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For ladies who shop and then need lunch before they drop…Maia.
So, your credit card has been maxed out at the best of Knightsbridge; laden with shopping, you are looking for somewhere to have a drink – a cup of tea, a glass of champagne, a cocktail or two – and maybe enjoy a bite to eat. Maia, directly opposite the Hans Crescent entrance to Harrods seems like an obvious choice. The minimalist retro interior with chic prints and stylish dark leather chairs is complemented by a DJ after 5.30 pm, a sparkly marble-topped bar and a rather fantastic selection of cakes and patisserie to tempt you.
Maia, named after one of the Pleiades, is the recently opened restaurant of Flavio Briatore, an Italian restaurateur who has properties in Sardinia and Monte Carlo together with the Crazy Pizza brand in Marylebone. Next door to the Instagrammer’s favourite, Elan Cafe, it offers a more sophisticated option for the shop till you drop crowd needing to take the weight off their Louboutins.
We sit by the window. In summer, there’s a small alfresco space around the restaurant which is absolutely perfect for people watching while you sip an espresso. In winter, the restaurant is comfortable and cosy. They’ve even provided red teddy bears if you happen to be dining alone. The restaurant menu is brief, but our server reels off an eye-watering list of ‘special’ dishes. She herself is from Sardinia and tells us she’ll be back there for the summer. Nibbling on some really excellent Italian bread, oil and olives, I’m really tempted to book a flight out there myself.
For now, though her enthusiasm means we end up sharing her recommendation of pesto risotto with scallops as a starter which does pretty well as a substitute with deliciously nutty rice caressed by a silken, peppery pesto sauce and topped with two perfectly grilled scallops.
Although there are plenty of salad options on the main menu, it’s really quite bleak outside and we both opt for fish main courses – a delicious salmon fillet with griddled asparagus and hollandaise for me.
And, Mediterranean style seabass for my companion. Both simple but perfectly executed dishes that wouldn’t be out of place if we were sitting in one of those seafront restaurants
This is genuinely healthy food too – I don’t feel at all bad ordering a portion of fries to go with mine and despite the healthy portion sizes, the dishes don’t leave you feeling bloated.
Nevertheless, I’m too full for a proper dessert, leaving the pretty cream cake to my companion. Layers of strawberry confit, custard and sponge make something like a tiramisu without the coffee.
I’m thrilled though, to find a little treat for myself in the form of artisan pralines to go with my wonderful Italian double espresso.
We both agree that this is a good place to know. The main menu offers everything from breakfast and brunch through to the sort of food we have enjoyed. There are also toasted sandwiches, a snip at £6 each, some delicious sounding pasta dishes and as previously mentioned an excellent range of salads. There are plenty of vegetarian options and there are also some specially created ‘healthy’ dishes created in collaboration with Francesca ‘the method’ which really don’t sound as if you’d be losing out on taste…
It’s the kind of place where we’d expect to arrange to meet friends for a quick drink before heading out somewhere – and yet, it’s the kind of place where we know that we’d end up staying. And that has to be the best endorsement of all.
32-34 Hans Crescent,
London SW1X 0LZ
Where else to consider? The Fifth Floor Cafe at Harvey Nichols offers a seasonal menu and is a great place to grab a quick bite to eat if you really don’t want to leave the shop. And, we love The Botanist on Sloane Square, though you’ll need to make your way past a whole host of designer shops along Sloane Street to reach it!