Michelin Star Madness @ Gordon Ramsay’s Maze (or: Happy Birthday to Me)

Youth is happy because it has the ability to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old. – Franz Kafka

What is more beautiful than a perfectly prepared plate of food? Ok, ok, I know there are a myriad of other things worth appreciating, but as you know there certain times of the year where food plays such an integral part of the day’s proceedings that people have panic attacks and psychological meltdowns if everything doesn’t go according to plan.

Enter…the birthday.

Like this painting, or a bottle of vintage Bordeaux, I like to think I'm only getting better and better with age.

Like this painting, or a bottle of vintage Bordeaux, I like to think I’m only getting better with age.

I’m not a big party person – disclaimer: I used to be back in the day – and prefer the company of a handful of friends over a big blow out, especially during special times that tend to get all over-hyped. You know: birthdays, Christmas and hearty farty Valentine’s Day. That said, when a birthday rolls around it’s nice to do something special, and while I don’t require someone to plan the surprise event of the year, I do enjoy a quality meal out to mark the passing of time and to act a as a tribute to my self-declared fabulousness.

Note: if fabulousness wasn’t a word before, it sure as hell is now.

I left it to a distinguished and mysterious man in my life (let’s call him Mr. Intolerant) to do my bidding and find a place that would cater to my niggling intolerant needs while also offering wickedly delicious wine, a cozy atmosphere and a place where I wouldn’t have to worry I’d be fed month-old frozen chicken or trip over a mouse on my way in the front door. You see, I may not own a television, but I have watched enough episodes of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares to know better.

Maze

Anyhow, without providing any real input of where I wanted to go, imagine my surprise when I’m led on a crosstown-resto-treasure-hunt and wind up in Manhattan’s swank London Hotel, home to Gordon Ramsay’s Michelin starred establishment Maze. A place where jet-setters, business tycoons and “It” people go to dine and be seen, and which  will henceforth be referred to as “the site of this Intolerant’s fabulous birthday dinner.”

Sante!

Sante!

Seated in a booth near the entrance we had the lay of the restaurant and were able to observe the comings and goings of Manhattan’s elite (sorry, it’s the token Gossip Girl reference…I promise). The place was busy, but not packed as twinkling chandeliers, gilded mirrors and grey banquettes all lent a very contemporary Gatsby feel to the place. We had a long look at the drink menu – the wine list is worth throwing elbows for – before settling on a round of prosecco before perusing options for dinner.

The (not for an Intolerant) asparagus salad.

The (not for an Intolerant) asparagus salad.

Our server was friendly and extremely helpful in suggesting dishes that wouldn’t send me into an intolerant tailspin. Mr. Intolerant went for the five course tasting menu and I settled on the slow cooked organic hen’s egg to start, the sea scallops as my second dish and the brook trout as my main.

The organic hen egg.  *shudders with delight*

The organic hen’s egg. *shudders with delight*

I enjoyed my first two courses, though I was particularly fond of the sea scallops that were grilled to perfection. The organic hen’s egg was quite good as well, but I was a bit thrown by the use of capers, which affected my overall enjoyment of the dish. Before the mains were served our glasses were refilled with Tempranillo and Malbec, and when the food came out I’m pretty sure I squealed with delight.

The trout. Come on, I know you want some.

The trout. Come on, I know you want some.

The trout was stuffed with garlic and slices of orange and came with a side of baby potatoes and a helping of fennel mixed with segments of orange. I loved the presentation so much I was pained by the thought of cutting into the fish and unravelling the dish.

Making it come undone.

But you know how the story goes. I cut into that fish and savoured every delicate and moist bite like nobody’s business. The potatoes were tender and lightly coated with olive oil, while the fennel/orange concoction had me blubbering for more. It was such an interesting and successful pairing of ingredients that I finished my meal completely satisfied and without want for another bite.

Sweet endings. The dark chocolate fondant.

Sweet endings. The dark chocolate fondant.

Mr. Intolerant (it should be un-Intolerant really since he eats just about everything) – on the other hand – went through his first three courses appreciating the flavours and textures of each, but yearning for a little bit more creativity in his dishes. He also enjoyed the main (the dry aged strip loin), but remarked that the portion size could have been a bit more…generous.

Alas, you can’t win them all.

One of the post-dinner highlights came however, when Mr. Intolerant’s dessert was served alongside a complimentary helping of “happy birthday” sorbet for me. Fruity, light and perfectly tart it was a nice ending to the meal and good fun to make a wish over the glow of a solitary candle (not a day over 29 I say!). The second post-dinner highlight was having the chance to tour the kitchen once accounts were settled and bear witness to how one huge room – Ramsay’s multi-million dollar kitchen – can accomodate two dining rooms (capacity of 200 patrons) and room service for who-knows-how-many hotel guests. It was a treat and a lovely ending to a 2-star meal that paid homage to my total fabulousness.

Happy birthday to me. Oh yes, indeed.

Maze

Maze (@ The London Hotel)

151 West 54th Street
Manhattan, New York

Call 212-468-8889 or email GordonRamsayNY@TheLondon.com for reservations.