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Arbutus - opening soon in Soho


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Four Stars from Fay Maschler :smile:

I missed it on the newstand, confident that I could read it online. Guess what? Its not bloody well online! How did that happen. I thought all of Fay's reviews were online. Damn, and further more, blast.

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went along last night, and I disagree that it is serving michelin star quality food. BUT, it was blooming fantastic nonetheless. loved it.

It's a point often expressed, but one that can't be expressed often enough: a good restaurant is universally agreed to be one that delivers good food in a pleasant atmosphere at a fair price. Yet we've all come to accept that such qualities are neither sufficient nor essential to win the favour of Michelin, which somehow remains the industry's own benchmark.

Absurd.

A meal without wine is... well, erm, what is that like?

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I went to Arbutus on Friday evening - with much trepidation - having followed this thread keenly - we sat at a round table by a large window - which seemed to me one of the nicer tables - but I'm not sure this restaurant HAS many nice tables - it feels a bit of a corridor (wherever you sit you end up looking at a wall - and your guests of course - but who wants to look at them?) and very bright - it was fairly empty - the atmosphere was clinical - a bit cold - rather than convivial - the service was amiable I thought - to start we ate, amongst us, the lamb boulangere with dates which I thought very good, the squid and mackerel 'burger' (their punctuation not mine - why, i'm not sure - it seemed a burger rather than a 'burger' to me) which was very delicious (thai-ish) and asparagus with a poached egg - the poached egg did not make an appearance (by my observation) - but the person who had the asparagus insisted the menu stated asparagus with poached egg sauce - which seems very strange to me and i refuse to believe it - in any case, other than the absent egg, it was unremarkable - for mains, we had saddle of rabbit with cottage pie - the saddle was served in a sort of rolly thing (that's the most technical description I can give) but wasn't very tasty - the cottage pie was delicious - but oversalted - a companion had salt beef pot au feu with vegetables - which was excellent - very tender meat with lots of flavour served with vegetables and a clear broth poured on top - really very good - and another companion had lamb with ewes cheese tortelloni - which was also very very good - for dessert we had cheesecake - which wasn't baked (does ANYONE bake a cheesecake anymore?) but unspeakably, heart-stoppingly wonderful - the crust was YUMMY - and we had a parfait - I've completely forgotten what it was - but it was also very good - the bill was extremely reasonable - about £40 each for two and a half courses, an aperitif (a champagne cocktail with cherry liqueur which was a lot of fun) and a couple of glasses of wine - for me, the food was great, overall - very very worth returning to - I only wish the atmosphere had been a bit more fun - eating at this price, it would be nice to be somewhere loud, cosy, fun, wine-stained - it was a bit staid I suppose...

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very bright - it was fairly empty - the atmosphere was clinical - a bit cold

Indeed. The lighting has suddenly been cranked up to the levels of a Hong Kong beach cafe. I guess it'd be too much of a fire risk to put candles on those wobbly wee monopod tables. Still, a bag of tea-tree lights and some blue tack would do wonders for the atmosphere.

Was there on Friday night, peak hours, when less than half the covers were full. Asked the front-of-house if it was the norm; he tapped his nose and said "wait a week". Was a bit surprised by this, in that it has already had good reviews in papers, including the all-powerful Evening Standard.

Having said that, it's probably the kind of place that requires not only good reviews, but guidebook recommendations and word of mouth too. It won't get much passing trade in that corner of Soho, and it's just that margin too formal to scare off the casual diner bound for Wagamama.

Alternatively, perhaps it's because all EGulletines went during the opening period, thereby expending in a four-day rabbit-pie-fuelled orgy the core audience for any new restaurant opening (ie. us).

Edited by naebody (log)
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I wouldn't worry too much just yet, Saturday night was full with around 90 covers :smile: . I guess it takes a few days for reviews to take effect, after all most people will have already booked a table for Saturday night before somebody like Maschlers review comes out on Wednesday

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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People keep referring to the unstable monopod tables. We found ours very stable indeed: they won't rock, even if the floor is slightly uneven, and with no legs at the table corners, the chairs are very easy to get into and out of. Actually tipping one over would require a degree of drunkenness I haven't yet been able to manage. :biggrin:

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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One innovation, since the half price first week, seems to be the offer of a couple of plats du jour, today- bavette with shallots at £12.50 and braised lambs hearts at £8.50.

