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Arbutus - opening soon in Soho


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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.

I'm going out for lunch with my Mum, sister and cousin for lunch tomorrow. The consensus seems to be we should eat outside - I think I'll just book here and ask for a window!

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  • 1 month later...

If I read this correctly Norman doesn't like the room but loves the food and this is a recipe for "not a shred of passion" What a dick.

I would have thought if "Technically, this was as good a meal as you're likely to find at these prices. " that they must be exhibiting a certain amount of passion, otherwise why not churn out the dross that 90% of restaurants at this price point do? Why don't Will and Anthony, turn up one or two days a week and spend the rest of their time on holiday milking the profits? I'm sure Anthony would prefer to be spending more time at home with his family but at the moment you'll find him in that kitchen 7 days a week exhibiting far more passion than most big name chefs.

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

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If I read this correctly Norman doesn't like the room but loves the food and this is a recipe for "not a shred of passion" What a dick.

All you need to know about Matthew Norman can be summed up in one word: "stimmung". Any journalist who chooses a German word over the half-dozen English ones of the same meaning should get his pencil confiscated.

As for the "passion" criticism, isn't this is the standard knee-jerk response to anything that's already popular by the time the reviewer arrives? "The proles like it, so there must be something wrong with it."

Food critics always want to write about the overhyped emperors-new-clothes places and the undiscovered gems, because identifying both will reflect their own superior taste versus that of the masses. Any time the masses are getting it right, it's standard form to criticise an enterprise's lack of some unquantifiable such as "passion": when a reviewer wants to demonstrate their exceptional refinement, it's the only option left.

Mr Norman raises the art of condescension even higher with the reference to "so-called rivals". Not only is he better than us, he's better than them too.

So yes: What a dick.

(Was at Arbies again over the weekend. Slightly disappointed by the chicken armpit starter, which may have been a tad overcooked, but the beef roll thingumy with leeks was excellent, as was the gnocchi. Still wish they'd calm the lighting though.)

Edited by naebody (log)
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Went for the three course lunch yesterday:

1st course

ballotine of rabbit w lentils and beetroot pure

very dry confit of rabbit (as it so often is found) encrusted by a nice mustard crumb. almost tasteless puy lentils. ok beetroot pure and some nicely dressed spring leaves

2nd course

Lemonsole w cockel salad

baad quality fish that fell apart as a mush in my mouth accompanied by not washed out properly cockels, semi dried tomatoes, potato dices all in an quite weak emulsion. and an herb pure so bland it could have been spinach!!

3rd course

rasberries w vanilla ice cream

nice rasberries w good eggy ice cream

all for 15.50 i think is good value but not very exiting cooking at all, quite sloppy actually. Didn´t like the room at all, the service was good. Im coming back with a dinner rewiev later on this year.

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Went for the three course lunch yesterday:

1st course

ballotine of rabbit w lentils and beetroot pure

very dry confit of rabbit (as it so often is found) encrusted by a nice mustard crumb. almost tasteless puy lentils. ok beetroot pure and some nicely dressed spring leaves

2nd course

Lemonsole w cockel salad

baad quality fish that  fell apart as a mush  in my mouth accompanied by not washed out properly cockels, semi dried tomatoes, potato dices all in an quite weak emulsion. and an herb pure so bland it could have been spinach!!

3rd course

rasberries w vanilla ice cream

nice rasberries w good eggy ice cream

all for 15.50 i think is good value but not very exiting cooking at all, quite sloppy actually. Didn´t like the room at all, the service was good. Im coming back with a dinner rewiev later on this year.

From reading your comments, it sounds like you pretty much didn't enjoy it.

Why on earth would you go back? :wacko:

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If I read this correctly Norman doesn't like the room but loves the food and this is a recipe for "not a shred of passion" What a dick.

I would have thought if "Technically, this was as good a meal as you're likely to find at these prices. "  that they must be exhibiting a certain amount of passion, otherwise why not churn out the dross that 90% of restaurants at this price point do? Why don't Will and Anthony, turn up one or two days a week and spend the rest of their time on holiday milking the profits?  I'm sure Anthony would prefer to  be spending more time at home with his family but at the moment you'll find him in that kitchen 7 days a week exhibiting far more passion than most big name chefs.

Yeah, because if you were genuinely passionate you should be passionate enough to charge three times those prices?

No wonder restaurants that try to deliver good food at affordable prices struggle in this country with reviews like that.

