Lucky Cat is Gordon Ramsay’s first new London restaurant since Heddon Street Kitchen in 2014 – but it’s a completely different animal. Where Heddon Street is approachable and family-friendly, Lucky Cat is sleekly groomed and nightclubby, with a huge bar area overlooked by a wall of waving cats and an even bigger dining room stretching out behind.
Aside from the location within the Marriott (with its own entrance on Grosvenor Square), there’s little here that resembles what used to be Maze – not least a fully open kitchen where groups can book a pair of chef’s tables in the thick of things and a counter overlooks the chef action. Ramsay has always known how to entertain.
The interiors are meant to evoke the drinking dens of 1930s Tokyo, though compared to the bright lights of the kitchen, the main dining area is so dark it’s hard to make anything out among the inky furnishings. A throbbing soundtrack of dance beats, meanwhile, is so insistent it precludes any sort of serious conversation.
If anything, the vibe is more early noughties than 1930s, a mood underlined by the sort of melting-pot menu popularised by Zuma and Nobu 20 years ago. The pan-Asian cooking is high on protein (sushi and skewers), low on carbs (sashimi and salads) and with nothing scary sounding – salt-and-pepper prawns, short-rib bao and aubergine with miso are among the crowd-pleasers.
Our overall impression, unfortunately, was of good ingredients cooked with skill then spoilt by being paired with overly assertive sauces that undid the good work.
Octopus with sweetcorn and shisho was the best thing we ate, the tentacles nicely charred on the outside, the flesh within creamy and sticky. Burmese crab masala was just as good, the heat tempered by slices of raw coconut, with a pair of roti on the side for mopping up the sauce.
Black cod and scallops were both delicious in themselves, but neither the cod’s miso sauce nor the sweetcorn and yuzu hot sauce with the scallops brought anything to the table.
Snail and watercress dumplings, meanwhile, had elegantly pleated wontons wrapped around an indefinable filling redolent of the bottom of the garden, while a healthy-sounding side order of wok-fried greens was seasoned with enough salt to send blood pressure skyrocketing.
And that’s before the bill arrives. Prawn toast for £8 was four weeny chunks of stubby fried bread, stuffed with prawns and blobbed with sesame kimchi, that could have been skewered on a cocktail stick and served as a canapé; nor could any of the other sharing plates be described as a generous portion. The wine list has little of interest below £50, while you’ll be pointed way above that if you ask the sommeliers for advice.
Service, meanwhile, was all over the place. We were leapt on as soon as we sat down, but it was ages before anyone took our order and what then arrived wasn’t what we’d asked for; perhaps the iPad ordering devices had malfunctioned.
Ramsay himself was seated on a nearby table and looked like he was having a blast – as did most of the dressed-up diners here, many of whom we’d guess were guests from nearby hotels thrilled to be eating the food of the man who remains Britain’s most famous chef.