On the long, long list of things I love about America, the country’s unashamed hard-on for classic rock is currently very much top five (somewhere between Drive-Thru Starbucks, In-And-Out, DFC, and Man Vs Food).
Whether you’re jammed on a freeway, languishing in a spa, or wandering round some shopping cathedral, you’re never more than five feet away from ‘Free Bird’ or some such tune. Go skiing in Europe, it’s silent on the slopes. Take a board down Big Bear, and it’s all beers in baskets and balls-out denim rock pumping from gargantuan speakers.
So it was nice to turn up to Wolfgang Puck’s new place, CUT at 45 Park Lane, and find that – among the glitz and pomposity of a brand new hotel restaurant parked up next to (and owned by) the Dorchester – they’re ripping out Led Zeppelin’s greatest hits. Loudly. It was somewhat surreal, and reminiscent of Iron Maiden’s complete takeover of the O2 last month, to be listening to ‘Your Time Is Gonna Come’ while what looked like the cast of The House Of Eliott posed outside by vintage cars. Ditto seeing staunch men in bow ties tapping toes almost inperceivably to Journey and the Steve Miller Band.
Puck is America’s favourite chef by some accounts, caters the Oscars and counts the Obamas as clients at his LA outposts. In my experience, though, he’s the guy whose name’s emblazoned on a truly shitty pizza restaurant at Virgin Atlantic’s LAX terminal. Which means he’s somehow cornered both the highest of the high and the lowest of the lowliest low end of the market in the States. No mean feat.
His first foray into London is as American as the right to bear arms. A proper proteinfest focussed almost purely on steak, it boasts (on the website) “the widest and best selection of beef available in London”. And there’s a lot of meat to navigate, from sirloin skirting the thirty quid mark to the finest wagyu at £85 a pop. You’re introduced to the cuts, which come swaddled in napkins and rolled out on a trolley like, well, like dead meat really. A helpful waiter runs you through them, air fondling the marbled marvels from Kansas, Australia, Chile, Devon and New Zealand, and once chosen they arrive (a good half an hour later, in a flurry of choregraphed serving involving about 16 people) grilled over hard wood and finished under a 1200-degree broiler.
And, I gots to say, they were damn good. My own CUT, 10oz of New York sirloin from Casterbridge Angus in Devon and one of the cheapest at £27, was impeccable – soft and almost buttery and splicing itself in two at the merest suggestion of a blade. Its surface, meanwhile, was uniformly charred and almost gravelly in texture. A delight, although perhaps superceded by the 6oz petit filet mignons that landed elsewhere on the table.
Sides are, to put it mildly, extortionate, but in the case of the skinniest onion rings we’ve ever seen, a mac cheese of such pedigree it could only have originated from across the Atlantic, and roasted carrots, pretty much worth it. Mushrooms, less so. Everything landed in a flurry of serving spoons, whispered introductions, and black jacketed silhouettes around us.
Bookend this feast of comfort food with some jalapeño cocktails upstairs in the bar, cheese sticks (complements of the chef, the generous thing), a mish-mashed magma crumble of blueberry and peaches that was served from the pan in front of me with a lozenge of ice cream, and an (admittedly stingy) board of English-only cheeses, and you’ve got a pretty decent new way to stuff yourself in London. Second equal with Pollen Street Social in terms of new openings this year so far in my experience.
Price per head: Yeah, a little over £31.75. Actually, just under three times that much, but we were hooked up to a Tempranillo drip for most of the evening.
Soundtrack: Almost identical to this place.
Clientele: No-one you’d want to go to the pub with, but they weren’t noticeable.
More: AA Gill just wrote a review of Cut, if you have a leg up over the paywall.