One of my favourites.
Soho has more than its fair share of restaurants, but Arbutus on Frith Street is one that I return to time and time again. Arbutus, sister restaurant to Mayfair’s Wild Honey, serves up inventive Modern European fare both a la carte and as a superb value £20 set menu. The decor of wooden floors, white walls and modern art isn’t particularly original, but at least it’s understated and soothing. Service is generally efficient and very helpful, although the maître d’ on my most recent visit must have been to New York recently – her level of subversive sarcasm would make the snootiest Manhattan maître d’ proud.
The seasonal menu changes regularly. During my most recent visit I was intrigued by the presence of Madrid-style tripe on the menu which I had to try out. Although Arbutus’ version isn’t quite as hearty, stocky and strongly-flavoured as the tripe dishes I’ve tried in Madrid, it’s pleasing in its own right. The soft texture with a slight crunchy bite, courtesy of the breadrcumb topping, and creamy taste makes the dish more reminiscent of British-style tripe dishes such as the one found at St. John Hotel. Not quite Madrid-style, but good in its own right.
Tripe. The misunderstood offal.
For my main course I opted for the grilled seabass served with mussels and slices of chorizo. The fresh, firm yet flaky flesh and the crispy skin were well-complimented by the fatty salty slices of chorizo and the bitingly fresh mussels. I couldn’t find fault with it and it’s definitely on a par with a similar bass dish served at New York’s Prune.
If cooked fish had tasted like this when I was growing up, I would’ve eaten more of it.
To finish it all I chose the raspberry panna cotta for dessert. Although not quite as intensely flavoured as the version sometimes served at Trishna, Arbutus’ version is firm and creamy. It’s well complimented by the fresh raspberries and a crunchy, buttery biscotti stick dusted with icing sugar.
Raspberry panna cotta
If this review seems a little short it’s because there’s not much to say about Arbutus except how good it is. It’s not quite the best restaurant in Soho – Polpetto, Bocca di Lupo and Ten Ten Tei among others provide stiff competition for that title, but it’s not far off. The lack of a stand-out signature dish, and some issues with the service, are the only things holding Arbutus back from a five star rating. A well-deserved four stars.
Address: 63 – 64 Frith Street, London, W1D 3JW
Phone: 020 7734 4545
Opening Hours (here we go): Lunch – Monday-Saturday midday-14.30, Sunday midday – 15.00
Dinner – Monday-Thursday 17.00-23.00, Friday-Saturday 17.00-23.30
Set menu only available at set pre- and post-theatre hours, see website for details
Total cost for one person: approx. £35