Sunday, 9 October 2011

CUT at 45 Park Lane

45 Park Lane, the new super-duper-deluxe boutique hotel from the Dorchester Collection, stands out from its grand but characterless neighbours like a particularly stylish sore thumb. The beautiful art deco-style building, its name picked out in two-foot high neon yellow letters, looks as if it has been transplanted lock, stock and curvaceous chrome-embellished frontage from Miami Beach, bringing a splash of colourful, youthful glamour to London's five-star strip.

Such a glamorous destination needs a restaurant to match and boy, has it got it in CUT by Wolfgang Puck, the first European opening from the eponymous Austrian-American megachef. Puck's vastly successful empire runs the gamut from fine dining to fast food (at Wolfgang Puck-branded Express outlets in airports and department stores) and CUT, his high-end steakhouse brand, sits firmly at the top of the scale.

Although it's a grand, dramatic room - all high ceilings, swagged curtains and Damien Hirst circle paintings - CUT is actually smaller than it seems, a floor-to-ceiling mirror at its far end giving the illusion of a much longer space. For somewhere so new and opulent it feels surprisingly intimate and warm, the quirky soundtrack of eighties soft rock - yes really - creating an unusual but undeniably buzzy atmosphere. It's an impressive and exciting backdrop for some mostly impressive and exciting food.

I'll declare now - I know these things matter to you - that I was at CUT for a special 'A Tasting Of Cut' dinner thrown by Dorchester Collection and their PR people for a lucky handful of bloggers, writers and boozehounds so my cosseted experience might not quite reflect that of the regular punter. That said, the small army of black-clad staff flitting industriously between tables certainly appeared to be fussing over every table to the same extent as ours, so perhaps it does.

We started with 'A Tasting of Salads', one a light, fresh mix of apple, endive, dates and Montgomery Cheddar, spiced almonds adding a little heat and crunch, and a sweet, earthy assemblage of roasted baby beets, Dorstone goat's cheese, pistachio, citrus and mint. The beet salad was especially pretty on the plate with its three colours of baby veg.

Next, of course, came steak, and plenty of it. Tasting of New York Sirloin, a dish available on the regular menu for £48, consisted of 4oz each of USDA Prime Black Angus and Casterbridge Angus from south west England, and 2oz of Australian Wagyu from Queensland. Sealed over a fiercely hot wood and charcoal broiler before being finished in a 12ooF oven, all the steaks had great aroma and were beautifully rare but only the US beef packed a particularly distinctive flavour. The English cut was rather on the mellow side and texturally a little too fatty, while the Wagyu, supposedly the ne plus ultra of steak, was remarkably tender - almost tuna-like - but a little unexciting to eat after the first mouthful.

Side dishes were excellent. Mac 'n' cheese, made with cavatappi pasta and Westcombe Cheddar, was tangily moreish, while creamed spinach with a fried organic egg broken up and stirred through it was surprisingly addictive. Portions were on the generous side, although one would hope so for £5.50 a pop.

Of the two desserts we tried, banana cream pie with '10 year chocolate sauce' - the recipe ten years in the making - and butterscotch gelato was notable more for the impressive accompaniments than for the rather-too-subtle main element. Warm chocolate soufflé with whipped crème fraiche and Gianduja ice-cream however was remarkable: light-as-air, spoonably soft and deliciously decadent.

CUT majors on Californian wines and one of the wine buffs at the table even went so far as to say that their list is the best US list he'd ever seen - high praise indeed. I have no such expert knowledge but I do know that the wines chosen for us by ebullient, excitable sommelier and my new girl crush Vanessa Cinti - a Puck long-timer who, like executive chef David McIntyre, has been brought in from elsewhere in the empire especially to set up CUT - were fantastic. Particularly sensational was a single-vineyard Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2004; in its robust sweetness it was almost like Port, and as easily drinkable.

