Monday, 18 July 2011

Frith Street's Finest - Arbutus


Last Wednesday evening me and the boy were in Soho deciding where to grab some dinner when we stumbled across Arbutus. I'd been before but a good three years ago and as it was 730 and busy I doubted we'd get a table. I was right to doubt - however we were accommodated in the bar area on a high table for two.

Sitting right in the area that every diner had to walk through to get to their table meant I was able to enjoy my favourite sport - people watching. I marvelled immediately at the mixed bag that Arbutus attracts, there were the suited types, couples, groups of friends and real arty types - plenty to be nosy at. We were off to a good start.

I chose the squid and mackerel 'burger' with razor clams and sea purslane to start. The 'burger' was a small, moist and absolutely delicious patty full of wonderful sea flavours and very well seasoned. The razor clams were the first I've ever had and actually enjoyed - as well as the flavour they were devoid of that awful rubbery texture that I've come to expect. The plate was presented very prettily too which made it all the more appetizing.

The boy had the crispy pigs head with salad and again this was artfully presented and the flavours matched the presentation. The pork was chunky and had an exceptional, almost sweet flavour with some crispy, crunchy bits which were a delightful contrast. What was most surprising was how utterly gorgeous the salad was - sliver's of soft turnip and radish which I can only presume had been poached in something sweet, syruppy and lovely. Wonderfulness on a plate.

The boys' main was slow cooked lamb with cannelini beans, apricots and almonds. The lamb was apparently tasty and tender to the point of melting in the mouth (it certainly didn't last long). The accompaniments were good - however the boy decided this was a bit of a delicate plate for him and he said he'd have preferred something a bit heavier. This would be perfect for a smaller appetite though.

Mine was the opposite and the boy ended up finishing it anyway. I had the roast rabbit which was roasted with pancetta, artichokes and sweet, baby carrots in a the most delicious, garliccy juice - heaven. This came with a 'shoulder cottage pie' which was frankly the best comfort food - creamy mashed potato over tender shoulder of rabbit. A very satisfying, if filling dish.

Even though I was stuffed i couldn't resist ordering pudding. The dessert menu had me drooling, every single item on that menu sounded fabulous and it was eventually the waiter who twisted my arm, ever so easily into the cold chocolate fondant.

I've been lucky with desserts recently and it appears my luck continues - this was sensational. As well as looking fantastic the fondant itself had a richness of flavour but was as light as a feather. It came with crispy, caramelised chocolate wafers and a small helping of salted caramel ice cream, pure bliss. It was finished with a little shaving of pretty green pistachios. It really was a dessert to die for.

Throughout our meal the staff were incredibly attentive and friendly - the great thing which was so clearly obvious was that the staff here genuinely care about the food served. You can sense their pride and passion and it only adds to the overall dining experience.

The meal was around £75 without wine, but for this level of food I think it's reasonable - we didn't have a single complaint.

It's hard to believe Arbutus opened it's doors over five years ago as I seem to remember it and that would imply I'm getting on - however judging from our faultless meal and the swarms of mid-week diners rushing through the doors it's clear that Anthony Demetre and Will Smith continue to get it right. They really have managed to achieve that winning formula, what's more they have it down to a fine art - well-executed hearty classics, great service and a good balance between smart and casual dining. I certainly won't be leaving it another three years before I return.

Arbutus on Urbanspoon


  1. Hi Rebecca! Greetings from California. Cool blog. Personal entries. Good writing. I like being introduced to food from all over. And your mackerel burger looks sooo good.
    I write a blog on food, love, restaurant reviews and relationships. Not always in that order. Stop by. Visit. Maybe follow.

  2. Hi Mario - thank you - glad to hear you enjoyed this post. I'd be keen to check out your blog too -will make sure I have a read and give you some feedback too. Becs :-)