There’d been every chance that Wolfgang Puck’s first UK restaurant, at the new deco-styled 45 Park Lane hotel, was going to be a critical car crash of Ballardian proportions, particularly as he’d chosen steak as his medium (half-baked, not-quite-pun unintended). It hardly needs to be pointed out that London has some of the world’s most exciting chefs right now, as well as some of the best steakhouses, so to import a celebri-chef best known to UK travellers from an appearance on Frasier and his name on American fast food outlets in airports seemed arrogant in the extreme. ‘It’s a bit of a kick in the teeth for London’, confided one of the UK’s most famous chefs while doing the rounds of his tables at his own restaurant a few nights before our visit. ‘And because it’s a Dorchester production, he’s been given resources and an amount of staff that no start-up restaurant could possibly afford.’ So – Cut could have been given a quite unprecedented kicking by the heavyweight critics. Many were lined up, steak knife and fork in hand, to bury, not praise Puck. And yet – it’s all gone rather well.
First impressions confirmed that ruinous fortunes have, indeed, been spent to make Cut happen. There’s an army of ladies and gentleman - all in architectural, sharp, noir-tailored outfits by Dorchester Fashion Prize winner Thomas Tait - manoeuvering their way around a slightly cramped, narrow dining space, to a distinctly un-Mayfair soundtrack of the Rolling Stones and David Bowie. At times it feels like there are more staff than diners. The room itself is handsome enough, lit with a flattering amber glow, but it’s not user-friendly for service – a cheese trolley had to be abandoned by one waiter as he tried to wheel it past a table of four. Also, for all that service going on (and most of it fawning and informative, right down to a presentation of the raw meat with a description of its diet and travel history), it’s something of a surprise to sit down at 7.30pm and start eating at 9pm. Things will, no doubt, improve here, but we left at close to midnight. Which is quite late for a school night.
However, pre-dinner sliders with cheese were a delight. We could quite happily eat a dozen of them (having carefully removed their buns, of course). We ordered three starters - Australian Wagyu steak sashimi, a scallop carpaccio and Dorset Crab and Lobster ‘Louis’. The last dish was a creamy, moreish, ultra-souped-up prawn cocktail. The scallop plate was good, with a blast of wasabi, and the raw steak was nothing short of fantastic. For a main we went for the Wagyu/Black Angust Beef filet mignon and the Wagyu Chilean rib eye, ordered fearlessly – as only the skinny or morbidly obese can – with chips. The chips were, truth be told, a bit of a waste of time - limp and overly salted. The steaks, however, were as good as steaks can be. Better than that even. There is major science going on at Cut – each steak is grilled over hard wood and charcoal and finished with a trip to a 650-degree broiler. The result is a moist, juicy cut, with a wonderful, flirty, barbecue crust. It came fist-sized, 6oz £85 (yes, we know...) and the Chilean rib eye had a more complex flavour from its fats. For afters, we ordered the cheese and a Caramilk Chocolate Bar, which said our companion, tasted like it was on a ‘base made with chocolate rice crispies’. Good, but if you’re coming to Cut to have a deluxe evening of protein and greens, then it wasn’t, by all accounts, worth the calories. Apparently.
As for Cut itself – is it worth it? Well, it’s expensive. Very. A glass of Cabernet Sauvignon Duckhorn from Napa is £20. But then that’s a pretty sublime wine, and you’ll pay north of 50 quid a bottle for it on the high street, if you can find it in this country. Likewise, £27-£85 for a steak (most cuts hover over the £40 mark) is a fortune. But you aren’t going to eat here every night, and it doesn’t cost as much as it would if you tried to fit your kitchen out with the technology and trickery required to make it taste as good as it does here. So all credit to the Dorchester for doing it for you.
The ELLEuk Score
Style of food: Contemporary steakhouse
Good for: Special occasion, first date, group dinner, work lunch/dinner
Prices and Other Details at Cut
Address: Cut, 45 Park Lane, London W1K 1PN
Opening times: 7am-10.30am, 12pm-3pm and 6pm-11pm Mon-Sat; 7.30am-10.30am, 12pm-3am and 6pm-10.30pm Sun and Bank Holidays.
Average price per person for two-course meal without wine: £60
Set menu: None
Price per bottle of house wine: £28, Viognier Chateau de Campuget “Invitation”, Costieres de Nimes 2008 (white) and £25, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Pays d’Oc (red).
Price of glass of house wine: £7, Viognier Chateau de Campuget “Invitation”, Costieres de Nimes 2008 (white) and £8, Grenache-Syrah, Gonnet, Cotes du Rhone 2009 (red).
Price of bottle of house champagne: £75, Tsarine NV
Price of glass of house champagne: £18, as above
Private dining: No
Garden/al fresco dining? No
Best table? The recessed tables towards the back on the left. Avoid the tables at the very front, shielded from the lobby by a potentially annoying billowing curtain.
Bar? Yes, there’s a bar upstairs for non-diners.
Who goes? Mayfair hotel guests and big business types.
Nearest tube: Hyde Park Corner