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Posts Tagged ‘Gordon Ramsay’

San Marzano tomatoes and burrata at Murano restaurant in Mayfair

San Marzano tomatoes and burrata at Murano restaurant in Mayfair

Last December, I tried Murano’s £25 lunch menu, which was outstanding value. I knew I’d be back, but as a testament to how slow I am to put words into action, I didn’t return until just last week. In the meantime, Murano picked up a Michelin star in January this year, and I can see why. Dinner at Murano was delicious and high quality (a bit like eating at the Ledbury, but with more formal service).

Murano offers two menus at dinner: a three-course a la carte menu for £55, and an eight-course tasting menu for £75. Encouraged by the same lovely freebies that I remembered from my £25 lunch – the fragrant white-truffle arancini, the melt-in-your-mouth coppa – Jon and I chose the tasting menu, which, interestingly enough, offers two options for most of the courses.

grilled foie gras with sweet and sour tomatoes

grilled foie gras with sweet and sour tomatoes

Apparently I was lying when I claimed to be foie gras‘d out after a week in the Loire Valley:  the instant I saw grilled foie gras among the tasting menu options, it was a no-brainer. One of these days, I’ll try cooking foie gras at home, but for now, I remain in awe of how one grills it. It’s got to be like grilling butter, no? I mean, how do you keep it from melting on the grill? In any event, Murano’s grilled foie was silky, creamy-meaty, and beautifully complemented by the intensely-sweet tomatoes, which had a caramelized flavor despite not showing any signs of having been caramelized. Quite a mystery but delight of a dish.

swiss chard and Sairass ricotta tortelli

swiss chard and Sairass ricotta tortelli

rocket and pecorino risotto

rocket and pecorino risotto

Generally, I’m rarely interested in pastas or risottos in high-end restaurants, but both dishes at Murano were intense and cheesy in a way that I could never duplicate at home (probably bc I’m not heavy-handed enough with the butter), and I loved them both. (Jon and I each ordered different ones and then did the old switcheroo so we each ended up eating a half portion).

pan-fried seabass with garden peas

pan-fried seabass with garden peas

I didn’t get too excited about the fish course, which was cooked just past raw and just shy of tough. In other words, it was cooked just right. But still, I find fish to be nothing special unless it’s sushi or I’m sitting by a large body of water while eating it.

herb salad with apples and cider vinaigrette

herb salad with apples and cider vinaigrette

Herb salads. Indulge me in a pet peeve rant: I know it’s intended as a palate cleanser, but what was wrong with the good ol’ sorbet? When I eat an herb salad, I feel like I’m eating an ingredient, rather than a meal.

Gressingham duck breast, carrot puree and white asparagus

Gressingham duck breast, carrot puree and white asparagus

roasted Cornish lamb served with neck bolognese and grilled courgettes

roasted Cornish lamb served with neck bolognese and grilled courgettes

Things were back on track with the meat courses. Duck was tender and sliced paper-thin. It really did melt in your mouth. Jon’s lamb was similarly luscious. There are moments when you’re sure you could never be a vegetarian, and this was one of them.

pistachio souffle served with warm chocolate sauce and macaron

pistachio souffle served with warm chocolate sauce and macaron

Feeling quite full after tiers of fun-flavored, jewel-like ice creams were served, I didn’t think we’d make it through dessert. But never underestimate the power of a *perfectly*-baked pistachio souffle. Just digging into the pillowy top was a treat, and I was so impatient to dig in that it was hard to let our server first pour liquid chocolate into it. The interior was yielding and moist without being liquidy. Brilliant. And is there a more perfect flavor marriage than that of pistachio and chocolate? I think not. The macaron was a nice visual accompaniment, but tough and crunchy (and altogether forgettable).

Service at Murano was friendly and attentive. The dining room is small and discreetly luxe. Factor in the tasty, easy-t0-love food, and it’s no surprise Murano earned its first Michelin star so soon after opening. I won’t be surprised to see it earn a second.

Murano Restaurant, 22 Queen Stret, W1J 5PR; 0207 592 1222; closest tube station: Green Park

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Maze restaurant interior (lifted from the Grosvenor Marriott site)

Maze restaurant interior (lifted from the Grosvenor Marriott site)

A month ago, Jon and I had dinner at Maze. Because it was Jon’s choice, I didn’t get a say in the matter, or else I’m pretty sure I would’ve nixed the suggestion (though hindsight is 20/20, I know).

First, although Maze has its own entrance off of Grosvenor Square (and wow, the US Embassy in London really *is* as ugly as everyone says it is), it’s also connected to a Marriott Hotel. And I have a major bias against restaurants located in chain hotels, especially mid-range hotels.

Second, upon stepping into the dining room, we couldn’t miss the glass case displaying owner Gordon Ramsay’s cookbooks. Classy.

Third, and most substantively, the service we had at Maze ruined our quiet evening out. “Indifferent” would be the charitable description of our server.

I don’t want or need fawning armies of servers. But at a 1-Michelin star restaurant, I want someone to hand me the menu, not put it on the table and shove it towards me. I want someone who graciously accepts that I don’t want bottled water, instead of making a show of taking away the “fancy” water glasses (presumably reserved for rarefied water that comes out of a glass bottle) and replacing them with other, different (presumably lesser) glasses filled with tap water. Or how about this – a server who aks me if I’m ready to order, instead of sidling up to my table, shifting all weight to one leg (classic teenager-slouch style) and asking me “you OK now?” The only thing missing from the tableau was some gum snapping.

I should’ve just walked out then. It’s a Wednesday night. I’m tired. I just want a quiet dinner with my husband. I don’t need to feel uncool and unwanted. And definitely not at these prices.

