Curtis Stone has hit Hollywood, opening a new restaurant on Sunset Boulevard where meat is the star on the table and in the shop. Here he shares a taste of the menu at Gwen.
The Aussie butcher shop - we love it, we rely on it, we take it for granted. When Curtis Stone arrived in LA, butcheries were one of the things he missed most about home. "My first job was at a butcher shop," he says. "And when I arrived here, I just thought 'Where do you go for great meat?'" Independent butchers are far less common in the US; most people buy their meat pre-packaged at the supermarket, forgoing the personal service - and often the quality - associated with a professional butcher. So Stone decided to open his own.
Gwen, which just opened in the heart of Hollywood, is a restaurant, but it's fronted by a full-service butcher shop. The venue is a collaboration between Stone and his brother, Luke, who was convinced to move to LA after years of talk about operating a business together. Like Stone's other LA restaurant, the much-lauded Maude, Gwen is named for the Stones' nan, this time on the paternal side. "You can name a restaurant whatever," Stone says, "but I reckon you might as well pick a name that means something to you, because you're going to spend all your time there."
At the butcher shop, there's a charcuterie room, a dry-ageing room, and some very high-end meats including Australian wagyu from Blackmore (Stone had to become the American distributor to convince Blackmore to play ball). In the restaurant, customers dine under Art Deco-style chandeliers in a room that hums with old Hollywood glamour. The five-course prix-fixe menu is built around what Stone calls "primitive elegance", and involves a lot of cooking with fire.
Where Maude is focused on a different seasonal ingredient each month, Gwen is meat-focused above all. The evening might start with small dishes incorporating house-made charcuterie - duck rillettes, perhaps - which you can then pick up at the butcher counter to take home.
The cocktails, by New Zealand expat bartender Mitch Bushell, have classic elements but are very seasonal, lending them refreshing originality. There's a separate dinner menu available at the bar, which is where you're likely to find dishes such as the osso buco pie, a meat pie that could be viewed as another slice of Australian life transformed by Stone's ethos of primitive elegance.
For once, the Australian taking Hollywood by storm is a chef, not a movie star.
Recipes from Gwen
Gwen, 6600 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, +1 323-946-7513, gwenla.com