Arbutus

Posted on Wednesday, 7th January 2015

Arbutus is a one Michelin starred restaurant which offers a modern European bistro menu. Located in the heart of Soho on Frith Street, Arbutus is the brainchild of Anthony Demetre and Will Smith. The pair met while working together at Putney Bridge when Demetre was Head Chef and Smith was the restaurant manager. Demetre previously trained under the guidance of Marco Pierre White and Pierre Koffman and within a year of becoming head chef at Putney Bridge in 1999 he had earned the restaurant a Michelin star. The pair decided to venture solo and thus Arbutus was born in 2006. In 2007 Arbutus went on to win a Michelin star and Four AA Rosettes. Two other restaurants from the pair followed with Wild Honey in Mayfair which also holds a Michelin star, and Les Deux Salons in Covent Garden which offers an all day bar and grill menu.

I first visited Arbutus soon after it first won its star and was thrilled with the energy of the food as it was vibrant, fresh and accomplished, yet not too pretentious. The menu was also well priced and ever changing based on what was seasonal. I also liked the intimacy of the dining room which was simply furnished yet inviting.

Little has changed in terms of the look of the restaurant and it continues to be intimate and inviting. The menu still offers up some interesting choices although prices are of course higher than way back when. During our visit to Arbutus a couple of weeks ago we started with some Scottish scallops (£16) which were plump and beautifully cooked. There was some piquillo pepper which offered a lovely sweet contrast to the scallops. Some nicely toasted hazelnuts added a very enjoyable nuttiness and crunchiness, and pickled sea herbs provided a sense of freshness.

Arbutus - Scottish scallops

Scottish scallops

Herefordshire snails and slow cooked Elwy Valley lamb ‘lasagne’ with a parsley sauce (£11) was less successful however. The flavours were good and the pasta was well made. However the dish was under seasoned and slightly cold.

Arbutus - Snail lasagne

Snail lasagne

Young Scottish pheasant cooked in hay with cauliflower and a spiced ‘burger’ (£27) was truly delicious. The pheasant breast was delicate, moist and tasty, and it worked well with the accompanying slivers of crunchy cauliflower. But the star of the plate was the spiced ‘burger’, a wonderfully seasoned patty of minced pheasant meat which was gorgeous. A lovely jus brought this dish together.

Arbutus - Young Scottish pheasant

Young Scottish pheasant

But our second main was a disappointment. A dish of turbot with crispy ‘Label Anglais’ chicken from Temple Farm in Essex, Cévennes onions and parsley (£27) arrived at our table cold. The cooking of the turbot was fine, but the chicken was dry and overcooked to round off a dish that we didn’t enjoy very much.

Arbutus - Turbot

Turbot

To desserts, and a pumpkin clafoutis with amaretto ice cream and poppy seeds (£7.50) was really lovely with a scrumptious buttery filling. There was a light airiness to it that showed off a skillful touch, and the ice cream worked well with the clafoutis.

Arbutus - Pumpkin clafoutis

Pumpkin clafoutis

We also tried a dessert of Lady clementines with citrus panna cotta mulled wine and spiced banana cake (£7.50). I didn’t really understand the point of this plate. The elements such as the panna cotta and cake were well made, but the combination of flavours was odd and not entirely appealing. The use of mulled wine was probably in recognition of the festive season, but this felt more like a case of style over substance.

Arbutus - Lady clementines

Arbutus – Lady clementines

Arbutus proved to be a mixed experience and certainly less enjoyable than what I previously remembered. Some of the dishes were wonderful, but then others were less so. I must also confess to a certain sense of disappointment as I hadn’t expected to see the level of errors that we saw at a One Star Michelin restaurant. Portions were also a bit small and felt stingy. Considering we only really enjoyed one in every two dish, Arbutus proved to an underwhelming experience. The service was fine, but the waiting staff forget to bring us bread.

Summary Information:
Likes:

There was some great cooking to be had.

Dislikes:
1) Conversely, mistakes were evident in some of the other dishes, showing up inconsistencies in the cooking. We enjoyed only one in every two dish.
2) Some of the dishes were cold.
3) Portions felt small.

Conclusion:
Underwhelming for a One Star Michelin Restaurant.

Food rating: 3.5/5
Service rating: 3.5/5

Prices:
Starters – £7.95 to £16
Mains – £19 to £32
Desserts – £7.50 to £11
Average is about £47 per person excluding drinks and service.

Website: http://www.arbutus-restaurant.co.uk/

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