Gordon Ramsay’s Maze – Mayfair

Gourmet five-course tasting menu experience – French and Asian cuisine

This five course dinner tasting menu with champagne for two was a very generous wedding gift to K and I earlier this year, from my old and much-loved university friend G.

A red letter days experience

The night before new year’s eve seemed like a perfect time for the booking – following an afternoon of retail therapy (mostly K’s) on Oxford Street, during our long Christmas holidays. And hopefully a climactic LardButty entry to end 2014.

Bar area purple decor and Christmas decorations

Arriving early so we could relax in the cocktail bar, K had a barrel aged old fashioned (Woodford Reserve bourbon, sugar, angostura and orange @ £15.00) and I had a margarita with salt foam (excellent Don Julio Blanco tequila margarita with all the salt but no mess @ £15.00 – the salt foam is made from salt, egg whites, xanthum gum and nitrous oxide and had a real novelty factor while looking like a lemon meringue pie too).

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Cocktails – orangey old fashioned and salt foam margarita

Tasting menu – click on photo to see enlarged copy

On being shown to our table, a waiter then sommelier explained the choices (with the vast wine list being presented on an ipad). We started with champagne, an amuse bouche of crumbly cheese, onion and salmon and some light and tasty cracker breads (mixed seed, chocolate, cheese, prawn cracker, paprika, and a variation on peas pudding).

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Cracker breads + amuse bouche – a cheese, onion + salmon canapé

Flight of three wines from regional Spain – Louro, Navarra + a Priorat

To accompany a variety of foods, we chose a flight of three Spanish wines starting with a nicely dry white Louro, Rafael Palacio from Galicia, followed by a red Navarra, Emilio Valerio (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Grenache blend) and a Priorat, Planetes, Nin Ortiz (Grenache and Carignon blend).

The first taster course was the English breakfast. How elegant does this look? Digging down into the shell, was a treasure trove of tomato and bacon pieces.

#1 English breakfast – egg, bacon + tomato served in an egg shell with soldiers and crunchy ‘hay’

For the next three courses, there was a choice of two dishes. We ordered one of each and shared so we got to try everything.

The cured salmon was served with mango, pickled onion and tempura crisp – an outstanding treat of flavours, while the octopus had the appearance and texture of a meaty sausage (albeit very tender), served with Szechuan pepper, tomatoes and rocket mayonnaise.

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#2 Choice of octopus or cured salmon

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#3 Choice of dumpling (seafood) or sea bream with enoki mushroom

The light, melt-in-your-mouth, gyoza-style dumpling was packed with lobster, tiger prawns and salmon. And the sea bream was just amazing – served with enoki mushrooms, dashi (miso soup base) and ginger, some of my favourite ingredients. For me, the sea bream dish was exceptional.

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#4 Choice of pork belly or duck breast

On to course number four. Could it possibly get any better? Somehow it does, as each course thrills and delights just that little bit more.

The tender pork belly with a thin crispy crackling top was served with smoked bacon, tiger prawn and miso broth and decorated with bean sprouts and spring onions.

Again, the duck breast was tender with a perfectly crispy skin (we were so pleased to have recently discovered we both like duck breast) and was served with romanesco (beautiful edible green flower bud that tastes somewhere between broccoli and cauliflower), wild mushroom and lemon.

#5a Blackberry + apple sundae with custard

Swiftly following the blackberry and apple sundae (the first part of the fifth course) came profiteroles with chocolate, Baileys gel and ginger ice cream (divine) and cheesecake – a white chocolate log with ice cream, sprinkled with coconut and Szechuan powder (pepper) on a thin bed of pineapple (which was difficult to cut and could have benefited from being served with a sharp knife – my only, and very minor, criticism of the evening).

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#5b Choice of profiteroles or cheesecake

To accompany the desserts we shared a glass of white Castelnau Suduiraut @ £13.50 and a red recioto corgegiara @ £11.00.

Dessert wines + a happy new year y’all

Everything about this experience was simply stunning from restaurant comfort, decor and atmosphere through to service, food and wine. I can’t see how our evening could have been improved. For that reason, Maze gets 5/5 in the LardButty index.

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 5 / 5
~ Type: French/Asian
~ Address: 10-13 Grosvenor Square, London
~ Postcode: W1k 6JP
~ Tel: 020 7107 0000
~ Nearest station: Bond Street
~ Website + menus: Maze website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Maze food
~ Location: Maze map

Maze on Urbanspoon


New Winner – Chinese delivery

It’s take-away time. The other night we decided to order a take-away and settled on Chinese for a change. Well, I say Chinese but New Winner’s menu is more Chinese-come-Thai-come-Asian-fusion.

