Not a destination for the cost-sensitive, but this showy Mayfair outpost of a famous Californian chef does what it does – including very good steaks and very pretty salads – very well.
How we wanted to hate Cut! Who is Wolfgang Puck, this Austrian-Californian chef who’s created a multi-million dollar empire, but still doesn’t have an outlet in New York? If he avoided North America’s most competitive restaurant city, we wondered, what was the prospect his first European bridgehead could be any good?
First impressions were encouragingly irritating, as we found it necessary to weave through the massed ranks of clipboard Nazis to join our already-seated guest. Gratifyingly, our failure to seek permission to proceed appeared to cause some discomfort. But, really! Was this a restaurant or a nightclub?
The dining room itself seemed to offer further agreeable scope for sniping. Well spaced and lofty in a genuinely American way, it is arguably a bit vulgar too, especially when ‘improved’ by aural wallpaper of the likes of Simon & Garfunkel and Van Morrison. The general air of a very grand hotel coffee shop was inescapable, especially when the panoramic view is of Park Lane’s buses and taxis, just a few feet away.
The menu took a while to come, and when it did it just seemed rather peculiar: lots of salads and steaks, but somehow not feeling like a proper steakhouse menu.
And here the carping stops. Judged by the standards of its apparent aim – to be a purveyor of posh comfort fare to the Mayfair/International Set – we ended up feeling that this place succeeded magnificently. The salads turned out to be as pretty as you’ll ever see (decorated with flowers and all), and very tasty too. The steak and the chips are also very good. And our guest also very much enjoyed her fish (of which the menu also offer a fair smattering of choices).
In fact, everything we ate was really enjoyable. Not ‘gourmet’ perhaps. Just lip-smacking. Perfect comfort food for the cost-insensitive.
That is not to say that our joy was entirely unconfined. You do have to like your service just a teeny bit ingratiating. Perhaps the Very Rich do? The attention we received was otherwise very good. And only the little people, of course, would ever think of letting their regard drift to the right hand column of the wine list. Here, it’s better not to. All those nonchalant four-figure prices might cast a pall over your meal.
Do as we did, however, drinking a glass of wine apiece (and not too many espressos at £5.50 apiece), and two people can have a rather agreeable lunch for not much more than a ton. That sum wouldn’t really stretch to a pudding, but we were full anyway.
Indeed, as we left, we marvelled as to how any Californian could contemplate a dessert like the ones here – which, from their menu descriptions, all seemed to consist mainly of cream – especially after the meal we had already eaten. A realistic prospect, surely, only for those who can afford to spend at least an hour a day with their personal trainer?
On the way out, we were given a tour. The mezzanine cocktail bar is a knock-out, and looks as if it might, for those in the know, become quite a destination in its own right. It’s certainly very much nicer than the one at the parent Dorchester hotel, since they so wickedly buggered it about.