21 August 2014

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Michelin Meals for the Masses


Bespangled banqueting has finally come to the capital; Venues & Events heads to Maze to put the first menu of its kind to the test

At first glance, the five-star Marriott Grosvenor Square Hotel  seems elegant and a little understated. Scratch the surface however and you’ll find some of the most innovative cooking in town.
Of course, it’s not unusual to find Michelin-starred restaurants neatly situated in top-end hotels (as the feature on p.133 details). The stark difference here is that mass catering, such as events held in the 550-capacity Westminster Ballroom, receives the same specialised treatment as gatherings in the 12-seater Hampton private dining room. The Marriott is championing the first Michelin-starred banqueting menu in London.
‘We bring the Gordon Ramsay experience to large-scale corporate groups,’ says Mark Aldridge, departing director of sales at the hotel. Jason Atherton – one of Ramsay’s protégés – designed the menus before leaving last month, with James Durrant, previously of three-star Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, making a more-than-capable substitute to put his spin on the service. 
The on-site Maze showcases the restaurant’s trailblazing brand of small-plate grazing food. ‘For banqueting, we offer the kind of five-course menus that are served in the restaurant,’ says Aldridge. It’s not unusual to find five- or-six-course meals served to well over 700 people in one service, if more than one of the function rooms are in use.

maze - DSC0019.jpgWhen the V&E team went for lunch, we were given the full-on banqueting experience. After being taken down to the clandestine Club Lounge, where a concierge serves Champagne, we were treated to a menu of delicate smoked salmon, perfectly cooked saddle of Cornish lamb, followed by a well-matched rosemary and buttermilk pannacotta.
As we had a meeting planned before lunch, the discreet private dining room suited us perfectly, although there are plenty of other options available. In Maze itself, two private spaces view the kitchen: the six-seater chef’s table – where Durrant and his team can be watched through a glass partition – and Maze View, a 10-seat table set smack bang in the heart of the kitchen.
Both chef’s tables have menus starting from £75 per person, which are created every morning based on what’s available from the market. Flights of wine are put together by the sommelier to match the food and suit every pocket. A price tag of £40 a head gives an interesting selection of wines.
Popular with City boy groups, the Butcher’s Block table in Maze Grill has a window into the kitchen, with glass doors, white polished tiles and mirrors, creating a sleek-looking space. The food at Maze Grill – as its name suggests – is heartier than that at Maze, using prime cuts with bold and simple flavours.
Ideally suited to groups staying for several days in the neighbouring Marriott, the Maze kitchens can provide guests with a different dining experience each day. Indeed, much like the labyrinthine design that Maze gets its name from, the restaurant offers up a different eating experience at every turn.

This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine summer 2010

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