Arbutus

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It was my girlfriend’s birthday recently and we decided to go to Arbutus – turned out to be a one Michelin star restaurant.
The restaurant is in London – Soho area. The only Michelin star restaurant I had been to was Murano so it was hard not to compare restaurants – completely different experiences though.
The day before the restaurant I received an email and phone call reconfirming the reservation. One thing that was highlighted during the email and phone call which did raise certain alarm bells was th reservation time! The start time was fine but it quoted
“Unless otherwise agreed, and opening times permitting, we offer all dinner tables for 2 hours. Lunch and pre-theatre reservations are offered 1.5h.”
This is slightly off-putting and surprising. From the email it sounds like they want to rush you through the restaurant and sit more people down. Anyway we enter the restaurant, and the décor gives a casual vibe for example guests can wear casual clothes (My girlfriend and I went smartly dressed to enjoy the experience) and the tables had no white table cloth (shock horror to some guests!) The toilets were interesting as on the walls were old photographs of naked women –quite interesting. The décor may have given off a casual relaxed vibe but the waiters gave off quite a different vibe. They were very frantic and often at times reminded me of headless chickens running around. They were friendly enough though, asked whether it was a special occasion, easy to get there attention etc.
We started off with an aperitif each. This was a clementine Martini. I could have just downed it. It was so delicious and fresh and was a highlight of the restaurant experience. I definitely want to recreate this. I am becoming a fan of aperitifs and amuse bouches.. However, Arbutus had no amuse bouches or extra small dishes throughout the evening which brings an extra excitement to the restaurant experience – brings the experience to another level. This was a little disappointing as it always brings joy to me when I do get them – maybe you don’t get them in all the nice restaurants and I have just been lucky up to now by getting them in the nice restaurants I’ve been to. Anyway clementine Martini fantastic!
martini
This is what we went for (Side note – having the date on the menu is a nice touch!)
Girlfriend:
Starter – Shoulder of Venison, soft polenta, Parmesan, chestnuts, olive oil
Main – Grilled piece of beef, smoked carrot puree, braised celery, bone marrow gratin
Dessert – Classic English Egg Custard Tart
Me:
Starter – Warm crisp Pig’s head, potato puree, pickled turnip
Main – Slow roasted Welsh Lamb Middle Eastern Style, aurbergines, spinach and lemon
Dessert – Chocolate ‘aero’ bar, pear, salted caramel
Wine – Sauvioun Blanc
The wine was nice but not the best bottle I’ve ever had.
The starters came quickly out. I think this was expected after the email and the phone call. However, I thought my starter was presented lovely and this was my favourite course of the meal. Of course you couldn’t tell it was pigs head but it tasted fantastic and worked with the pickled turnips and pomme puree. The combination worked great and you could taste the individual elements and the dish as a whole.
pigshead
My girlfriend enjoyed her starter too and is becoming a big fan of polenta.
venison
After we finished the starters, they were promptly picked up and a few minutes later the main was served. I wasn’t blown away by either mains appearance. My meat looked amazing but the rest of the dish looked average with a big pile of leaves dropped on the plate.
lamb
Both meals tasted lovely though and the orange carrot puree was such a beautiful colour. My girlfriend ordered her beef Medium Rare (I was surprised they gave you a choice) and it came out perfectly cooked.
beef
I have to admit Arbutus knows how to cook meat perfectly. I would absolutely love to be able to cook meat so well. The meat was fantastic. The main wasn’t quite to my taste but I enjoyed it and ate all.  Also with the main came one portion of dauphonoise potatoes which were a nice touch. We left some of the dauphonoise potatoes so we had room for dessert- who knew you could get full at a Michelin star restaurant.
Quite promptly our plates were taken away, given the menu to decide on desserts and then given our desserts. When I say prompt, it wasn’t as prompt as some chains such as Ask or Zizzi when they want rid of you within an hour. We probably finished the three courses in a 1 hour 20 – 1 hour 30 with a third of bottle of wine left to drink. I think they could have timed the courses better with the wine so both are finished at the same time.
My dessert looked lovely compared to my girlfriends (just a slice of tart). The dish worked. I’m not a big fan of cream or pear but I enjoyed it with the chocolate ‘aero’ bar.
aerobar
Overall the restaurant had enjoyable food, the meat was cooked perfect, the starter was beautiful and was a hundred pound cheaper than Murano. However, the experience at Murano was better, it was more exciting and enjoyable and the food was 100% more memorable  Overall if you want great food at a fairly cheap price for Michelin Star restaurant (or in a hurry) I recommend Arbutus. If you want more of an experience and a special occasion (and willing to pay slightly more) I’d pick somewhere else.

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