When newspaper critics review restaurants I always take their price guide with a pinch of salt. The reviewers, normally eat three courses, rarely order the wines at the cheap end of the scale, and rarely do the cost-benefit analysis many diners do when they look at a menu. The cost of Cut is pretty expensive according to the papers, at an average of £130 (The Independent + Guardian). On the face of it this makes Cut more expensive than dining at Le Gavroche. So when The Sibling's family birthday dinner at Cut, came out at incredibly good value, it was a bit surprising, in fact I think it might have involved the best value steak in London.
I should start however, with some precautions and generally statements. I normally struggle to eat three courses in a restaurant. If its a steak restaurant, one course normally is sufficient. Which is what we did. I am, as is The Sibling, a fairly small female, unlikely to want to eat anything more than 6oz of steak ( that alone well exceeds the recommended daily allowance of protein so perhaps thats a blessing in disguise). In addition to this, two of our group were not drinking. Still, I think even despite these circumstances, Cut isn't quite the money fleecer previous reviews have suggested.
We arrived at 7pm at 45 Park Lane, an art deco style hotel bang in the middle of Park Lane, which is the newest addition to the Dorchester Collection. The Hotel, which you've probably seen if you've been anywhere near that area recently, (its gold and glowing at night you and looks an awful lot like a hangover from the nearby Winter Wonderland), has mercifully more refined style inside than out.
We started with a couple drinks at the bar, worth a trip alone as they have an excellent bar menu. Its part American Bar at the Savoy part library feel, with an area tucked away that feels like an expensive den, you know the type where people would get together to watch baseball, complete with TV. The TV would normally be enough for me to scream no, but they've done it with surpisingly good taste. We only tried one of the cocktails - something with Bees in the title, which was beautiful, a mixture of honey and limoncello. After enjoying some olives and almonds, we headed downstairs into the restaurant.
I don't love the lay out of the restaurant - its a long thin room which reminds me of the Grand Promanade at the original Dorchester, a bit hotel lobbyish. This aside, its sleek and modern, with a collection of Damian Hirst prints that have as many colours as your average Mary Katrantzou dress. We started with some worryingly addictive bread sticks, shortly followed by mini puff pastries, and then later some of the best bread I've had in a while.
We skipped right onto the good stuff, the steaks. Size was a bit of an issue, as a fan or sirloin I was faced with a minimum starting size of 10oz, a size I would never be able to finish. Luckily, I managed to coerce the Sibling into ditching her 6oz Filet Mignon, and share a 14 oz Devon Sirloin with me. There's economies of scale with a steak of this size. The cheapest steak at Cut starts at around £28, which is actually on par with Goodman. In addition to this, steak is one of those things were the quality of the ingredient is so tangible that to have a sense of true enjoyment, its always going to cost you. I learnt this the hard way after eating a terrible steak at a renowned and common argentinian steak chain which culminated in me swearing off red meat for the following year.
However, 14 oz shared between two, comes to a grand cost of £17.50 a head. Cooked with serious skill, with the requisite resting time not ignored, beautifully seasoned with a char on the outside, it was, without a doubt, the best steak I've ever eaten, beating even my last visit to Hawksmoor. A side of Bernaise sauce, tangy, but not enough to overpower the delicate flavour of the steak with more subtley then I've ever encountred in a similar sauce, added.
We went for five sides between four, none of which we managed to complete. Sauteed spinach had a nice hit of garlic. Whilst parmasan polenta was creamy and comforting. The fries, were not quite as crisp as I would have liked but still good. English peas, snow peas, snap peas and pea tendrils and mash completed the picture. All were produced with care, beautifully presented, and incredibly refined, all at around £5 each.
This is an American restaurant, and the size of each dish is a testimony to that, even the Parent 2, who had gone for the scallops in the hope that this would be light, was met by five giant scallops, and ultimately struggled with dessert.
A shame, as dessert was incredible. American desserts are sadly under-appreciated outside of the country, and its nice to see classics on the menu. Chocolate brownie, with what tasted like whipped peanut butter, accompanied by a yoghurt ice cream was so good we had no problem eventually eating two. The yoghurt was creamy, in a way that I didn't know frozen yoghurt could be with out compromising any flavour to creaminess.
Atmosphere, was perfect, it was relaxed but felt upmarket and surprisingly the selection of background music was great. Apparently the chef chooses the music and we listened to a selection of Stevie Nicks, Blondie, The Police and others. I rarely notice music in restaurants, I suppose a lot of the time thats the goal but it really added to the experience in a place like this.
The clientele was a mixed bunch: well dressed tourists staying in the hotel, Bill Wyman and his wife, a couple of banker types, but thankfully missing the call girl looking clientele thats so common in Mayfair restaurants. There's no dress code as far I can tell, and most people were well dressed. Its casual enough that I wouldn't feel uncomfortable in flats and jeans, but nice enough to also merit a mini dress and heels.
I had mixed feelings about Cut before I arrived. Despite the rave reviews, designer chains, even with a Presidential seal of approval, I tend to not like, but Cut proved me wrong. Its genuinely a lovely restaurant. Service was friendly, and not at all pushy. Our meal ended up taking two hours, and given we just had two courses they could have rushed us in and out in just over an hour, as they did at Downtown a couple of days before. Even better, I had mentioned as I was booking that it was a birthday dinner, a second complimentary desert arrived as we were paying the bill complete with a candle and happy birthday in chocolate, a lovely touch. Its been ages since I've liked a restaurant this much, its a great one to add to the list of favourites.
The bill came to £233, or near £60 a head, i.e. half of what was predicted by the papers, and its not like we skimped on food. I left on the verge of uncomfortably full, and it wasn't until mid morning Sunday that I could even consider eating again.