I find newspaper restaurant reviews in general very confusing, the score rating seems to be very much geared to the reputation/price range i.e an established, expensive restaurant which get hammered in the text of the review will get 16/20, but a local moderately priced one will get enthusiastic comments for the food/room/service but rarely get above 12/20 - I can understand if they have sliding scales for the different level of restaurants - but this never explained, or even hinted at in the reviewers comments.

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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Went for the three course lunch yesterday:

1st course

ballotine of rabbit w lentils and beetroot pure

very dry confit of rabbit (as it so often is found) encrusted by a nice mustard crumb. almost tasteless puy lentils. ok beetroot pure and some nicely dressed spring leaves

2nd course

Lemonsole w cockel salad

baad quality fish that  fell apart as a mush  in my mouth accompanied by not washed out properly cockels, semi dried tomatoes, potato dices all in an quite weak emulsion. and an herb pure so bland it could have been spinach!!

3rd course

rasberries w vanilla ice cream

nice rasberries w good eggy ice cream

all for 15.50 i think is good value but not very exiting cooking at all, quite sloppy actually. Didn´t like the room at all, the service was good. Im coming back with a dinner rewiev later on this year.

There is a difference between unexciting and sloppy cooking - if the sole had been cooked as badly as suggested I would have sent it back - lemon sole is a soft fish but not that soft! I wouldn't expect anything ground breaking for a set lunch (though I do like the sound of the lemon sole with cockles) and in many places I wouldn't expect too much in the way of execution but here, where they are obviously trying to make a name with cheaper ingredients well cooked I would do.

I bet the proprieters would prefer things to be sent back so that problems can be corrected, especially at a fairly early stage of the restaurants development.

I'm glad you are going back to try dinner - let us know how it goes.

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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Isn't Mathew Norman the man who is regularly described by his wife in her Polly Filla column as a fat slob who eats curries all the time? A man who spends his days watching Sky Sports + on the 45" plasma in the playroom of their rather agreeable sounding house in West London?

One of them must be lying.

He comes across as a bit of a lefty too, but then with the couple's large incomes rolling in he can probably afford to be.

S

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all for 15.50 i think is good value but not very exiting cooking at all, quite sloppy actually. Didn´t like the room at all, the service was good. Im coming back with a dinner rewiev later on this year.

I was at Arbutus the night of the World Cup Final. Not surprisingly, there was only one other diner (though a couple arrived later). I was surprised to read all the complaints about the room and lighting; I didn't mind it.

I hadn't read the egullet reviews before my visit; had the braised pig's head and loved it. Also enjoyed the thinly sliced lamb breast. I thought the service was lowkey and friendly. Would have gone back if I had an extra night or two in London.

Bill

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note that I said bad quality fish not overcooked. and yes I should have sent it back but thats my weakness (Interupting a nice going date w arguing w restaurant staff ). But anyway good luck Arbutus and I hope they reach up to culinary heights of putney bridge (The surroundings and views is gonna be a tough one).

Went for the three course lunch yesterday:

1st course

ballotine of rabbit w lentils and beetroot pure

very dry confit of rabbit (as it so often is found) encrusted by a nice mustard crumb. almost tasteless puy lentils. ok beetroot pure and some nicely dressed spring leaves

2nd course

Lemonsole w cockel salad

baad quality fish that  fell apart as a mush  in my mouth accompanied by not washed out properly cockels, semi dried tomatoes, potato dices all in an quite weak emulsion. and an herb pure so bland it could have been spinach!!

3rd course

rasberries w vanilla ice cream

nice rasberries w good eggy ice cream

all for 15.50 i think is good value but not very exiting cooking at all, quite sloppy actually. Didn´t like the room at all, the service was good. Im coming back with a dinner rewiev later on this year.

There is a difference between unexciting and sloppy cooking - if the sole had been cooked as badly as suggested I would have sent it back - lemon sole is a soft fish but not that soft! I wouldn't expect anything ground breaking for a set lunch (though I do like the sound of the lemon sole with cockles) and in many places I wouldn't expect too much in the way of execution but here, where they are obviously trying to make a name with cheaper ingredients well cooked I would do.

I bet the proprieters would prefer things to be sent back so that problems can be corrected, especially at a fairly early stage of the restaurants development.

I'm glad you are going back to try dinner - let us know how it goes.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Feeling like the only London based member of eGullet who hadn't been :raz: , my girlfriend and I went last night. Having read many of the reviews, we were expecting a lot and, I'm glad to report, we have to add our voices to the chorus singing its praises.

