CUT at 45 Park Lane is the first European venture of the celebrated Austrian born, American chef Wolfgang Puck. Housed on the ground floor of one of the newest luxury hotels in the Dorchester Collection, it opened, along with the hotel, in September 2011. As with his other award winning restaurants, such as Spago in Beverly Hills, Trattoria del Lupo in Las Vegas, and Chinois in Santa Monica – to name but three in his empire of 20 fine dining establishments – CUT oozes glamour and luxury.
Although some might find the narrowness of the room slightly out of character with its grandiose Park Lane setting, the high-ceiling, marbled floor, wood panelling, dramatic silk drapes and slated blinds offer an appealing club-like feel to the dining experience. They are the work of internationally renowned New York based architect and designer Thierry Despont whose cloud like, glittering chandeliers and glowing table lamps provide eclectic décor and lighting. They illuminate well-spaced, reflective tables surrounded by comfortable leather chairs and banquettes.
Art deco influences are juxaposed with cutting edge contemporary art, namely Damien Hurst’s beautiful limited edition butterfly “Psalms.” 16 of these are displayed together for the first time along the whole length of the room.
Executive chef David McIntyre from California worked in some of Wolfgang Puck’s most high profile restaurants for 13 years before relocating to London to head the kitchen. His team includes senior sous chef Sheldon Fonseca, who has a wealth of experience in top London restaurants.
Loyd Loudy, Restaruant Director, has an equally good pedigree, including stints at the Oxo Tower, Hakkasan and China Tang at the Dorchester. His young team has ensured that the impeccable food is matched by seamless professional service which is at once friendly, informative and unobtrusive.
After enjoying a speciality cocktail in the impressive Bar 45, which runs at mezzanine level along the length of the restaurant, being separated from it by upper level slated louvres, diners can descend the imposing central staircase to their tables below.
Whilst steak is the undoubted star on the menu, to describe CUT as a modern top-end American steakhouse understates the variety and quality of the food on offer. This includes ten salads and starters, three sandwiches, five steak and one lamb options, along with four seafood mains. The five desserts are also too good to be ignored. It is no great surprise, therefore, that, as a testament to his industry and creativity, and just one year after opening, Wolfgang Puck won “Chef of the Year’ in the 2012’s prestigious British GQ Men of The Year Awards.
A weekday lunch in February began with two delightful amuse bouches.
Crisp, spiced cones were filled with utterly fresh and succulent Big Eye tuna tartar. Bound in a not overpowering wasabi aioli, and enhanced by a well- judged addition of ginger and soy, this enlivened the taste buds perfectly.
Equally accomplished were the delectable miniature wagyu beefburgers whose well-seasoned meat had a rich, melting texture.
All the three breads offered – sour dough, focaccia and onion and oats – were competently executed, with crisp crusts and firm crumb.
A starter of “Louis” cocktail was generously packed with beautifully sweet white crab meat and lobster, moulded into a circlet and set on a delicate savoury pannacotta. Avocado pieces and spicy tomato horseradish sauce gave a creamy texture and contrasting flavour which set off the seafood perfectly. Basil leaves and puree lifted the dish with a herby fragrance. This beautifully dressed plate, with is crown of micro leaves and spots of dressing was also visually stunning.
Another outstanding first course was prime sirloin steak tartar. With more flavour than the classic fillet, the hand chopped beef had a soft chewy texture enhanced by herb aioli and given a gentle kick with capers and mustard. A raw quail’s egg in its shell allowed the diner to mix this extra richness into the other ingredients.
For a main course, CUT’s signature tasting of beef was not to be missed. Three small portions of Devon Angus, Kansas USDA Prime and Australian Wagyu, had been grilled over hardwood and charcoal then flashed under a broiler and accurately timed to medium rare, as requested. With differing degrees of flavour and succulence, largely due to the variations of marbling, the Wagyu with its pronounced gamey aroma scored highest on the first, the Devon Angus on the second.
Sauces, condiments and accompaniments were integral to the success of the meal. Three sauces – béarnaise, barbeque and Armagnac and green peppercorn – and four mustards including English, Dijon and Violet gave ample choice for demanding diners. A generous stack of wonderfully crisp tempura onion rings and a portion of wild field mushrooms with Japanese Shishito peppers in a rich piquant sauce proved outstanding accompaniments alongside herbed French fries and sauteed spinach with garlic.
For those who prefer a seafood main, the choices, although not as wide as the meat options, are nevertheless tempting. These include Dover sole meuniere, broiled miso glazed Scottish salmon and grilled shashimi quality Big Eye tuna.
My dining partner finally selected Scottish diver scallops. Five large specimens of this delectable bivalve were accurately timed to produce and a caramelised crust and delicate, sweet flesh. Set on a smooth parsnip puree, garnished with braised salsify and topped with deep fried parsnips, this highly satisfying dish was given a fragrant lift with a dressing of black truffle vinaigrette.
Desserts proved not to be an anti-climax, given that this section of the kitchen is in the capable hands of Executive Pastry Chef, Melissa Zahnter.
Both sweets chosen featured Wolfgang Puck’s “10” year chocolate sauce, which took that number of years to perfect. An exquisite balance of sweet and bitter flavours, it enhanced both desserts perfectly.
Amarena cherry ice cream profiteroles had light crisp choux pastry and an intensely flavoured filling that captured the slightly sour taste of the small dark fruit from Italy.
Bruleed banana cream pie with Bananas Foster ice cream adapted two classic American desserts in one combination. The rich but light layered pie, topped with caramelised banana, was complemented by a quenelle of velvety smooth ice cream packed full of rum, brown sugar, cinnamon and banana flavour.
Overall, a meal at CUT is a highly memorable experience. Whilst prices are challenging, including those from the impressive wine list, this is a restaurant worthy of a special occasion, with the “modern American steakhouse” tag seriously understating the embarrassment of riches on offer. CUT and its creator truly deserve the success they have achieved in the highly competitive world of fine dining.