All-in-all, it was a very enjoyable meal, in delightful company, and even had we not been getting the full VIP treatment I'm sure that I'd still have liked it very much. I thought the food was good, and at times excellent, but so it should be for the eye-watering prices - three courses with modest wine and service will easily break the ton-a-head barrier. It will come as no surprise that most of the other tables - and every table was taken in only week two of opening - were occupied by groups of suited men and very expensively-coiffured women. CUT at 45 Park Lane is never going to be, nor is it intended to be, a bargain option; I wouldn't expect to see a prix-fixe lunch deal any time soon.

A slightly more...shall we say, 'accessible' way to enjoy the buzz at 45 Park Lane than dinner at CUT would be to have a cocktail or two and a couple of dishes from the Puck-devised bar menu at the gorgeous upstairs Bar 45 (how they managed to resist calling it 'A CUT Above' is anyone's guess). With the same red, yellow and cherrywood decor as the restaurant but with the addition of a few cosy alcoves and seating areas, it would be a very chic spot to start, continue or end a date - if it doesn't end in one of the forty-five rooms of the hotel itself.

45 Park Lane is a great place. It's fun, it's stylish and in marked contrast to many of the capital's smartest hotels, it doesn't take itself too seriously - when I got hopelessly befuddled trying find the door to the loos in a highly-mirrored corridor, for example, staff stepped smilingly in to assist. In fact, with the open design and the bar and restaurant taking up seemingly all of the public space, it actually feels more like a cool restaurant with a great bar that just happens to have bedrooms, than a hotel at all. That's something genuinely new for London, and for those who can afford it, I think it, and CUT, are going to turn out be very welcome additions indeed.

CUT at 45 Park Lane, London W1K 1PN Tel: 020 7493 4554

CUT at 45 Park Lane on Urbanspoon


  1. You are the last thing I do before going to bed Hugh (moose hunting season starts tomorrow here in Sweden and its an early start) and having gone to CUT myself last week the experience is sufficiently fresh in the memory to relate.

    1. Decor and staff are certainly a little more fun than others on 'the Lane' - the latter earnest and slightly baffled by eccentricity in that quaint American way but charming and deft without being Gallically/Gallicly(?) superior.

    2. Food - Lobster Louis was the logical conclusion of my parent's weekly crab salad but much better - probably and entirely erroneously how I'll remember it when they are deceased. The steaks were (in my inexperienced and slightly uninterested view) very good - the wagyu perfect in a shaved armpits and possibly other bits sort of way but as you suggest less exciting than the more visceral experience of the Black Angus.
    3. Cutlery - fucking irritating. If you don't eat in the American manner (chop everything up into cubes and then dispense with knife altogether) then every time you rest the heavy blade on the curved dish it slides down to the handle into your creamed spinach. I went through two napkins over the course of the meal and both looked like I'd done something terrible into them.
    4. Vanessa and her wines. She is refreshing and memorably different from many in London and is clearly addressing the need to see American wines better represented in the UK's restaurants. I would still like to see more in the mid-range as having an impressive choice of Californian icons at £200+ is not going to enable most to experience them (unless on a nice press dinner).
    5. The bar - A CUT above, brilliant, quickly trademark that and sell it to the Dorchester Collection for a lifetime's supply of Negroni's

    Pip &c

  2. Lovely write up of what sounds like a great meal. Will always fondly remember our first Wolfgang experience; his family's recipe for schnitzel at Spago in LA- worth it for for the people watching alone, but the schnitzel is really very very good.

  3. I met some friends there for a drink last night at the end of their dinner, which they loved. I'm going next week so I'll let you know what I thought of the food. Absolutely love the space though - so stylish, and great that the bar stays open until 3am...

  4. It looks absolutely lovely, and be your description it wasn't far off. Sadly I think Bar 45 is more my style, and I did chuckle at your cut above comment - I really hope that it at least occurred to them as a name choice; it would be ingenious!

    Sounds like you had a fabulous meal darling! x

  5. WineChap - Many thanks for the best comment ever. I'd forgotten about the cutlery!

    Tori - Great people watching AND great schnitzel? No wonder the man's a millionaire many times over.

    Emyr - Report back please!

    Lorien - I can definitely see you sipping stylish cocktails at Bar 45/A Cut Above - it's very you! Let's go together sometime x

  6. Great read. Frankly, I’d argue that CUT is one of the best openings of 2011:


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