Gordon Ramsay opened Maze Grill at 11 Park Walk in Chelsea last month, and we’re delighted that Chateau Bauduc Sauvignon and our Sauternes is served by the glass. Nothing extraordinary about that, you might think, but the address has special significance for us: it’s where Ange and I had our first date. (And later, more famously, the place where Gordon would make his name.)
Back in the autumn of 1989, 11 Park Walk was the name of a lively Italian restaurant which had a convivial atmosphere and a tasty spaghetti and lobster dish on the menu. It was the scene for our first dinner date (we’d met at a dinner party two weeks before) and, after we’d enjoyed the pasta and a bottle of Tignanello, Ange asked what I was doing at the weekend. I was planning on watching Chelsea play Millwall, and when she asked if she could come too, it was immediately obvious that this was a relationship that had potential. We went to the game, just around the corner from Park Walk, and Chelsea won 4-0. The result was that Ange and I got engaged a few months later and we were married in July on Bastille Day, just after the 1990 World Cup.
11 Park Walk closed in the early nineties (anyone remember mortgage rates at 14+%?) and a wonderful restaurant called Aubergine took its place in 1993. A twentysomething Gordon Ramsay had been hired as head chef and the food was so good, and the wine so reasonably priced, that Ange and I wanted to host her (important) birthday party there. When I put the suggestion to the man himself in the restaurant one morning, he wondered how many people we were thinking of entertaining. I said ’about, um, thirty?’. ’Thirty!’ he barked; ’I’m not a fucking caterer!’ Anyway, we cut the number down to two tables of ten, I think, and it was a brilliant evening.
Ramsay deservedly went on to win a Michelin star at Aubergine in 1995 and two stars in 1997, before he had a run-in with the owners. It wasn’t long before he set up on his own at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Royal Hospital Road, the year before we moved to Bordeaux in 1999. Bauduc became the house wine at Royal Hospital Road – that’s another story – shortly before he won his coveted third Michelin star in late 2001.
So, moving on a few years, when Ramsay returned to his old stamping ground at 11 Park Walk with Maze Grill, we were delighted that they chose to put Bauduc on the wine list. And with the restaurant being just around the corner from Stamford Bridge, more than reasonable that we should go and sample it. And the cooking.
And a very good list it is too. Better still, it’s remarkably keenly priced. Chateau Bauduc Sauvignon Blanc is only £22 a bottle, and our Sauternes just £7 for a small glass or £32 a 50cl bottle. I haven’t seen our wine priced that low in a proper restaurant for years – you’d expect to see our Sauvignon Blanc listed for at least £27.
There are plenty of excellent wines to choose from in the £27 to £50 a bottle range, and many house wines, Bauduc included, are available in sensible 50cls carafes. Perfect for four glasses of wine.
If you’re having steak, as we did, do choose from the impressive steak fridge behind the bar. Cuts from France, Britain, the USA… we’ll certainly be back.
Thanks to the team at Maze Grill for looking after us so well, and to my fellow season ticket holder Tony for picking up the tab.