The wagyu eye fillet steak served wth wagyu fat roasted royal blue potatoes, rosemary and garlic and wild mushroom sauce. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
One minute I was in Caxton Street, the next I had been sucked into a vortex and whisked to a parallel dimension – somewhere that looked like a restaurant circa 2013 but felt like the '90s.
People at well-spaced tables seemed to be having a jolly good time in a most unhipster-like fashion. At lunchtime. On a Thursday. Drinking wine. And they looked in no hurry to get back to the office either.
An impeccably dressed man, down to his mirror-shine shoes, worked the room, stopping for a chat, bestowing gentle back pats, jokes and handshakes, seeming to know everyone by name. Equally well-groomed staff attended the tables; discreetly whisking away crumbs and plates and pouring wine.
Family business ... Gambaro history lines the wall at Cut Steakhouse and Tapas. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
It wouldn't have surprised me to see the ghost of Christopher Skase tipping back a chardonnay and sucking on a De Nobili cigar in the corner.
Welcome to Cut Steakhouse and Tapas, where the hospitality is delivered in inimitable Gambaro style.
If you're too young to know your Gambaro from your Gangham, allow me to fill you in. A very long time ago, 1953 in fact, the Gambaro family opened their original fish and chip joint on Caxton Street.
Fried squid with romesco sauce. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
Then they bought property across the road and turned it into one of the city's premium seafood restaurants. Decades later, Gambaro's was still a date-night kind of place, where waiters wore waistcoats, and lobster thermidor was the pinnacle of refined dining.
Not much has changed over the years. While other restaurants had their 15 minutes of fame, Gambaro's stood resolutely on its values of comfort over cutting edge and the patronage of loyal locals, whose own ethos, I suspect, included "having a bloody good time".
Cut Steakhouse and Tapas, back across the road, where the dynasty was born, is the family's new baby. The well dressed man greeting diners was John Gambaro, but on any given day it might well be brother Donny or Frank, or even father Michael dropping in to keep an eye on things.
There are two main dining rooms with a connecting door. Room one has a bar and a wall of old black and white photos of the family, the restaurants and former (and perhaps still current) customers.
The second room was not in action on our visit, but we had a peek in to see a wall lined with shelves affixed with boxes inscribed with names like Paul Pisale, the mayor of Ipswich. Our waiter tells us these boxes contain specially gifted steak knives for use by regular diners.
There are also a couple of private dining rooms, with their own entry, perfect for secretive powerbroker meetings.
It all feels a little masculine and a bit clubby, from the dark decorating palate to the trough of mother-in-law's tongue (a blokey joke?) in front of the kitchen.
Steak is, of course Cut's raison d'être, but if you can handle the ensuing meat coma (and don't make the rookie mistake of filling up on too much complimentary bread and olive oil), first share the entree of short beef ribs.
Braised long and slow in XO sauce to sticky, tender goodness, it may not be the most romantic of share dishes but it will unite you in perfect agreement on the ribs' deliciousness.
Lighter options include calamari, yielding and tender beneath a perfectly seasoned whisper of batter, a vivid romesco sauce with a pitch-perfect acid balance the ideal sparring partner; oysters, plain and Kilpatrick (of course); and garlic prawns as well as San Danielle prosciutto with fig jam and rocket salad.
Steak comes as three options, organic, Angus and wagyu in a variety of cuts. All are served with wagyu fat and rosemary-encrusted royal blue potatoes and a choice of Bearnaise, peppercorn, red wine or wild mushroom sauce.
Sides include battered onion rings, mushy peas topped with a sliver of crunchy pancetta, creamed spinach, mushrooms and a selection of salads. And if you want to add further to your protein quotient, choose a steak and add prawns or bone marrow with a parsley and caper salad.
My wagyu cap arrives in three generous slices, blush pink to crimson inside with an umamish crustiness on its surface.
It's butter-knife tender and insanely rich, far more so than its five marble score would suggest. An Angus fillet is different but just as good, exactingly cooked, properly seasoned and juicy; the faintest tang of iron a flavour counterpoint to the wagyu.
Unusually, for a steakhouse, the wine list, (a fairly priced but play-it safe collection) doesn't favour reds, with an almost equal split of white and red and a reasonable number of each by the glass.
With a nanna nap already pencilled in for the afternoon, we dip into the retro sounding dessert list (Mississippi mud cake!) and choose the lightest sounding: lemon tart garnished with beads of rosy pink desert lime and a small cloud of saffron fairy floss.
Unfortunately it wasn't a winner. In fact, in our view, it shouldn't even have made it off the starting block – the pastry was soft, floury and undercooked, the filling too shallow, and rather than a naturally-set curd, seemed to have had (too much) gelatine or some other setting agent added, blunting the tart citrus flavour and turning it into the sort of rubbery gel you might get atop a canteen cheesecake.
I'll have to chalk it up to an anomaly, because it felt like it had come from a different kitchen altogether. Certainly it won't dissuade me from visiting again for a repeat of a meal that otherwise nailed the Gambaro family creed of honest, well-cooked food served with generosity and genuine hospitality.
* Steak served is halal.
- 07 3367 2886
- Cuisine - Steakhouse
- Prices - About $140 for two, plus drinks
- Features - Licensed, Bar
- Chef(s) - Lukas McEwan
- Owners - The Gambaro family
- Opening Hours - Mon-Fri 12pm-late, Saturday 5pm-late
- Author - Natascha Mirosch