Maze Grill: Not aMAZing (August 2013)

A visitor from out of town resulted in an impromptu lunch at Maze earlier this week. As we approached our destination, our guest raised the conversational topic of how so many restaurants managed to survive in London, a city he only passed through around once a year, but where he noticed new openings on each occasion. It got me thinking about Maze, a place I had visited in its various guises on and off over the years since it had first opened. My response to our visitor’s topic was, well, it’s in a great location (moneyed Mayfair and overlooking sedate Grosvenor Square), a celebrity chef (Gordon Ramsey) lends his name – if not his cooking – to the place, and it’s adjacent to the Marriott hotel. Having dined there, it seems that this is enough to keep Maze alive: in other words, if you can benefit from location, constant customer traffic and a brand name, then it actually doesn’t matter if the cooking is little better than average and the service distinctly poor. In terms of service, if it were not bad enough to have the wrong drinks order brought to our table, then having the waiter staring at us with incomprehension (we wondered whether he even understood English) and failing to apologise for his error was truly shocking. Next up, we all know steak – the main culinary event here – can sometimes be chewy, but that still does not mean that when you are still on your last mouthful that your dish should be whisked away, especially when the restaurant was no more than half full. These were probably the most egregious service errors, but the general trend was one of studied indifference. In terms of the food, I personally often find steak overrated, but it was executed competently and served nicely, on a wooden block and with a large roast garlic. The wine too was an undoubted success, a reasonably priced offering from the Toro region of Spain, and a good meat match, still refreshing and light, even after five years of age. Would I come back? Probably, but only under similar circumstances – more out of convenience (the place was booked by another person) than choice. And, probably if enough people do what we do, racking up three-figure lunch bills at relatively short notice on a weekday, then Maze will still be here next time our visitor comes to London.