Bon Vivant reviews Cut at 45 Park Lane.
Having spent several decades in the gastronomic wilderness, steakhouses are currently enjoying a spectacular renaissance, with a new breed of sophisticated, contemporary and unapologetically glamorous restaurants.
In London the leading proponent of this revival has been the burgeoning Hawksmoor empire, with its emphasis squarely on meat of British provenance. But last September saw the arrival of a New World contender in the form of Wolfgang Puck’s CUT at 45 Park Lane.
(Wolfgang Puck is a culinary heavyweight in the US where he is now in charge of the restaurant at the gorgeous Hotel Bel-Air).
A legend on the US dining scene, Puck’s reputation most definitely preceded him and his first UK venture was one of the most hotly anticipated openings of 2011. I am pleased to report it did not disappoint. (Cut at 45 Park Lane also appeared on Bon Vivant’s list of the best new restaurants of 2011.)
Housed in one of Mayfair’s most prestigious addresses, Cut at 45 Park Lane occupies the ground floor, although there’s a bar-dining option available in the library on the floor above at Bar 45.
Mirrors elongate an already long, thin dining room at Cut at 45 Park Lane but the double-height ceiling offsets any sense of claustrophobia and clever use of curtains, booths and panels inject intimacy into the grandeur.
The event (no other word comes close) began with moreish Parmesan breadsticks and an amuse bouche of blue cheese pastries, washed down with a deliciously crisp glass of Billecart Salmon Reserve Brut.
My partner needed only seconds to decide on the maple-glazed pork belly with Asian spices but I had to make further enquires about the Dorset crab and lobster ‘Louis’ before committing.
Charmingly described as a ‘posh prawn cocktail’, this stalwart of the seventies steakhouse was reworked to perfection. Balancing the delicacy of crab and lobster meat with the punch of a well-seasoned dressing takes skill. Marie Rose never attained it but Puck’s Bloody Mary certainly did and this dish is deservedly his signature starter.
And so to mains at Cut at 45 Park Lane. On the basis that ‘if you see it on a menu you’ve got to go for it’ my partner opted for the rib-eye of 100% pure breed Chilean Wagyu, cooked rare.
At £85 a pop, the decision to ignore the Chef’s medium-rare recommendation proved an expensive mistake because although it delivered on its butter-like promise in terms of texture, the flavour was found somewhat wanting. Further proof, if it were needed, that timing is everything.
I had greater success with a ‘Tasting of New York Sirloin’ (£55). Tasting plates, while increasingly ubiquitous, are the saving grace of anyone prone to food envy or indecision and I am susceptible to both.
All three pieces – USDA Prime Angus, Casterbridge Angus and Australian Wagyu/Black Angus – were seasoned and cooked to perfection, with the latter so unctuously rich it was more akin to foie gras than steak.
The accompanying tray of three sauces (in addition to standard-issue trio of mustards) was a masterstroke that neatly solved the problem of which of the potential eight to choose from.
Sides of tempura onion rings and French fries with fine herbs were served in characteristically American proportions but with none of the vulgarity, and the Californian Cabernet Sauvignon chosen by our sommelier was the perfect partner, tasting as it did of “Christmas memories, aged in oak” (my words, not hers).
By this point, dessert was officially surplus to requirement. But that didn’t stop us from indulging in the Banana Cream Pie and Warm Passion Fruit Cheesecake, their retro-kitsch appeal proving too powerful to resist.
Amongst a glut of high points, perhaps CUT’s most significant achievement is that it manages to reconcile two seemingly irreconcilable tensions with remarkable deftness. It is at once both bold and brash but also reserved and refined.
And, despite the undeniably steep prices (you’d be hard pressed to get change from £100 per head including wine and service) it still manages to feel generous, both in terms of the food and service.
So the next time you feel the need to splurge on a fine dining experience but ‘morsels of this’ and ‘soupçons of that’ simply won’t cut it, you know where to go: Cut at 45 Park Lane
Address: Cut at 45 Park Lane, 45 Park Lane, London, W1K 1PN
Phone: +44 20 7493 4554
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