CUT is located within a boutique hotel, 45 Park Lane which itself is owned by the Dorchester Collection. The Dorchester Collection in turn is owned by Brunei Investment Authority which according to the US State Department had at the end of 2009, $30 billion of assets under management; start up funding then was never an issue. And investment hasn't indeed been spared, the finish cannot be faulted and the walls are adorned with Damien Hirst artwork. So it should all be very special and very brilliant, yet for us, the space was in many ways cold. It still feels like the lobby of a very nice (and expensive) hotel and the shape of the room, a galley style restaurant with partial dividers between sections, does it no favours in layering (or in this case hindering) atmosphere.
Then there's the choice of music: Dire Straits (Sultans of Swing, 1978), Elton John (Nikita, 1985), Lynyrd Skynyrd (various I think) and more of the same providing in total a compilation that could easily be coined Now That's What I Call Music For the Over Forties. The prices at CUT however have already made as much as a splash as the food such that the under 40 segment is clearly not their target market so maybe the music is pitched correctly.
Whether against this backdrop it will become London's hottest restaurant hangout, who knows? Immediately after it opened it was said to be fully booked for a month in advance but on our visit today for a 1:30pm lunch, it was perhaps around 75% full on entering and soon thinned out.
And before moving on to the food, a comment on service: it was at best patchy. There were plenty of the staff but that seemed to make matters worse as they huddled together in conversations, and who was responsible for what was never always clear. Sauces that came with the food had to be requested, water poured by ourselves and semaphore flags seemed necessary to get the bill. Fay Maschler's review noted something similar.
The Big Eye Tuna arrives as a big tartar on an even bigger plate. The problem in our view however is that the tuna is overwhelmed by the quantity of condiments. The tuna itself is never given the opportunity to shine as the wassabi dominates. Less would have certainly been more here.
The oxtail bouillon, the cheapest starter on the menu at £9, is excellent. It too could also benefit a little from something being taken away as there's two big dumplings in there, some beautiful melt in the mouth bone marrow, and substantial quantities of oxtail making it another weighty starter. I do feel like I've got my money's worth here however.
If you are tempted by the Wagyu alone, the 6oz version is £70, so valuing our 2oz steak at £23, however, we seem to get lucky and looking at the plate, our 2oz Wagyu looks no smaller than its 4oz neighbours. CUT is also very proud of its cooking method for steaks and tells you in outsize font on the menu 'grilled over hard wood & charcoal then finished under a 650 degree broiler...', this is in line with the ever popular Josper grill that outputs between 400-800 degrees of heat.
But there is a problem here, at that temperature the meat cooks very quickly, and trying to cook smaller steaks (ie, 4oz or 2oz) to perfection has only the smallest margin for error compared to longer cooking times on larger steaks. The outcome is that the steaks were generally medium, not medium rare, and had dried out a little as a consequence. That was a shame. Flavours were still present with the Casterbridge Angus the best of the bunch, even beating the Wagyu that while nice, failed to offer anything more, and would have surely upset us a great deal if we had in fact stumped up the £70 for the full size version.
Of the sides, the creamed spinach was really excellent. The fries meanwhile come in super size portion and are okay though hugely over-salted. Oh, and as well as the sauces, there are four mustards brought to the table so no two mouthfuls ever need be the same.
The banana plate was much lighter than it looked, a good job really after what had already been a substantial amount of food. The banana flavours were also very full on and it came together as a pretty good finish to the meal. We're unsure why the chocolate sauce receives such large billing on the description though as it's little more than a smear on the plate. The pumpkin donuts however failed to excite us, a touch dry even and adding nothing in our view to good old fashioned traditional donuts. Still, at £9, the desserts are the bargains of the meal.
Despite the vast sums of money spent at CUT, the atmosphere and ambience at say Goodman is for our taste as good, if not better. Arguably, CUT overly relies in many respects on purchased character while its basic flaws remain naked. But CUT needs to make a return on all that invested capital for the BIA so your final bill will also reflect the fact. That in itself pushes up the price, hence, assuming identical food quality and food margins, CUT will always be more expensive. But is CUT doing better food?
There were no real boundaries pushed today at CUT with the food edging towards comfort rather than ground breaking. But this is expensive comfort food and should therefore be stand out but it rarely was. With around half the bill accounted for by the steaks, it's here arguably that it's make or break. What's more, with competitors like Goodman already sourcing first class beef and using the Josper to great effect, the bar is set high. Clearly CUT do likewise on sourcing and grill, and the seasoning and char were excellent, but was it ultimately any better? Honestly, no.
The next time we get a steak craving, we know how we'll scratch that particular itch, with a visit to Goodman or Hawksmoor. 45 Park Lane sadly doesn't do enough to make the cut.
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