Creative dinner party dining from Executive Chef Edoardo Pellicano and General Manager Alex Casey
This restaurant is the collaboration of fashion businessman James Brown and Nuno Mendes, a former chef at the fabled El Buli and later figurehead of Chiltern Firehouse‘s kitchen and formerly Michelin starred Viajente (now closed and replaced by the current Da Terra). It was started in 2018 and more recently in 2019, Nuno Mendes has left the group and reigns have been taken over by another original member, Edoardo Pellicano. The meal is maximum of 16 covers all at one table on the top floor of a converted Shoreditch shop and townhouse which has a dinner party feel. All details of the entire evening are at the ‘read full review button’. The 15-course menu for £175 excluding drinks and service comes with a creative style, some peaks within the menu and with a very homely service allowing guests to break from the table and dine in either the wine room or kitchen itself as something unique. This was an expensive evening with a couple of highlight food moments, delivered in a very unique way.
A quick word on the format as this does need to be made clear. Guests are invited to arrive at 7pm and invited into the small kitchen to meet the team and have canapes prepared by the Executive chef with a glass of whatever chosen served in the kitchen. You won’t actually be seated until at least 1930 when everyone has arrived and been given an opportunity to be shown around and have canapes. The key here is that you will be sat at a large table with all other diners in a communal environment but you are also invited to have any course in either the drinks room or in the kitchen itself. Obviously, the whole room can’t pick up and do at the same time in the kitchen, but as the 15 courses takes until at least 10:30pm, pushing 11pm by the time all said and done, there is plenty of time to experience this whenever in the evening. If the courses are being served at a time you are away from the table, you are invited to have that course either in the kitchen or in the wine area.
The wine list was a deliberately shortened list, but spread all over the old and new worlds. Canapes began in the kitchen with a crossbreed of Highland Beef wagyu from Scotland using aged beef fat on maitake mushroom and using braising liquid from mushrooms of shiitake, chestnut for mushroom tea. This had a fragrant mushroom flavour however, the wagyu was more tricky to detect. Next a small amount of stock was served using reduction juices made from dried roe and mushroom and this was absolutely intense. This was one of the best drinks of stock I have had.
Grilled pork shoulder with roasted yeast & ants were served in a perilla shiso leaf and this was served in the wine room. At the table a mushroom and kombu chawanmushi (savoury Japanese custard) was served in a clay cup. This was light white chicken stock with whole eggs mushroom stock with olive oil on the top that was warm, with a firm custard texture and very smooth, although the chicken flavour was subdued.
Toasted rice tacos with grilled prawns with fermented cabbage, red prawn and citrus came next and this was an original take on a taco, but with a chewy and very fatty taco that was a fair course. Crispy prawn head was innovatively done. A prawn head was frozen and then its juices extracted, the shell deep-fried and then juices put back in – this was delicate, light and nice contrast of hot of the shell and cold of the juices, held back together in a more solidified state.
Raw chestnuts in chestnut milk with fermented rice and six month aged Kaluga caviar was a delightful dish. The chestnuts themselves were naturally sweet, floating in creamy chestnut milk all offset very well by the salty caviar. A wild garlic dumpling with Perigord truffle was skillfully set – a garlic membrane ‘sack’ burst in the mouth and came with a cuttlefish reduction. Texturally this was more enjoyable than the overall flavour. 5 day aged Salmon belly wrapped in magnolia leaves (to help break down the fish) was beautifully tender soft and fatty, with mustard leaves on top served with magnolia infused tea with toasted buckwheat. This worked together well.
Fermented koginut flatbread, salmon roe, fermented butternut squash and XO sauce was a hot and decent course to have. Green tea and toasted rice kombucha had lovely toasted notes but I was not hugely sold on the sweet and slightly acidic kombucha which was a touch too much for me on this dish. Next came a huge piece of lobster aged in beef fat, served with preserved rhubarb preserved cherry tomatoes akin to ‘umeboshi’ (small preserved plums) with the first wild garlic flowers of the season. The light lobster bisque was silky smooth and with good flavour but not as deep as expected and light lobster head oil was a nice touch, with the pairing of the acidic rhubarb working well with the fat on the lobster. Celeriac and braised chicken skin noodles came with yeast, black pepper, lemon juice and Perigord truffle. The celeriac and chicken skin ribbons were like pasta and chicken skin flavour was fine here but perhaps not the most exciting of flavours.
Forst of the desserts was a roasted acorn ice cream which is a new one for me, served with frozen smoked yoghurt (fromage blanc) and an olive oil layer and small thin slice of prosciutto. All very original and pleasant to taste, the dried ham and salt on the dessert and was actually a well-balanced dish. Then the head chef brought out the last dish which was a rice koji crumble, using celeriac sweetened with caramel and dark muscovado sugar covered with shaved Perigord truffle, served with soured blueberry jam and whipped creme fraiche on the side. It’s surprising how versatile celeriac can be and this was basically a very pleasant crumble with a touch of umami from the truffle on top. Finally a fresh meadowsweet petit four with honey and Douglas fir which had a lovely texture was the last treat with coffee.
This sort of dining experience may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I applaud the heartfelt manner in which it is delivered here and the personal touches throughout from the GM and Exec chef who are consummate hosts. My main issue here is simply the price tag. I don’t think it is necessarily bad value for money based on the expensive ingredients used and the work hours required for all of the fermentation dishes, but this is hugely expensive even for London, for the experience. If you are taking someone here, the 4 hours needed will absolutely need wine and therefore you are looking at roughly £500 per couple realistically if you are planning to take someone to Māos with reasonable wines.
There were a couple of very good moments on this menu (out of the fifteen) and the execution of the dishes was actually consistent throughout the night from the kitchen. Personally however, if I had the choice, I would opt for less truffle on the braised chicken and dessert for example and perhaps a few less courses to keep the price down and would also bring the length of time for the meal down more. On the price side, my gut simply says that there are numerous places in London where that (approx) £200-250 pp budget could carry me a lot further, including at the most expensive and high-end options such as Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. A unique experience at Māos and perhaps one you need to experience to decide for yourself.
Food Grade: 80%