Soothsayers have been predicting the demise of Gordon Ramsay at the London, but for now it is alive and well. We visited Maze, the casual front room, on Friday night, and it was reasonably close to full. The main dining room appeared to be better than half full—not bad for a summer weekend.
None of this changes the fact that Gordon Ramsay is completely off the radar in New York. The restaurant took a critical drubbing when it opened 2½ years ago, and I suspect it is surviving on visitor traffic alone. I cannot remember the last local review, blog entry or message board post. It probably wasn’t within the last year.
We’ve visited the main dining room twice (here, here), finding it on both occasions better than the critics did. The Michelin inspectors agreed too, awarding two stars. Like many upscale restaurants, Gordon Ramsay has an informal front room, here dubbed “Maze,” which is meant to offer slightly less formal cuisine a more accessible à la carte price point.
Maze is a somewhat ill-defined concept. There are about a dozen small plates priced from $13–20, plus four “market specials” (essentially entrées) $20–38. The server advised that three of the small plates would make a suitable meal, but they come in widely varying sizes, and it’s tough to tell what you’re getting. We decided to share two of those and two entrées.
The atmosphere is tough to decipher. There are no tablecloths, tables are close together, and the restaurant shares space with the bar, where cocktails are $17. Yet, service is rather formal, with a flotilla of sauces and broths applied tableside, and a wine list where you’ll struggle to find much below $60. At least the wine comes properly chilled.
If dinner had ended with the appetizers, I might have been tempted to award three stars. A terrine of tête de veau (above left) with caramelized sweetbreads and green bean salad was superb. So was a silken filet of fluke (above right), in a portion that could very well have been an entrée.
But duck breast (above left) was rubbery and a pork chop (above right) was over-cooked. Both dishes were fine in their conception, but the same heavy hand at the meat station had ruined them.
We got plenty of attention when we sat down, and the food came out reasonably promptly, but after the restaurant filled up we felt a bit neglected. The space is pleasant, and if the rest of the food were as good as our appetizers we would feel more confident about returning.
Maze at the London Hotel (151 W. 54th St. between Sixth & Seventh Avenues)