For starters, my girlfriend had smoked eel with beetroot whilst I had the braised pigs head. Both were superb - the pigs head was meltingly tender.

Mains were lamb breast for my girlfriend and saddle of rabbit for me. The rabbit was without a hint of dryness and came with 'golden' carrots and a rabbit 'cottage pie' on the side.

For dessert my girlfriend was surprised by the size of the creme brulee whilst I had a vanilla cheese cake with blueberrys.

It was hard to fault any of the cooking and we took full advantage of the carafe system.

I understand a lot of the comments about the decor- first impressions were that it was bland - but as the place became full, this became less noticable.

We came away very impressed - espescially at these prices.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Two dinners last week (I know :rolleyes: ) Standouts included a great Bouillabaisse, excellent depth to the stock and perfectly cooked fish alongside, a large dish so for any smaller eaters you may wish to give starters a miss!

A starter of Guniea fowl and Foie Gras boudin blanc is light as a feather. Despite appearances, the large sausage is mousse like in texture and pleasingly rich, a touch more salt and this could have been perfect.

Pigs head as previously described by various people had a nice unctuous texture and the name of th dish shouldn't scare of the more squeamish amongst us. melting meat and fat, delicious!

A main course of Black leg chicken with white beans and sicilian lemon was also fantastic, perfectly cooked chicken with decent flavour served simply alongside white beans and confit lemon.

Desserts also excellent (a strong point of the restaurant IMO). Cheesecake with Blueberries was enojyed by both recipients and even managed to convert one blueberry loather into a blueberry lover. Summer berries is a beautiful looking dish served with a "gratin" (actually a lime Sabayon on top of a biscuit base and flashed under a salamander to brown slightly. Strawberries not that great but an excellent selection of seasonal berries.

Without revelaing names it looks like its turning into the new Ivy! Soap star and an Emmy award winning actress in attendance (seperately).

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

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Hi Matt,

must say from the get go, I've become a bit of a fan of this place though a little disappointed to see the prices creep up. but hey, thems the breaks.

I had 2 of the dishes above, which I thought merely good. not that that's a terrible crime of course.

the bouillabaisse, was for a me a trifle bland.

I also recently had the black chicken with white beans and lemon cocoa. Which I enjoyed, would have loved more lemon confit, but again that's just picking. I liked this because it was what I really felt like, and it hit the spot on all levels. not sure it was anymore than the sum of the parts.

The summer berries with lime gratin, I really enjoyed. did just what it said on the tin, with an excellent biscuit to the gratin

sorry, it must sound like I'm being much too picky; as i said I am a fan, have been a few times and will go back, but I just felt that maybe you were a little over enthusiastic in praise for these dishes? or perhaps just as likely, maybe your dishes were marked out for a little more care.

cheers

Scott

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

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When you had ithe chicken it was cocoa beans not lemon cocoa :raz:

As you say most of the dishes do exactly as they say on the tin. My praise is based on the price point that the restaurant sits at. As for price rises I think starters have risen a little although the rest of the menu seems pretty stable.

I'm surprised that you thought the bouillabaisse bland? I thought it very rich indeed, I couldn't actually finish it.

Edited by Matthew Grant (log)

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

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When you had ithe chicken it was cocoa beans not lemon cocoa :raz:

As you say most of the dishes do exactly as they say on the tin. My praise is based on the price point that the restaurant sits at. As for price rises I think starters have risen a little although the rest of the menu seems pretty stable.

I'm surprised that you thought the bouillabaisse bland? I thought it very rich indeed, I couldn't actually finish it.

I needed a nice warm cup of cocoa before my afternoon nap! :laugh:

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

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  • 2 weeks later...

Arbutus has been shortlisted in the "Best new" catagory of the Time Out Eating and Drinking awards 2006. They are up against Ambassador, La Collina, Papillon and Time Out guide contributor Fushia Dunlop's Bar Shu. Winners will be announced on 18 September.

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Well, after meaning to go to Arbutus for some time, I finally took my wife there on Monday for our wedding anniversary, and I can definitely say that I will be going back. I really feel that I should not have liked this place as much as I did, because when I compare with other places, I do feel that as many of the dishes use the cheaper cuts of meat or offal, and the portions I felt to be on the small side (so much so that I had to make something to eat when I got home), it doesn't seem such great value - it's ok, just nothing special.

