general, these reflect a contemporary modern-Med sensibility, but Atherton has also included a pitch-perfect tuna sushi with ponzu dressing (£14.50) among the starters, and a very modern-Brit salad of Lincolnshire smoked eel with potato, watercress and bacon (£11.50). Among the tapas, the umami-tinged confit tomatoes, chorizo, potatoes and bitter shallots hit the spot, as did "pigs on toast" - tasty morsels of braised pig's trotters with Parmesan and rocket.
Puds are a nice range of contempory takes on comfort dishes, British and American: a moreish cider apple trifle with financiers and cider granité (£7) cinnamon doughnut, café coupe, hot chocolate (£7) and a fondant lookalike bitter chocolate brownie with chocolate ice-cream (£7).
Less than a week after it opened Maze Grill was already buzzing, with hardly a table to spare. Less than a month after opening, it's 20-strong kitchen brigade under head chef Arnie Stevens are regularly serving 120 covers a night.
There's no doubt about it, Atherton has once again delivered what the market wants - and the boss will be more than happy with his latest addition to the empire.
What's on the menu (apart from steak)
- Cornish crab and harissa soup with sweet corn, £8.50
- English asparagus, egg mimosa, prosciutto, mushroom vinaigrette, £11.50
- Pâté de campagne, piccalilli, sourdough bread, £10.50
- Gloucester Old Spot chop with apple, star anise, £17.50
- Brixham sole, sea urchin butter, dill, brown shrimps, £21
- Half a Label Anglais chicken, garlic, thyme, £17.50
- Chocolate praline délice, peanut and olive oil ice-cream, £7
- Yogurt cheesecake, yogurt sorbet, blueberry compote, £7
- Red fruit Eton mess, mascarpone ice-cream, £7
Maze Grill, 10-13 Grosvenor Square, London W1K 6JP Tel: 020 7495 2211 www.gordonramsay.com/mazegrill