Our Chinese banquet and carpet picnic began with:
~ Vegetarian spring rolls @ £1.90
~ Sesame prawn toast @ £4.10
~ Chicken satay on skewers with onion, cucumber + special satay sauce @ 4.20
~ Tod mun Thai fishcakes @ £4.30
~ Aromatic crispy duck (a quarter) with 6 pancakes, cucumber, spring onion, and hoi sin sauce @ £7.00


Tod mun Thai fishcakes, seseame prawn toast, chicken satay

Chinese cuisine is possibly my least favourite but I do love crispy duck pancakes when done properly. And these didn’t disappoint (the duck was roasted and crispy with little trace of fat, pancakes were paper thin and light, and the hoi sin sauce was great). The tod mun fishcakes weren’t the best I’ve ever tasted but they weren’t bad by any means.

Crispy duck pancakes – crispy, shredded duck with a great hoi sin sauce

For main course, K chose beef in black bean sauce with green peppers (tender beef stir fried in a special black bean paste with onion, pepper and carrot) @ £4.40 and mushroom egg fried rice @ £3.40, while I had vegetarian Thai green curry (stuffed full of crispy tofu, water chestnut, Chinese mushrooms, carrot and bamboo shoots) @ £3.80 with steamed white rice @ £2.20.

Thai green curry with tofu + veggies

Beef in black bean sauce + Thai green tofu curry

Haute cuisine this aint. But for a good value, convenient and *not overly unhealthy* Chinese delivery option, New Winner was a hit. We’ll order again, not frequently. But we’ll be back.

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3 / 5
~ Type: Chinese, Asian
~ Address: 278 Lewisham High Street, Lewisham, London
~ Postcode: SE13 6JZ
~ Tel: 020 8690 7614
~ Website + menus: New Winner website
~ Photos on flickr: images of New Winner food
~ Location: New Winner map
~ Delivery through: Just Eat

More Lewisham Borough take-aways:
~ Catford Chippy
~ El Poco Mexico – eat in or take-away
~ FS2 – Turkish deliveries
~ Pide – Turkish pizza
~ Sapporo Ichiban – Japanese/sushi collections
~ Turkish Kitchen

New Winner Chinese & Thai on Urbanspoon

Silk – in Soho’s ex Courthouse

Could anyone not be intrigued to visit a restaurant in the former courthouse where Oscar Wilde took the Marquess of Queensbury to court on a criminal libel charge, and where Charles Dickens once worked as a court reporter?

Silk restaurant in Courthouse Hotel
Courthouse Hotel, Soho: l-r, exterior, original cell gates leading to bar, former prisoners’ cells (now toilets)

Silk – serving Asian fusion food – looked a bit hit and miss, from the mixed reviews it gets online. What really appealed to me was the history: that in this court room, trials were held involving Oscar Wilde, Mick Jagger and Johnny Rotten.

On arrival at the Courthouse Hotel, a bloke – half naked in Roman toga costume – ran passed us. That wasn’t really the historical scene I’d been expecting! But as the cheerful receptionist explained – there was a Hercules event on in the hotel that evening. We briefly pretended to be attending said Roman fancy dress event but after thoroughly confusing the receptionist, we proceeded (chuckling) to Silk, as booked.

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Oak-panelled former courtroom

The wooden door to the former court room was closed. On opening, another cheerful waiter told us that this was the second oldest court room in England, pointing out the small restaurant’s special features including the glass ceiling window and an old silk route painting on the wall.

We ordered a bottle of South African Chenin Blanc white wine @ £23.50 (crisp and dry) and sat back for a leisurely read of the menu.

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Lal Maans starter – seared beef

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Pho Pia Je starter – Thai style veggie spring rolls

For starters I had lal maans – beef slices seared with red chilli and Thai spices @ £8.95 (the beef was really tender, and the spices made it dance) while L had Poh Pia Je – Thai style vegetable spring rolls @ £6.95 (really thin, almost pancake-like pastry, packed with crisp veggies).

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Pla Yang Krachai – swordfish steak

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Hakka Noodles – with crispy chilli tofu

For main course I had Pla Yang Krachai – swordfish steak marinated with Thai spices and krachai ginger @ £16.50 (a juicy, flaky fillet with blackened spiced top) with pulao rice @ £3.50 (packed full of flavours: cumin, cloves, and prawn – probably the best pulao I’ve had) and L had Hakka Noodles – Singapore noodles topped with crispy chilli garlic tofu @ £13.95, and a shared side of Phad Boong Fai Deng – stir fried pak choi with black bean sauce @ £3.50.