The thing is, that Will and Anthony carry off the dishes with such flair that I can deal with that. Everything that came out of the kitchen looked fantastic - I had to be restrained from ordering the whole menu, and instead settled for two starters and a main (I definitely prefer my savoury to my sweet!).

The wife started with the chicken sot l'y laisse, wondefully succulent chicken oysters nestling in a bed of perfectly al dente tubes of pasta, with garden peas and a light creamy broth. I opted for the braised pigs head with potato puree and caramelised onions, a spectacular dish and by far the highlight of the meal. The potato puree was smooth and creamy and worked perfectly with the dish. The unctuous braised pigs head left me feeling almost primeval, the soft gooey fatty bits with the desperately tender, melt in your mouth meat, and the caramelised onions to cut through the richness - spectacular! Even my wife, who was put off by the prospect of a whole pigs head appearing on her plate tried some and wished that she had ordered it as well. Not wanting to let the side down, I had also ordered a second starter, the guinea fowl and foie gras boudin blanc with crushed peas, a velvety mousse-like sausage with a wonderful, almost woody flavour, perfectly matched with the fresh green peas.

For the main course the wife plumped for sea bream with a red wine risotto, fried young squid and parsley juice. Again this dish was carried out with flair, although if I am to be critical, the squid had been slightly over done and were a little too brown, and the batter was not as well executed as I would have hoped - still a very acceptable dish though. I chose the saddle of rabbit with shoulder cottage pie, golden carrots and a mustard sauce - definitely the best of the main courses that we chose (which is a good thing as I hate being out-ordered!). The saddle came as disks of meat, wrapped in what I assume was bacon, and was so juicy and succulent, not dry as it so often is. The shoulder cottage pie had wonderful flaky shreds of meat in a rich gravy under a light mash with the mustard sauce on top. This was a really well thought out dish, although it would have been nice to see more meat in the pie and less mash.

The service we received throughout the meal was friendly and attentive, and the staff were all well clued up on their wines, and made some good suggestions. We ended up working our way through three carafes, beginning with a lighter red from the languedoc region, and moving through to finish with a heavier Cahors. If only they had side orders with the mains, I would be totally placated with regards to portion sizes, but either way, I will definitely be passing through the Arbutus doors again very soon!

Edited by ravelda (log)

If a man makes a statement and a woman is not around to witness it, is he still wrong?

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My only comment would be that the prices seem to be creeping up verrrry rapidly. That's on both the food and wine front.

Yep I know they are a business, yep I know they want to make money - but cripes, some of those increases in such a small time frame are a bit naughty.

I've stopped recommending it to people wanting a well priced meal in the West End.

Saying that - I've been a couple of times ( 2nd week and more recently) and have generally enjoyed the food. God bless expense accounts. :laugh:

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Despite all the glowing reviews recieved on this forum and in the press I personally found the experience lacking.

Initial impressions of the dining room were that it look dull and ikea-ish, added to this was the dismal overhead spotlighting which cast unflattering shadows on the diners and the food - lighting is so important why can't restaurants get it right?

There were some definate highs when it came to the food. My starter of chicken oysters with macoroni was an inspired cre ation although the chicken itself to my mind was slightly overcooked.

The bouillabaise which has been much lauded was a disappointment, the soup too overly reduced giving it an overly salty taste and the rouille lacking the requisite kick which gives it such a distinct flavour. The fish however was perfectly cooked which is more than can be said for my dinner companions who also ordered the bouillaibaise however her pollack arrived stone cold raw! Which brings me on to my major grip with Arbutus - the service.

She kindly requested for the fish to be cooked, considering that it didn't look like it had ever seen a pan I thought this was a reasonable request, our waiter grudgingly took away the offending fish only to return a couple of minutes later with the fish perfectly cooked declaring that the chef had deemed the fish suitable for consumption in its raw state. I found this rude and unnecessary behaviour, on the part of the waiter, as did the other five diners seated round the table.

Unfortunately the fish incident set the tone for the service which we recieved for the most part of the evening which I found smug, unhelpful and rushed. When we first entered the restaurant we were left standing, waiters failing to even acknowlege us, until the maitre d eventually seated us.

Despite all these negatives I might be tempted to return just for the dessert whcih was thoroughly delectable - Il flottantes. The rest of the menu also looked really interesting and I would love to have tried the pigs head and the eel.

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