Wednesday, 21 March 2012


Back in January I bought a dinner for four at Maze via a Travelzoo offer and tonight we finally got to go. I really wanted to go to Maze when Jason Atherton was at the helm but didn't manage it before he left in 2010. So, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, I had a hunch that Atherton was the soul of the restaurant and his departure would probably have meant that it would have lost its enticing innovative sheen. The proof would be in the eating.

Maze doesn't follow the usual protocol of Russian serving, but offers "tasting plates". Essentially this meant we had two small starters, a small main and a pudding.


Pressed chicken and foie gras, pear and saffron chutney, green tea caramel

Rather predictably I went for the foie gras option. I love the stuff. Any opportunity I get to have some will be taken. Anyhoo, the terrine was OK nothing particularly great or awful. The only noteworthy item was the appalling green tea caramel. It formed a hard and bitter tasting perimeter on the plate adding absolutely nothing.


Pork dumplings, radish, aromatic mushroom broth

Pork dumplings are a relatively recent revelation to me. They are delicious. Again, if I'm having Chinese I simply have to have these delicious packets of bliss. I was amazed to see them on this menu so absolutely had to have them. They were the single most delicious thing we had. Beautifully seasoned and savoury pork balls enveloped in delicate thin pasta. Swimming in a clear savoury mushroom liquor. Absolutely wonderful from first tentative nibble to the last slurp of the broth.


Braised beef featherblade, pomme puree, shimiji mushroom, tograshi spice

The beef "main" had a lot to live up to after the pork dumplings. It didn't. Yeah, the beef was good but the flavour was swamped by the sauce. The mushrooms didn't particularly add anything. The mash was good (as you'd expect) maybe a touch "claggy" and the tograshi spice was a thin line on top of the potato. The flavour of which only came through if you deliberately tasted it. This was a case of over-complication or addition of "exciting" and "exotic" ingredients just for the sake of it. A disappointment. Something makes me think that Atherton wouldn't have allowed it.


Banana and date parfait, butterscotch, walnuts

This was almost the most substantial dish of the night. The advertised flavours were present and correct. A silky smooth parfait with lots of chewy lumps of date, the walnuts came baked into a slice of rather dense banana cake, a lovely butterscotch sauce and a perfectly caramelised banana.

All in all a typical Ramsey affair: luxurious surroundings, good service (in the main) and reasonable food. The thing is that's the problem with the place as well: it just seemed too anodyne and formulaic. I'd go back but there are plenty more places I'd like to go to first where I think I'd have a better time, especially at this high-end side of things. Now, when can I get to Pollen Street Social...

Maze on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Pineapple upside down cake, with a twist

After the disaster of my first attempt at this cake, I finally had the opportunity to give it another go. Thankfully it turned out slightly better this time. The break also gave me the opportunity to change a few things with the recipe, a much welcome treat.

The reason its not your usual pineapple upside down cake is because not only is it a sandwich but I also gave it a tropical twist: the caramel had a touch of chilli flakes, the sponge was coconut and lime and I made a coconut butter icing for the middle.

All in all I was very happy. The chilli in the caramel gave a nice heat and the variety of textures and complimentary flavours meant that each mouthful was different; quite unusual for a cake. Improvements might be to make it even more coconutty by investing in some Malibu (for the cake and icing?), maybe try a cream cheese based filling and maybe gild the lily by decorating with a simple icing made with coconut milk.

Pineapple upside down cake, with a twist

For the caramel:
120g dark brown sugar
60g butter
~50ml pineapple juice (either from the tin or from blending the off-cuts)
scant ½tsp chilli flakes
For the cake:
1 pineapple, cut into thick rings (or 2 tins of pineapple rings) and halved
2oz dessicated coconut
150ml coconut milk
2 limes
7oz plain flour
8oz caster sugar
4 eggs
1oz cornflour
1tsp baking powder
For the icing:
1oz dessicated coconut, lightly toasted
3oz butter
6oz icing sugar
Coconut milk

1. Firstly, prepare the coconut for the cakes. Add sufficient coconut milk to the lime juice to make 150ml. Warm this until nearly boiling. Pour this over the dessicated coconut, cover and leave to soak for an hour.
2. To make the caramel, melt the butter and sugar together in a thick bottomed pan. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the chilli flakes and pineapple juice (remember to only swirl the pan don't stir, to prevent sugar crystals forming) and simmer on a low heat for about 3mins. Remove from the heat before the caramel has reached a "perfect" colour as it will continue to cook when the cake is baked.
3. Pour the caramel into a buttered 8" spring-form cake tin and cram as much pineapple in as possible in a single layer.
4. To make the cake, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and light.
5. Add the eggs one by one (add a spoon of flour between each egg to prevent curdling)
6. Sift the flour, cornflour and baking powder together and fold into the mix.
7. Gently stir in the dessicated coconut and liquor as well as the lime zest.
8. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake tins. Bake at 180°C.
9. The cake without the pineapple should be ready after 25mins. The pineapple cake will require a little longer, so start checking every 5mins after 30mins has passed.
TIP: Be careful when you turn the pineapple cake out! Place a large cake over the top of the tin. Hold the plate and tin together firmly and flip in one smooth bold motion.
10. To make the icing beat together the ingredients, adding sufficient coconut milk until the required consistency is reached.
11. To construct the cake, once cooled slather the single cake with the icing. Top with the pineapple cake (pineapple uppermost!).
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