'The price is at the higher end of the scale, but wholeheartedly worth it'

Maze Grill Park Walk

Mon–Fri midday–11pm, Sat–Sun 11am–11pm

The blurb

Flashbacks of sitting in the boot of a car as young children, tearing bits of tiger loaf bread and dipping them into a selection tray of dips under the guise of a ‘picnic’, fill me with dread. However, the maze Grill’s new picnic-inspired menu—available from 23-28 May 2016, in time for the Chelsea Flower Show—is one picnic-slash-afternoon tea not to be missed.

The style

Suave, eclectic, indulgent. The staff at the maze Grill Park Walk are friendly and passionate about their food, with team-excursions to meet the farmers in the Lake District. As daylight fades, the restaurant is left in a cosy glow of dimmed lights and flickering candles, with jazzy, bluesy lounge music in the background for a chilled vibe; perfect for swirling wine and digging into beautiful plates of food.

The crowd

Tables in the Gordon Ramsay restaurant were quietly filling up with locals, each receiving the warmest of welcomes from the staff. The close-knit team pride themselves on quality and are impressively knowledgeable about their ingredients, meat, and wines—a familiarity that shines through in their service and recommendations.

We are treated to a tour of the restaurant, including meeting the talented chefs (who don’t appear to share Ramsay’s trademark temper).

The food

The Chelsea Flower Show-inspired menu offers an exquisite range of goodies, from spicy salmon maki rolls with fresh salmon tartare, to a stack of perfectly crispy and thin sweet potato crisps, paired with an indulgent cheese and leek mousse.

The Farmhouse terrine is smooth yet textured and beautifully rich, served with a sweet apple chutney that had the feel and flavour of having been cut straight from an apple crumble. I feared prior to my arrival that I might leave feeling hungry after nibbling on picnic food, yet I was flagging even before I reached the elegantly packaged Chicken Caesar salad sandwich, a soft, smoky chicken enveloped in soft bread with a light Caesar dressing. Comfortingly, Assistant Manager Elina reassured us that ‘no one ever leaves here hungry’.

The Shaved Cauliflower salad is a firm favourite at the maze Grill, and an eye-opener for anyone who dislikes cauliflower (fortunately I am not one of those people). With finely shaved slivers of cauliflower florets, this bowl of raw salad was light, sweet, and crunchy, with a tangy dill, vinaigrette and honey dressing, subtly spiced with roasted peanuts. Probably the most memorable dish of the selection, and one I will definitely try to replicate (though likely fail!). To bolster my point, we were told of a local who came in to order eight portions of the salad to serve at his dinner party. Trust me, it’s good.

Also served on the enormous picnic platter were warm Lobster and quail scotch eggs, a Double decker crab and sweetcorn sandwich, and hot Iberico ham sausage rolls. These rolls have a gentle spicy kick, although—to my relief—missing the fennel seeds that one often finds in gourmet sausage rolls (there is, I have discovered, such a thing as too many fennel seeds) and are paired with a homemade, chunky piccalilli sauce. The sausage roll is arguably the best item on the picnic menu, and definitely the best sausage roll I’ve ever tasted.

We declined the tea and coffee that are also offered as part of the picnic, but just as we thought we couldn’t manage another morsel, two slices of flourless chocolate torte turned up, served with a small blob of crème fraiche. I am a huge believer in the phenomenon best known as ‘the pudding stomach’, so we ploughed on.

The torte is even chocolatier than an M&S Colin the Caterpillar cake. Coated in Nutella. With crumbled Ferrero Rocher on top, served in a vat of chocolate. It was so unbelievably thick and moist I didn’t think it’d make it to my mouth on the fork without slipping through the tines, and it was all the things you would hope for in a chocolatier-than-thou torte; sticky, smooth, and rich—not too sweet, not too dark… all the while looking modest and innocent.

The lunchtime menu with coffee and cake included is £35 per head and a true savior, liberating you from the 40 minute queues for some sad-looking shredded pork and typically British weather that trying to buy lunch at the Chelsea Flower Show can involve.

For anyone considering an evening meal, the maze Grill also offers a superb selection of steaks and cuts of meat from America, Japan, and the Lake District, stored in a glass-fronted ‘dry ageing cabinet’ visible to diners, with an impressive wall of Himalayan salt bricks at the back. We were fortunate to try samples of the fillet steak and a sirloin, in addition to our picnic banquet, both of which had been cooked in a ‘Green Egg’ at 300 degrees, delivered flawlessly, and practically melting as they reached our lips.

The drink

Accompanied with the Chelsea Picnic Lunch is a glass of Balfour Hush Heath Estate Brut Rose 2011— a sparking rosé from Kent, made from a chardonnay and pinot noir blend. It’s fruity with heaps of depth and flavour, and reminds me of the fresh tanginess found in Pink Lady apples.

We ordered additional glasses of wine to accompany our meal, although for a leisurely lunch the sparking rosé is sufficient. I asked the sommelier to ‘surprise me’ (something I rarely do) and he returned with a glass of Gabo do Xil, Godello from northern Spain, with an aromatic nose of peach and white blossom, making it a superb picnic wine in addition.

I feel like I’ve died and gone to picnic heaven! Thanks to the quirky food and experimentation with different ingredients (think lobster scotch eggs and crab mayo), the price is at the higher end of the scale, but wholeheartedly worth it and unforgettably good. It’s a glorious tableside picnic away from downpour, screaming babies, and creepy crawlies, which in my opinion makes it an absolute bargain.

Chelsea Flower Show menu available until 4pm this week only

Maze Grill Park Walk, 11 Park Walk, London, SW10 0AJ; 020 7255 9299; www.gordonramsayrestaurants.com/maze-grill-park-walk

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