Simon Wittenberg checks out the chic new brasserie on Hans Crescent next to the Harrods luxury department store.
Arriving in London’s SW1 in December 2019, MAIA is an all-day restaurant situated in the heart of London’s Knightsbridge. Named after a star in the constellation of Taurus, it is the latest eatery to be added to the growing portfolio of Billionaire Life, a luxury group owned by Flavio Briatore, the flamboyant entrepreneur and former Formula 1 mogul.
It’s pitched as an all-day dining venue that’s open every day of the week so that you can come here from breakfast through to dinner, and everything in between, i.e. brunch, afternoon tea or just for an aperitif.
As well as attracting visitors who pass by before or after some rather expensive retail therapy at the nearby Harrods department store, MAIA has a loyal local following; hence you won’t find pork, gelatine or any alcohol-infused dishes on the menu.
The exterior is relatively discreet and resembles a café more than a restaurant from the outside. A simple MAIA sign is all that’s deemed needed to lure visitors into this hidden gem. As you walk through the door, you pass the very inviting pastry counter, followed by the well-stocked bar – the domain of the award-winning and avant-garde drinks specialist Richard Woods. His job is to create sumptuous cocktails to get people into the “MAIA Mood”.
The décor then opens up with vertical dark wood panelling, mirrors and retro black and white photos featuring sixties models and flashes of mint green, a colour that runs through the heart of MAIA’s brand identity. It’s, therefore, a simple but intimate space split into two main areas, housing round and square tables dressed with pristine linen, as well as black leather chairs with elegant red stitching.
Sitting on some of these are large and cuddly bright red teddy bears to keep singletons company during their meal, or they can be used to entertain any member of the family, big or small. Talking of entertainment, there’s also DJ decks for live background music courtesy of the renowned architect of sound, Sam Starks.
With the restaurant looking out on to the street, the half-length curtains are drawn across the wrap-around floor to ceiling windows to avoid any prying eyes, and to create a cosier atmosphere as the sun sets. Presented with a couple of glasses of champagne and a basket of white rolls, focaccia and Sardinian flatbread, my guest and I perused the dinner menu, devised by the Michelin-trained Head Chef Mauro di Leo.
There are many Italian classics as you would expect, and whilst the reasonably priced à la carte is not hugely extensive, there’s sufficient choice nonetheless.
I started my meal with a very generous portion of creamy Burrata (£17), flavoursome pesto and fresh Sicilian Datterini tomato halves. With a few drops of balsamic vinegar, it was superb, and the use of high-quality ingredients was evident. My dining partner tried the equally delicious fried calamari (£11) that was served with a garnish of sliced jalapeño chilli peppers and a side of spicy mayonnaise. We were both suitably impressed with what MAIA had put before us, with two courses still to go.
For the mains, as well as salads and sandwiches, there’s a selection of pasta dishes, fish and meat options to cast your eyes over.
These include the likes of a beef burger and Chicken Milanese. Accompanied by a glass of crisp and fruity white Sanct Valentin Gewürztraminer wine, I sampled the Mediterranean-style grilled fillet of sea bass, which arrived in the middle of the plate on a base of cherry tomato halves and black olives. With a nice crisp skin and moist centre, there were a few “wow” moments. Joined by a side of triple cooked chips (£6), I enjoyed every second.
As a life-long carnivore, my dining partner opted for the Chicken Paillard (£23), a flatter version of an un-breaded schnitzel is probably the best way to describe it. Decorated with vine tomatoes, the pounded chicken breast was surrounded by a flavoursome and delicate courgette purée, and with a squeeze of fresh lemon, it was simply divine. The sweet potato fries side (£6) capped this dish off beautifully.
When it came to the subject of dessert, we left the decision as to what we were going to have to our Italian host. Prior to my visit, I’d heard that the tiramisu (£9), served in a small copper saucepan, was legendary at MAIA, and this was luckily his first recommendation. It was a quick “yes” from me, and I was far from disappointed.
The second suggestion was a yoghurt and blueberry gel sweet, which took the form of a white dessert with a glazed top, fresh raspberries, dried raspberry flakes and a fruity centre, but still had quite a cake-like composition. For me, it was too much of an acquired taste, but my guest certainly enjoyed it, and a clean plate was sufficient evidence of this.
When it comes to eating out in SW1, MAIA is a nice addition to Knightsbridge’s diverse and burgeoning culinary scene. The cuisine is simple in its composition and presentation, but yet highly effective once it reaches your taste buds. With impeccable service delivered throughout by the warm and welcoming staff, you really couldn’t fault this eatery. Flavio Briatore has worked his magic here too, and it should be yet another highly successful business venture to add to his growing list of achievements.
MAIA – Where and How?
MAIA is located at 32 – 34 Hans Crescent, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 0LZ, United Kingdom. For more information, or to make a reservation, call 0207 222 6000.
Take a look at our Instagram page to see pictures of our evening at MAIA.
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