Legendary Austro-American chef Wolfgang Puck is to open CUT, a contemporary steak restaurant, at 45 Park Lane - the Dorchester Collection hotel due to launch next spring. Janet Harmer spoke to him about his plans
After months of speculation, it has been confirmed that Wolfgang Puck is coming to London. The Austrian-born chef, who initially made a name for himself in California by serving pizza in a fine-dining environment, intends to introduce a new kind of steak restaurant to the British public.
The London version of CUT at 45 Park Lane will be the fourth since Puck launched the brand at the Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills, in 2006. A second is now open at the Palazzo Resort hotel Casino in Las Vegas, with a third launching later this month at the Marina Bay Sand hotel, Singapore. Bon Appetit magazine has described CUT in Beverly Hills as "one of the top three steakhouse in the US".
Puck says that while he has never actively looked to open a restaurant in London, he has been approached on many occasions to do so. However, it was not until he was contacted by the Dorchester Collection two years ago that he decided to say yes.
"The time and the partner were right. I have been visiting London for many years and have recently seen so many exciting restaurants opening in the city and nearby. The Fat Duck, I think, is perhaps the best three-Michelin-starred restaurant in the world."
After considerable expansion of the Wolfgang Puck dining empire - there are now 20 fine-dining restaurants and nearly 100 casual bistros and cafés across North America - the company has been looking to grow overseas and London was deemed to be the best location from which to expand into Europe. Currently, the only other overseas restaurants are six cafés in Tokyo.
Puck considers the marriage with the Dorchester Collection at the 45-bedroom 45 Park Lane, which is almost next door to the group's flagship hotel the Dorchester, to be a good one. "I know and like their hotels in California - the Beverly Hills hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air," he says. "Our brand is a good fit for their brand and I like that fact that we can look after the entire food and beverage operation at 45 Park Lane."
CUT, explains Puck, is all about taking the steak restaurant to a whole new level. "We are offering very much more than can be found at the many, many steak restaurants we have across the United States. Great modern art, good music and fabulous design all exist alongside a well-executed menu using the highest quality ingredients."
The menu in London will mirror those found in the original US restaurants, but with inspiration provided by locally sourced ingredients. Starters will include the likes of prime beef sashimi with truffles, bone marrow flan with wild mushroom marmalade and herb salad, and a signature salad of apples, blue cheese and dates.
It is the beef, though, that will form the focus of the menu with a choice of the best cuts available from around the world including Australia, New Zealand and the United States, as well as from within the UK. A farm in Nebraska, which Puck has a long-held relationship with, will provide the American beef, corn fed and dry aged for 35 days, in three different cuts - New York, sirloin and rib eye.
Grilled over hard wood and charcoal and then finished under the fierce 650ºC heat of an American style broiler, the steaks will be served with a selection of sauces such as whole grain mustard, shallot-red wine bordelaise and creamy horseradish, as well as a choice of side orders - maybe wild field mushrooms, bone marrow or shaved Italian truffles.
For non-meat eaters, Puck promises there will be a choice of prime fish - such as sole and turbot - and seafood dishes.
Desserts at CUT in Beverly Hills feature a refined version of traditional flavour combinations. So, at 45 Park Lane expect a variation on Fuji apple and rhubarb toasted almond crumble, golden raisins and vanilla ice-cream or salted peanut butter and chocolate semifreddo, vanilla crème and dulce de leche.
Head chef at 45 Park Lane will be David McIntyre, who will lead a team of 30 chefs. He opened CUT in Beverly Hills and has worked for Puck for 10 years. "He is a very talented chef and also a good manager," says Puck. "London will be a great adventure and learning experience for him."
Initially, Puck aims to be in London a couple of times a month to oversee the opening of the restaurant. Then once it is "exactly the way I expect it to be" he will probably visit once a month or every other month.
Puck's high profile television persona and well-established culinary empire in the US will ensure there will be huge interest in the opening of CUT in London. "Many of our customers in the US come from the UK and know us well". And, no doubt, a strong celebrity following will add an extra frisson to the restaurant. Puck casually mentions that both Sir Michael Caine and Sir Elton John are fans of CUT.
Now aged 61, Puck shows no signs of slowing down. "I wouldn't know what to do if I retired," he says. "I love to cook and I love to create restaurants and I hope to continue doing both for some time to come."
wolfgang puck an insight
â- After a chef's apprenticeship in Austria, moved to France to work at L'Oustau de Baumanière in Provence
â- Arrived in the United States in 1973
â- Published his first cookbook, Modern French Cooking, in 1981 and has since written five more
â- Spago, his most famous restaurant, opened in Hollywood in 1982. There are now outlets in Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, Beaver Creek (Colorado) and Maui.
â- Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group operates 16 restaurants, including the four Spago and two CUT outlets.
â- Wolfgang Puck Catering provides the catering at high-profile events and venues including the annual Oscars in Los Angeles, the Boston Museum of Science and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
â- Wolfgang Puck Worldwide incorporates about 100 company-owned and franchised outlets of the casual Wolfgang Puck Bistro, the fast-casual Wolfgang Puck Express restaurants and Wolfgang Puck cafés. It also looks after Puck's branded cookware, food products, cookbooks and syndicated newspaper column
â- Puck is the only chef in the US to have twice won the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Chef of the Year, in 1991 and 1998
â- Puck and his wife, Gelila, have four sons
45 park lane facts and figures
Opening date Spring 2011
Owner Brunei Investment Agency, with management by the Dorchester Collection, which also operates the nearby Dorchester hotel, Coworth Park in Ascot and seven hotels overseas.
Hotel manager Marie-Laure Akdag
Interior designer Thierry Despont
Bedrooms 45, including 10 suites, plus a penthouse with a roof terrace
Food and beverage CUT at 45 Park Lane with 76 seats, and Bar 45 with 30 seats
Other facilities Screening room, library and gym
45 Park Lane, London W1K 1PN
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