But the burger idea is still there eating away at you even if you're not eating away at it so we start wondering where we can get a good burger for lunch; we hit on the idea of Maze Grill as a place to try though we have no real idea of how good it's likely to be and we've been told by more than one person that it's not the same since Jason Atherton left. We decide to head forth.
As we wait in the bar for our table to become available (we had arrive a little early), we have time to look around and take in Maze itself. The up and over lighting of the two bar areas itself is moderately funky but compared to sparkly new Bistros like Dinner, the wood decor itself is looking a little tired while the leather benches on which we wait are worn and grubby, definitely time for an overhaul or at the very least a valet cleaning.
Walking through to the Grill itself, the place is lively with all tables taken and easily turned it seems; business faring well then. Staff are overwhelmingly young (or are we just getting old?) and the Grill seems in better shape decor wise than the bar area we've just left.
Let's dispense with the starters quickly for they play only a cameo role in today's review. The crispy soft shell crab was juicy but didn't have the crisp finish that it should and the 'spicy mayo' was like a weak Thousand Island which with the best will in the world could be spicy to no one. The cauliflower and stilton soup was nice which is all that really needs be said here. The real issue came with the burger prompting much debate.
It seems it's been this way for some time on the burger front. On the web we found this article from 2008 that highlights even back then that Maze would not cook anything below medium for them as it was a health hazard. Twitter then joined the debate and thanks to all who got in touch. The general view was that Maze leaning on Health & Safety here was nonsense and that Health & Safety did not oblige the cooking of burgers to medium well standards. There was clear recognition though that steaks (which are offered less than medium) are different to burgers. As this BBC article from 2004 makes clear (thanks @matkiwi), in an experiment in which steaks were spiked with bacteria, the cooking temperature then killed the bacteria but where it did survive:
[the bacteria] cells' survival was caused by recontamination of the steaks during cooking, via the tongs used to turn them
When tongs were sterilised in ethanol, no recontamination took place. The article then goes on to say that Meat & Livestock Commission guidelines say that:
whole cuts of meat, such as steaks, cutlets and joints, are only ever contaminated by bacteria on the outside of the meat, which are destroyed during cooking even if the middle of the meat is pink, or rare.
In the case of minced-meat products such as burgers and sausages, bacteria are spread throughout the product during manufacture. These products should be cooked until they are piping hot throughout, with no pink meat left and any juices running clear.
The suggestion is then that you can never guarantee a burger. @lovesgreatfood pointed out this article from just four weeks ago saying that a Dublin restaurant was forced to withdraw from sale rare and medium rare burgers when threatened with court action in Ireland but Grosvenor Square is clearly central London and the overwhelming if not singular view from London chefs is that there is no absolute requirement to serve burgers here medium well or more.
So why can't we have our medium rare burger at Maze? We're not entirely sure, prudence most likely but surely not the law. At a guess, we assume that somewhere between Ramsay's lawyers and his PR company they have suggested that even if there's only a small chance of a customer contracting some sort of poisoning from his/her medium rare burger, for the UK's most celebrated TV chef, and one who presents Kitchen Nightmares where most kitchens start each episode as a genuine health hazard, the press coverage, ridicule and lawsuits are just too great a risk. Put another way, Ramsay is not willing to risk his career on you deciding to risk a medium rare burger and blaming him if it goes wrong.
The outcome to all this was sadly predictable: the burger was dry, tasteless and a waste of time. And while you can't blame the poor state of the bun on Health and Safety - it was thin, crispy and would disintegrate on biting in to it - the bun could never redeem a burger this bad anyway. The whole effort was just poor and perhaps they've given up on trying to serve a good burger knowing that they're working with one if not two hands tied behind their back. All said and done, they'd probably be better just taking it off the menu.
We paid the bill and ran for the exit.
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