The only slight mix up happened when we were asked if we’d like to order desserts. We were full so no, we didn’t want desserts but – as we were enjoying ourselves – we ordered two after-dinner liqueurs: amaretto. Well after such a lovely meal, why not rest a little longer and digest our food? So we were quite surprised when two small ice-creams were placed in front of us (two complimentary taster portions of ice-cream it seemed?) – very rich and creamy; not very icey and certainly not something I could have eaten much of.

A short while after after that, the bill arrived but no amaretto liqueur. It turned out we’d eaten our amaretto in ice-cream form, by mistake. It was too late to return them by this point so we could only laugh. Our total bill for two came to £71.18 (with a 2-for-1 Tastecard discount and including service) – very reasonable even without the Tastecard discount, for this standard of food and service.

The food at Silk was simply stunning; service was cheerful, attentive and informative (both in terms of the menu and the room’s history) and overall, a great experience.

More food options at Silk

IMG_9415_prawn starter at Silk
Tiger prawn starter

IMG_9416_Fish in banana leaf starter
Fish in banana leaf starter

IMG_9417_beef rendang
Beef rendang

IMG_9422_mango pudding
Mango pudding

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
~ Type: Asian, fusion
~ Address: 19-21 Great Marlborough Street, London
~ Postcode: W1F 7HL
~ Tel: 020 7297 5555
~ Nearest station: Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus
~ Website: Silk website
~ Sample menu: Silk sample menu
~ Photos on flickr: images of Silk restaurant at the Courthouse Hotel
~ Location: Silk map


More Soho dining:
~ Andrew Edmunds
~ Bistro1 – Mediterranean/Turkish food on Frith Street
~ Cây Tre – Vietnamese restaurant on Dean Street
~ Shoryu Ramen – Japanese noodles
~ Wagamama Soho

Silk on Urbanspoon

Dim t – More London

Dim t is a small chain of six restaurants serving Chinese and Asian food, specialising in – as you may have guessed – dim sum. Five of the branches are around London and one’s in Winchester.

Crispy duck pancakes + dim sum at Dim t

We called in at the More London (London Bridge) branch on a Friday evening recently. We didn’t have a reservation but didn’t have to wait long until the lively servers were able to seat us.

Walking passed the open kitchen, and seeing the bamboo steamer baskets being piled up full of steaming parcels of food was very enticing.

Dim sum in bamboo steamer basket

We shared:
~ Sea bass + miso dim sum @ £3.60
~ Spicy veg dim sum @ £3.60
~ Wasabi chicken dim sum @ £3.60
~ Spicy beef dim sum @ £3.60
~ Crispy duck + pancakes @ £11.95
~ Bottle gerwurtztraminer @ £16.35
~ teas: Jasmine flower @ £2.50 + organic gun powder @ £2.50

Camomile flower tea

A very enjoyable meal (in part due to our lively, helpful servers) and relatively healthy too.

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3.5 / 5
~ Type: Chinese, Asian fusion
~ Address: 2 More London Place, Tooley Street, London
~ Postcode: SE1 2DB
~ Tel: 020 7403 7000
~ Nearest station: London Bridge
~ Website + menus: Dim t website
~ Photos on flickr: images of Dim t food
~ facebook page: Dim t facebook page
~ Location: Dim t map

More London Bridge dining:
~ Black + Blue – Borough Market
~ Roast – Borough Market
~ St Christopher’s Inn

Dim T on Urbanspoon

Banana Tree – Clapham Junction

Last night I went to Banana Tree at Clapham Junction for the first time in a few years, to meet a couple of old friends. And was pleased to find it’s as great as it always was.

You can only book tables for parties of seven or more, so we arrived fairly early (7.30pm) as it was a Saturday night. We were seated straight away and the restaurant filled up quickly.

We started with a bottle of Italian Pinot Grigio Garganega Nova @ £16.95 while reading the Asian fusion menu (great mix of Thai, Vietnamese, Malay dishes).

For starters we shared chicken and shitake moneybags – crispy chicken and shitake mushroom stuffed parcels served with chilli sauce @ £4.90, and kau chi dumplings – handmade pork and prawn dumplings with aged vinegar + garlic sauce @ £4.60. Both were really tasty (even if the dumplings looked a bit deflated).

Chicken shitake moneybags

Kau chi dumplings

For main course, H and G both had chilli, ginger and basil stir fry with prawns – fresh and aromatic stir fry, with cloud ear and shitake mushrooms, peppers and spring onions in Siamese yellow bean sauce @ £8.40 and steamed Jasmine rice @ £2.50.

