Outlet 360: Cut, Bahrain
Cut by Wolfgang Puck at the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay opened earlier this year
Front of House
The Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay opened earlier this year, and part of its F&B offering includes Cut by Wolfgang Puck, the Michelin–starred celebrity chef’s flagship steakhouse concept.
The restaurant marks the third time the chef and the hotel operator have partnered on the concept, with the first Cut outlet having opened at the Beverley Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel in 2006.
Heading up operations is restaurant director Diane Nicole, who has been with the restaurant group for four years now, and was most recently at Cut Dubai, which opened last year.
With so many outlets around the world, Nicole insists each restaurant, from its menu to the design incorporates its own unique touches and are “all very different”.
“In the design we always try to look for something that looks homey, that has a relaxed atmosphere but still feels like a steak restaurant. We also like to have an open kitchen, because I think it’s an advantage for both sides — whether for the guests or the team in the kitchen, since everyone can see what’s going on and this helps the chef create an easier link with the guests.”
Cut certainly doesn’t stray too far from the steakhouse look. The expansive dining area features furniture made from dark palm wood, Brazilian rosewood, and mahogany, with plush chairs.
At one end, two private rooms offer additional space to groups and small, private events. A glass wall separates the large kitchen and the dining area, offering guests a chance to watch the chefs in action, while floor to ceiling windows overlook the bay as well as Bahrain World Trade Centre and Manama.
Downstairs, the Cut Bar & Lounge, which Nicole says is already very popular, features a wine room as well as an outdoor terrace that the team expect to get very busy during the cooler months.
“I find that Cut Lounge is extremely popular on Friday afternoons. People tend to come to brunch here at Bahrain Bay Kitchen, and then they migrate over to Cut Lounge for after–brunch cocktails. And then dinner is stronger on Thursday and Friday night. Friday and Saturday lunch are good.
“We’ve been very surprised at the consistency of our cover counts and people seem to be really excited about the restaurant,” she enthuses.
Nicole adds the quality of bar snacks and the cocktails on offer has also ensure the lounge’s strong performance. “People like to see different cocktails because when you look at the scene around here, the cocktails are very basic.
“I think we bring something extra, and you can’t find this view everywhere else. I think we got lucky with being on an island and that offers an advantage to both parties.”
Back of House
Overseeing the kitchen team is executive chef Ben Small who started with Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group in 2008 at Spago in Beverley Hills, before working at other brands in the group. He moved to Bahrain from Cut at Beverley Wilshire.
Adjusting to the Middle East has been a learning curve, Small admits, given the cultural differences and supply challenges.
“We are an American restaurant brand and we have a number of restaurants in the States and we opened two restaurants internationally before Dubai — in Singapore and London — and we have found that things that are wildly popular in the US didn’t work in London. What worked in London didn’t work in Singapore, and some things didn’t work in Dubai.
“Even simple things like cooking with alcohol that I, as a chef, never really thought about… so tweaking the recipes and changing the cooking style while still finding the same flavour profile has actually been a really fun challenge. A number of classic steak French–style sauces that are wine–based... we’ve had to completely alter the recipe for, but we’ve come up with a number of sauces that are non–alcoholic for the clientele here.”
Cut works directly with farms for its meat — the restaurant sources its wagyu from the Shiga prefecture in Japan, and Australian wagyu black angus cross breed from Stockyard Beef in Queensland, Australia.
When it comes to produce and other ingredients, Small reveals: “Just about everything is internationally sourced — there’s very little produced here in Bahrain. Small amounts of produce are grown. There are small farms here we like to get tomatoes and lettuce from when we can, but even the weather makes that difficult.”
The expectation from guests to match the quality Cut is known for also adds to the challenges.
“We are a brand and our guests have certain expectations as we have restaurants around the world — they’ve eaten in them, they’ve been to Four Seasons, they have a certain expectation of what they’re going to be getting. So yes, it is difficult, not only because of the weather but because of the length of supply chain. Very little comes direct to Bahrain — it goes to Dubai.”
Small also says the restaurant has benefitted from the trials and challenges the Dubai restaurant faced, and when it comes to menus, he speaks frequently with the team in Dubai to see what is popular during any given week because “the market generally hits Dubai first”.
“We are always thinking down the road, but a dish from discussion to on the menu takes a few days. We generally really try to listen to our guests and get feedback on what they like and don’t like, and why, and can we adjust to make sure they enjoy their experience.”
Having a solid team in the kitchen also helps, and Small says he’s “extremely happy” with his staff, some of whom were recruited from within the group, while others were hired locally.
“A lot of them moved here to work for us and I’m extremely happy with our staff — it’s a great team, they have a great attitude, they’re all eager and willing to learn. It’s a family and we all moved here for this so we want to see it succeed and we all do it together,” he states.