The lunch special offers diners either three courses for $42 or four courses for $54. The Boy and I decide to go all out and opt for the four course meal. The lunch dishes are smaller versions of maze’s dinner menu and the meal of tasting plates is really designed for diners who are in a time crunch. Under normal circumstances lunch patrons can be in and out in about an hour and safely back at their desks before the boss realises they’ve gone M.I.A. On this occasion however, as we were dining on Easter Monday the meal took a more leisurely 2 hours.
Now, although four courses might sound indulgent, it was a fairly light lunch that allowed us to fulfil our Lord of the Fries fantasies later the same afternoon without feeling too guilty. It’s a win:win lunch for us really.
Maze is located within the Crown Metropol, a relatively new Melbourne hotel which is tucked away behind the Crown Casino complex. I thought it was a bit of an out of the way location for such a famous restaurateur to set up shop, and when we finally found our way to the restaurant I thought the name Maze was pretty apt – it’s a bit of a maze to find, but you’ll be happy when you do.
We decided to order three savoury dishes each, and share them so we could have a taste of nearly everything on the menu. This strategically left one course each for dessert.
The meal begins with complimentary bread served with seaweed butter. The house made bread is fresh from the oven and deliciously soft and warm. The seaweed butter only has the slightest overtones of seaweed, but is lovely and salty and compliments the bread perfectly.
We start off with the “Tête de cochon” with watermelon, kohlrabi and crispy pigs ear. The pork terrine is deep fried, giving the outer casing a crispy texture, yet the meat inside was melt-in-the-mouth tender. The terrine was served atop a thin strip of watermelon stained with beetroot juice. The golden, baby beetroots give the dish an earthy flavour. This was by far my favourite of the savoury dishes.
The dishes come out in pairs and the Yellow fin tuna tartar with white radish, yuzu, black garlic is served alongside the “Tête de cochon”. This dish is so pretty to look at, and the tuna is lovely and tender. The crunch of the radish is a perfect complement to the soft tuna pieces.
Next to arrive at our table is the Slow Cooked Octopus with Chorizo, grilled Capsicum and Purslane. There was a bit of angst over this dish as there were five pieces of Octopus so I made The Boy cut the extra piece he'd snaffled in half so we'd be even Steven's. The octopus was tender, and slightly charred on the outside and the chirzo was wonderfully crisp. Mr Google tells me "purslane" is the little herb that is garnishing our dish...who knew.
The Pan-roasted John Dory with pumpkin piquillo pepper, spiced red wine partners the Octopus dish. The John Dory is served with a pumpkin mash that is dotted with raw pumpkin seeds. I loved the texture the pumpkin seeds lent to the mash - an unexpected crunch as well as giving the mash an earthy flavour.The fish was perfectly cooked - crispy skin and perfectly soft flesh.
The Crispy Roast Pork Belly with calvalo nero, soybeans and dashi was a close runner up for my favourite dish. The dashi was ceremoniously poured onto the dish by our waiter which added a little theatre to proceedings. The pork was OMG tasty and little flecks of star anise and schiuan pepper gave a 'kick' to the meat. I stupidly left my crackling resting in the dashi broth so it went soggy, but The Boy - in a streak of amazing forward planning - removed his early on, so got to enjoy crispy, perfect crackling. Jealous.
The Boy swooned over the Gisbourne Duck Leg served with Sweet Corn, Cracked Wheat and Fig Jam. I found this to be the richest and heaviest of all the dishes and a bit of a departure from the other dishes which were more light. The duck was perfectly cooked for me - just on the "not too pink" side of medium. Pumpkin seeds made another special guest appearance in this dish
When I saw the Rhubarb Compote with Yogurt and Strawberry Sorbet on the menu I felt pretty ambivalent towards it - afterall even I can open up a tub of yogurt at home and serve it for dessert. We really only ordered this dish as there were only two desserts on the menu and we wanted to try both options. That said, this dessert was mind-blowingly good! Underneath the thick, lush, creamy yogurt was a crumble that I couldn't get enough of. The dried cranberries were another sweet, textural delight and the Strawberry Sorbet was both tart and sweet. I was devestated when I had to hand this dish over to The Boy so he could have his share.
The Coconut and White Chocolate Pannacotta and Mango with Black Olive Caramel was served with a plump little friand that was crispy on the outside with moist and fluffy innards. The Panacotta was sweet and creamy and the Mango Granita refreshingly crisp. The Black Olive Caramel was...as weird as it sounds. At first taste your palate receives a flavour of sweet, salty caramel, but then the salty Black Olive flavour hits you in the back of the mouth. A very weird flavour sensation - and for me it was a bit too "out there".
All in all The Boy and I had a wonderful experience at maze. The service was attentive and friendly - our waitress happily answered all my questions about the food, and whether or not Gordon Ramsey ever visits (yes he does, about three times a year). The surroundings felt fancy, but not intimidating. We both felt like we were out for a special lunch - something we wouldn't do that often - and it was great. This was the furthest thing from Hell's Kitchen that I could imagine.
maze Melbourne is at Level 1, Crown Metropol (Corner of Whiteman and Clarendon Streets), Southbank. Phone 03 9292 8300 or email them at email@example.com.