Prawn stir fry and Pinot Grigio

I had seafood kari santan melayu – tiger prawns, tilapia fish fillets and fishcakes gently cooked in a traditional Malaysian blended red curry paste @ £8.90 (lots of deep, contrasting and complementary flavours – simply gorgeous).

Seafood red curry

Our total bill for three people (for three bottles of pinot grigio, two starters, three mains, and sides of rice and noodles) came to about £100 which included a tip. At £34 each, this seemed very reasonably priced for such great food.

Open plan kitchen + restaurant bench tables

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
~ Type: IndoChinese, Asian fusion
~ Address: 75-79 Battersea Rise, London
~ Postcode: SW11 1HN
~ Tel: 020 7228 2828
~ e: battersea@bananatree.co.uk (bookings only for parties of 7 or more)
~ Nearest station: Clapham Junction
~ Website + menus: Banana Tree website
~ Photos on flickr images of Banana Tree food
~ Location: Banana Tree Clapham Junction map


More nearby dining:

~ Nancy Lam’s Enak Enak – *best* restaurant on Lavender Hill (Indonesian / SE Asian fusion)

~ Noiya – Indian restaurant on Lavender Hill

Banana Tree on Urbanspoon



Asia de Cuba at St Martin’s Lane Hotel

Hearing people rave about Asia de Cuba had given me high expectations. We finally went this week to celebrate my birthday. It didn’t live up to the eulogising.

It would be easy to walk straight past, if you didn’t know that Asia de Cuba was inside the inconspicuously sign-posted St Martin’s Lane Hotel (a grey block).

Unsigned hotel + restaurant from St Martin’s Lane

You go through the soulless hotel reception to get to Asia de Cuba at the back. If you can get over the hotelish, impersonal atmosphere you might like the cylindrical towers positioned throughout the restaurant, covered in book shelves and pictures that add an element of style and homeliness.


We had a couple of rum cocktails while we read the menu, one served creatively in a chunky jar.

Rum cocktails

Concentrating on design and style Asia de Cuba seems to be attempting to be swanky, and while the wooden chairs may match the book shelves they’re extremely uncomfortable to sit in.

The pre-theatre prix fixe menu is currently £27.00 for three courses (check the website for various menus including the a la carte dinner menu).

Sample prix fixe menu

For appetizers K had crab coquetas: jicama (a root vegetable that looks like a turnip), mango and mirin infused slaw with roasted red pepper rémoulade (or, as LardButty might’ve described it: a bite-size sample of deep-fried crab in breadcrumbs on a whisper of shredded fruit/veg – if you’d like more than a quarter of a plate of food, don’t order this) and I had calamari salad Asia de Cuba: crispy calamari, chayote, hearts of palm, banana (??) cashews, chicory and radicchio with sesame orange dressing (an unusual mix of flavours, particularly banana which didn’t go) served in oddly sized portions (K’s was tiny and he wanted more, while mine was generous and I was full after the starter).

Crab croquetas appetizer

Calamari salad Asia de Cuba

For entrées K had seared tuna and I had Cuban BBQ chicken (slightly dry, bland and disappointing), with a side order of wok sautéed Asian and Caribbean vegetables (all distinctly average, dishes weren’t quite as exciting to eat as they were to read on the menu. And bear in mind that the prix fixe ‘deal’ only includes a component of the main course; you have to order veg and any accompaniments as separate side orders). The tuna was more of a side dish portion than a main course so K still had an appetite – on the plus side we had enough room for desserts.

BBQ chicken, seared tuna and sautéed vegetables

Neither of us have an especially sweet tooth and don’t often eat dessert but thoroughly enjoyed this break from normality. K had Cuban Opera (rich chocolate cake layered with milk chocolate butter cream, coffee mousse and coffee brittle ice cream) while I had Coconut Invasion (coconut, white chocolate grenache and rum flavoured banana layer cake with dulce de leche ice cream).

Cuban Opera

Coconut Invasion

Asia de Cuba had been on my (mental) list of restaurants to try for years. Tick. It’s more about style than substance. I won’t hurry back.

After so many recommendations for this place and for so long, I can only assume I missed the party.

Restaurant info:
~ Lardbutty rating: 3 / 5
~ Type: Asian fusion
~ Address: St Martin’s Lane Hotel, 45 St Martins Lane, London
~ Postcode: WC2N 4HX
~ Tel: 020 7300 5588
~ Nearest station: Leicester Square
~ Website: St Martin’s Lane Hotel website – has details of Asia de Cuba restaurant
~ Location: Hotel + Asia de Cuba restaurant map

Asia de Cuba on Urbanspoon