Looking back, I can see why service was sloppy at Maze. Jon and I were seated at a table surrounded by multiple groups of what appeared to be work colleagues (perhaps traveling together and staying at the Marriott hotel). If I were there having drinks and nibbles with coworkers, I’d probably care a lot less about servers pushing menus towards me and talking to me in casual-teen-lingo when taking my order

For the sake of argument, let’s assume I was in such a bad mood that it was inevitable I’d be annoyed with the service. Well, the food didn’t exactly improve things. I’m usually pretty tolerant of high prices and so-so service as long as the food delivers.

But at Maze, the high prices for small portions of occasionally-gimmicky food left me seriously (*very* seriously) wondering how this place has a Michelin star. Our experience at Maze was nowhere near the meals we’ve had at, for example, the Ledbury or Hibiscus (where, by the way, the servers are helpful and gracious without being overly-formal).

assiette of sandwiches at Maze Restaurant

assiette of sandwiches at Maze Restaurant (photo courtesy of Ribose Reflections)

Maze’s chef, James Atherton, gets a lot of press for his “assiette of sandwiches,” for example, and the BLT in the martini glass would be charming if food-in-a-martini glass didn’t seem so distinctly trendy (circa 1990s), and if I thought drinking lettuce soup with bacon bits was worth £9. To be fair, there was a sliver of buttery ham-and-cheese sandwich (the croque monsieur), too.

lamb chop at Maze Restaurant

lamb chop at Maze Restaurant (photo courtesy of Ribose Reflections)

Above, you’ll find a photo of the lamb chop dish we ordered (photos courtesy of this blogger) to illustrate the plate sizes at Maze. It’s no exaggeration to say you’re supposed to order at least four plates per person to make a meal at Maze, so while the menu prices (£9-13 a plate) don’t look high, your bill tallies up quickly if you’re at Maze for anything other than a quick snack.

The food wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t memorable. When you factor in our disgruntled server (whose pouting would be more at home at a McDonald’s than at a Gordon Ramsay resto in Mayfair), you’re left wondering why anyone goes to Maze. I’d go back for drinks with coworkers if they were staying at the attached Marriott, or maybe I’d go again if I had to get my passport renewed at the nearby US Embassy. But outside of those two unlikely scenarios, no thanks.

Maze Restaurant, 10-13 Grosvenor Square, W1K 6JP, 0207 107 0000; closest tube station: Bond Street
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prosciutto and salami at Murano

prosciutto and salami at Murano

and breads, of course

and breads, of course

After a hectic past few weeks, I’m finally away for the holidays. Yay! A foot of snow has just dumped down on the northeast US, and now that I’m no longer traveling, it’s lovely to see the blanket of white outside.

Just before I left London, I tried the £25 lunch menu at Angela Hartnett’s Murano, and it ticked all the boxes: great service, lovely linens/china, and flashes of creativity on the understandably-limited menu – all at a fantabulous price.

The restaurant is still offering a decadent white truffle tasting menu (a £65 supplement for every white truffle course you add to your meal), and our waiter carried over a box of the precious fungus so we could have a peek and sniff (those are free). It’s heady stuff, that white truffle. We got our little taste of the good life in the fresh-out-of-the fryer white truffle arancini that arrived while we browsed the menu options.

And as if the creamy-crispy arancini weren’t pre-starter enough, after we placed our order, a generous pile of salumi arrived. I’d love to know who Murano’s supplier is, because I could have eaten that prosciutto all day. For vegetarians, there was a smoked aubergine puree dip that was creamy, sweet and nutty – a delish topping for the fresh, varied breads in our bread basket, but no match for the beauties of cured meat.

grilled mackerel tart with confit lemon green olive vinaigrette

grilled mackerel tart with confit lemon green olive vinaigrette

My starter of grilled mackerel tart was meaty and moist without any of the stinky fishiness that ruins mackerel’s popularity. And the sharp sweetness of the tomato-red “tart crust” added flavor and taste contrast. I enjoyed my starter immensely.

roasted guinea fowl with braised thigh, crosnes and Savoy cabbage puree

roasted guinea fowl with braised thigh, crosnes and Savoy cabbage puree

Roasted guinea fowl was juicy, but nothing too memorable, especially compared to the guinea fowl I had at Petershan Nurseries. On the other hand, the cost of the guinea fowl alone at Petersham approximated that of our entire lunch menu at Murano . . . .

pan-fried stonebass, sauce basquaise, chorizo and butter beans

pan-fried stonebass, sauce basquaise, chorizo and butter beans

The stonebass was beautifully pan fried so that its skin turned into crackling while the white, flaky meat stayed moist, but the treats hidden in the sauce basquaise were the highlight. Chorizo makes everything good. Murano knows how to source, no question.

sorbets in a rainbow of colors and flavors

sorbets in a rainbow of colors and flavors

The palate-cleansers were so fun – we couldn’t help smiling at the colors and flavors. Rich and creamy banana; refreshing and light basil; tart black currant were my faves, but polishing off all of the sorbets was no problem.

chocolate brownie with bloord oranges

fudge brownie with blood oranges

Dessert options were pretty unimaginative. Then again, it may be no more than a dressed-up brownie, but it was still worth the calories.

fruit tuiles, chocolates and panettone

petit fours: fruit tuiles, chocolates and panettone

I loved the petit fours – chocolate truffles, fruit tuiles and fresh, warm hunks of panettone. I’m still thinking of that panettone – its eggy texture and sweet tartness of candied citrus, balanced with plump sweet raisins. Nothing like those monsters that come in pretty boxes at this time of year.

What a steal for £25. Considering how much I loved all the goodies that came in between our courses, I’m guessing I’d love a full-on meal at Murano. To do in 2009, then.

Murano, 20 Queen Street, W1J 5PR, 0207 592 1222; closest tube station: Green Park
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