Where do you catch up with a top foodie friend? It’s a tough call but you can’t go wrong with a somewhat overlooked Michelin-starred place serving up expertly prepared British cuisine. Plus, I’d been wanting to check it out for ages as I usually cycle by it on my way to the bars in Soho but never had a chance to go in. Everything about Arbutus focuses on a theme of subdued elegance, from the luxurious yet minimalist décor to the grace of the wait staff – which makes it a perfect place for private conversation.
What you need to know
- The restaurant is surprisingly spacious which means you can rock up mid-week without a reservation
- The menu is rooted in British classics but has a strong creative streak and changes regularly
- Desserts were tasty but uninspired when we visited
- Price point for 3 courses is around £35pp including service but excluding drinks
- They have pre/post theatre deals for just under £20
Food: ★★★★☆ Service: ★★★★☆ Atmosphere: ★★★★☆ Value: ★★★☆☆ Overall: ★★★★☆
In this area of town, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to a watering hole. I’m personally a fan of Zenna on Dean St or the Dean St Townhouse for a classy cocktail and there is also the bar at Chotto Matte which is pretty spot on. If you fancy a pint, the revamped Bar Soho does the job or just pop into one of the dozen pubs within spitting distance.
What to eat?
I tried the crab cake for a starter which boasted a light texture complementing the nice crunchy crust. The sweet flavour of the crab came through in spades as well though I personally would have opted for a touch of heat – but that’s probably not in keeping with the British theme.
Next I moved onto the braised ox cheek which was one of the most succulent and decadent mains I’ve had in a long while. The ox cheek is served in a cast iron casserole dish in very generous portions – so much in fact that my dining companion couldn’t finish and I naturally took advantage to snag a bit more for myself. It was sticky and unctuous in all the right ways without being overwhelmingly rich. The side of buttery gratin and slightly charred spring onions was delicious on its own and paired well with the smokiness of the onions reflecting the same notes in the meat.
Desserts were a bit of a let down by comparison although to be fair we ignored the waiter’s suggestion of the friandes to try the “warm chocolate soup” and the cheesecake. While both were good, they seemed to lack that extra oomph that had characterised the meal. Lesson learned – trust the waiter over entertaining menu names!
How about a drink?
Unfortunately, I can’t report first hand on the drinks menu as I was recovering slightly from a heavy weekend, although the fresh orange juice was delicious. I will comment quickly on the spirits as Arbutus has an excellent albeit eclectic selection of gins including FEW Aged Barrel Gin (which I’ve not seen outside of the US) and the first restaurant I’ve seen to stock the delicious Opihr Gin. The wine cellar looks well stocked too.
Worth the dosh?
For £35, it’s very reasonable given the quality of the food and the upscale yet relaxed atmosphere. I can see why it has a Michelin star and I’ll definitely be back next time I need a place to catch up with a friend.