Thursday, 19 January 2017
The Burger at CUT at 45 Park Lane, Mayfair
The last time I visited a Park Lane restaurant and ate a burger costing over £25 it did not end well. The evening a friend and I spent in the Playboy Club, where we tried their miserable food and tried our best to keep it down, is still a topic of conversation all these years later, a shared moment of dining horror that has hardly lessened from the passage of time. The experience was so grim that I avoided "posh" burgers for a good while after, until I eventually realised it wasn't wagyu beef and truffle mayo I didn't like, it was cynical pricing and restaurants housed in hideous soul-crushing temples of misogyny. And fortunately, hideous soul-crushing temples of misogyny are fairly easily avoided. So with the trauma of the "Hef burger" now little more than a distinctly unpleasant memory, I booked for the signature offering at CUT at 45 Park Lane, hoping it would redeem the reputation of posh burgers everywhere.
The best place to start looking for a premium burger is, and has always been, the steakhouse. It makes sense that anywhere specialising in the sourcing and searing of beef would be able to easily turn their hand to mincing said beef and serving it in a seeded bun, and it further makes sense that the very best steakhouses - Goodman and Hawksmoor in London, Peter Luger's and the Strip House in New York City - with access to the best beef money could buy, would serve the very best burgers. And so it seemed likely that CUT at 45 Park Lane, with its moneyed clientele and focus on stunning imported USDA, would have as good a shot at the title as anyone.
Often a steakhouse burger is little more than a patty of ground beef in a bun - no salad, no cheese, often not even a slick of mayo or sauce. Peter Luger's go down this route, the confidence in their product bordering on arrogance, but when you have access to the best cow this particular food blogger has ever tasted, well, that confidence seems perfectly well-placed. It's fair to say that CUT are not a "no frills" operation, not by a long way. Even before the main course arrives diners are treated to some superb bubbly cheese straws, fantastic fluffy warm cheese gougère (perhaps on loan from the Alain Ducasse operation next door) and beautiful fresh pretzel bread which were so good I ate two of the tasty little buggers before I'd even finished my martini.
But you won't be here to read about pretzels or martinis. What about the burger? Well, overall this was an extremely enjoyable - if not flawless - meat sandwich. The beef itself, in using a Wagyu blend, had it seemed to me sacrificed a little of the flavour of the British and Irish grass-fed breeds for that lovely loose crumbly flesh, rich with marbled fat. Using Black Angus in the mix as well is presumably an effort to reintroduce a bit of funky taste, but I think it could have taken more of this, and less of the Wagyu. Still, what do I know. The tomato was (surprisingly) good even if the lettuce was a bit nothing-y, and the garlic mayo was a fantastic light texture even if there was ever so slightly too much of it.
I liked the poppyseed bun a lot, and it held together remarkably well considering everything that was going on inside. Personally I'm not a usually a fan of marmalades or chutneys in burgers (with the notable exception of bacon jam on very rare occasions) and I could have done without the "shallot-jalapeno marmalade" here, but Ogleshield cheese is, if you're absolutely determined not to use American processed, a very good option as Hawksmoor (and, since them, many others) will tell you, and still retains a good soft consistency even as it cools. Unlike, for example, cheddar. Never use cheddar in burgers. Never.
Service, as you might expect in this poshest of posh steakhouses, was immaculate, and is perhaps partly responsible for the fact I enjoyed the overall experience of eating at CUT more than I objectively appreciated the charms of the burger itself. I'd like to go back, in fact, to try some of the very attractive looking steaks presented as part of the CUT experience (whether or not you're too much of a cheapskate to "just" have a burger and a martini and get the bus home) and see if I don't bankrupt myself.
Because no, CUT is not cheap. It's not even "a bit punchy". It is gold-star, fully-paid-up, certificate-of-authenticity expensive, where a burger and fries a drink ended up costing £50. Is it really worth that kind of money? Well, no. But is anything? Perhaps there's never any justification for spending such numbers on food, but I'm not about to let silly things like logic and rationality get in the way of a good eat, and neither should you. After all, it could be worse - at least it's not the Playboy Club.