Does anyone know if they change every jour, or are they using the term more loosely ?

The heart was a bargain , 3 half hearts , suffed with parsley and lemon zest, a big mound of braised veg and one of the dinky little copper saucepans full of mash. All very delicious.

Most upset though that they have got rid of the gamay d'auvergne from the wine list - they have obviously taken Mr Whiting's cruel comments to heart! I really liked it , and had been looking forward to a chilled caraffe of it while deciding what to eat.

Gethin

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Excellent lunch at Arbutus today, sampling the squid/mackeral burger (more like a Thai fishcake I thought - detected coriander there - and no bap so not a burger); the smoked eel/beetroot/horseradish (large portion); the lamb (excellent accompaniments and tender meat but slightly underseasoned); and the rabbit (fantastic I thought and not in the least bit dry). All this with 250ml of Coullure (sp?) and two coffes came to £73 inc. service - excellent value for this level of cooking.

A couple of notes - we only had an hour and were served all this comfortably with no rush, but they were practically empty at 1.30pm when we arrived (perhaps only 2/3 other tables). Also the meal got off to a bad start with Mrs Winot being told in no uncertain terms not to lock her bicycle to the railings by I assume Will Smith (mine was already there and there's no sign). He was rather taken aback when she pointed out she was a customer and was fairly contrite but insisted - fair enough I suppose but in the circumstances could have been done more graciously.

W.

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Well, went on Friday and with no beating about the bush loved it.

Initial mishap as there was a very noisy table of business people out for early dinner/late lunch, but we were quickly moved when requested to a corner table in the first room. Decor is very soothing other than exacerbating rather noisy types. The restaurant filled up quickly with Egullet types - trendy cutting edge folk much like myself *grin*.

The menu has been well discussed here so there was the inevitable Squid and Mackerel burger but I had the Brandade with young squid. I actually preferred this to the burger...sorry "burger". The brandade was a delicately flavoured mound, the squid the most tender and a parsley (purslane) cromesquis exploding green flavours all over the dish and my fellow diner. A carafe of Balthasar Ress riesling was quickly despatched.

We ordered a carafe of a chilean red plus Alion 99. Nice to be able to try the Alion without forking out a fortune. Both went beautifully with the Rump of Elwy Lamb and the Rabbit. Strangely I preferred the Lamb to the Rabbit - it was done in a mediterranean style with tomatoes and olives but not as overpowering as such a dish can be - lovely quality lamb too.

Quick cheese course which was OK - I still can't get over the cheese course at the Greenhouse.

Then two Mangos - delicious, not a dessert I would have normally ordered, but a perfect end with a bit of Tom Aikens style presentation. Carafe of Mushk(?) was interesting if not a perfect match.

Machiattos and brandy finished us off and the bill of £80 each left us smilling. I would be back tomorrow if circumstances allowed....

Gav

"A man tired of London..should move to Essex!"

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I think I heard this right, current main courses include Chicken with pea and Foie Gras Veloute (desperately trying to think of excuse to go once more :rolleyes: )

Another excuse, should one be needed: eat early or late from the set and for the rest of the month it's two courses for £13.50 or three for £15.50, plus they throw in a "house" cocktail.

That's cheaper than cooking at home.

Edit disclaimer: that probably looks a bit too much like advertising. Honestly, my enthusiasm about the place is social rather than financial. Anywhere in Rip-Off Britain that offers so much for so little deserves the level of success that spawns a thousand imitators.

Edited by naebody (log)
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I'm goimg again tonight, with a group of 12, so we'll really test front of house! I saw the chicken foie gras dish on the menu they emailed me, and I think I might give it a go tonight, despite my reluctance to have chicken at a restaurant. New pork belly dish too.... decisions.

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To paraphrase Derek Jameson: does she mean us? She surely does!

"Pale plump punters" she describes us as. OK I may be a little pale thanks to my Northern celtic roots but certainly not plump...and what's wrong with caressing a menu when it's this good :biggrin:

Gav

"A man tired of London..should move to Essex!"

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