The Gist: Small plates drawing on flavours from around Asia
The Chef: Ben Orpwood
Location: 10 Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, London W1K 6JP
Food in 5 words: Domo arigato, Mr. Robata Grill
How did we get here?
It all started with Maze, Ramsay’s former restaurant; a wildly successful entry into the London food scene when it debuted in 2005. Ramsay’s eatery took the capital by storm, with Maze one of the first major restaurants to champion small plates in the UK.
Ramsay had got the idea for the restaurant from Pascal Aussingnac who, in 2001, had launched Comptoir Gascon in Smithfield, the very first small plate restaurant of its kind in London.
“Ramsay ate at Comptoir regularly when we first opened,” Aussignac tells Food Spark. “He loved the concept and I even found him in my kitchen a few times, asking about it all.”
“I remember the day when he came up to me at an award ceremony and told me he was going to take the concept and create Maze. Ramsay, the king of London, wanted my idea! It was very flattering.”
Despite spawning multiple sister restaurants around the world, Maze London hit the rocks in 2015 when it lost its Michelin star, with the restaurant closing after 14 years of business in February this year.
But Ramsay’s faith in small plates has not left him. London welcomed the latest in the Gordon Ramsay armada this week with the launch of Lucky Cat, the iconic chef’s first major foray into Asian cuisine. The menu is dominated by dishes designed for sharing, with the enduring Maze style easily translating into Asian cuisine, with the likes of dumplings, buns, tempura, and an assortment of meat and fish dishes making up the bedrock of the restaurant.
What’s different about it?
Inhabiting the site formerly occupied by Maze, Lucky Cat is described as “an Asian eating house and late-night lounge inspired by the drinking clubs of 1930s Tokyo and the Far East” – a summary that was settled on after the Gordon Ramsay Group courted controversy over the word “authenticity” in early statements.
The food is divided up into three main categories – small plates, grilled dishes and sushi/sashimi – with an a la carte menu dominating proceedings and tasting menus reserved for the two chef’s tables out of the main dining area.
Maze took plenty of influence from Asian cooking and was well known for its sushi and sashimi, something Ramsay has taken over to Lucky Cat, with these now prepared in an open raw bar.
Ramsay has four types of sushi – all of which are maki (cylinders of fish and rice rolled with seaweed) – and four types of sashimi, which include razor clam, Orkney scallop and hiramasa kingfish (also known as yellowtail amberjack).
A robata grill is arguably the stand-out piece of kit at Lucky Cat, with the charcoal grill used for cooking a number of the meat and fish small plates in the robatayaki style, an ancient Japanese technique of grilling in front of diners.
Six tempura options, an assortment of salads and snacks (the latter including a cod cheek katsu with a wasabi seaweed emulsion), an array of buns and dumplings (with a snail and watercress dumpling with green chilli sauce harping back to Ramsay’s classic French cooking roots) and a short list of vegetable and rice sides make up the rest of the menu.
Ben Orpwood is at the helm of Lucky Cat, with the former executive chef of Maze drawing from his experience with Asian food as head chef of the Japanese concept restaurant Zuma (where he spent six years) and as exec chef of one of Mayfair’s Asian food institutions, Sexy Fish (where he also worked with a robata grill).
As well as overseeing the food in the main dining room, Orpwood has two chef’s tables: Kasai, featuring counter-style dining (dish highlight: Anjou pigeon with plum sauce and Japanese seasoning furikake), and Kori, a private, Japanese-style chef’s table with dishes like pressed foie gras with umeshu (Japanese plum liqueur) and milk bun toast.
You’ve got to try…
Something from the robata grill, whether that’s grilled octopus with lime, chilli and artichoke, or one of the skewers – options include pork belly with Japanese whiskey and mustard, and maitake mushroom with summer truffle.
Alternatively, for a classic Hong Kong flavour, opt for the deep sea mussels with XO sauce (a seafood-based sauce/paste traditionally, beloved by chef Richard Turner).
Sparkie also likes…
It’s worth noting that umeboshi (Japanese fermented plum), which was previously highlighted on Food Spark as an ingredient to watch, makes an appearance as part of a maki roll with shiso (an herb often used as part of the umeboshi fermentation process, currently also being experimented with at Itsu).
Your house is filled with lucky cat figurines and you need to escape all those unblinking eyes… Or you want to see one of Britain's most accolade-laden chefs take a stab at an Asian-focused experience.