Vouchers and deals have become a massively influential part of our dining decisions. Even the higher-end of the food chain has had to succumb; should you be free to dine at 5.45pm or 9.30pm on a Tuesday evening, then you may even be able to take advantage of a deal at Michelin-starred restaurant for a set menu of dishes that nobody else wants to eat. Head down to Arbutus at your time and day of choosing, however, and you will be presented with a meal of utmost brilliance at prices that you would be happy to pay at a decent gastro-pub; the real surprise though, is that Arbutus is indeed a fully-fledged Michelin-starred restaurant.
The brainchild of chef and front-of-house super team, Anthony Demetre and Will Smith, Arbutus first opened in 2006 to provide great cooking in an unfussy style combined with affordable pricing. Judging by its various successes, it has certainly achieved this and then some.
Five years on sees Arbutus mark the occasion with a soft refurbishment where new furniture, a modernised bar area and contemporary new artwork will ensure that the restaurant remains as up to date with its interior as it does with its cooking. As if to emphasise the accessible nature of dining at Arbutus, single diners are able to drop in and enjoy the full menu at a communal dining bar.
The look and feel may have changed but the ethos of the menu has maintained its use of less fashionable (and often tastier) cuts of meat to allow prices to stay low, with starters hovering around £8 and mains for around £17. Somewhat admirably, there are no side dishes available, so unlike many restaurants, you won’t get stung on expensive plates of vegetables etc to accompany your meal.
Starters can include the clean seafood flavours of the Squid & mackerel ‘burger’, parsley, razor clams & sea purslan or a somewhat texturally intriguing Scallop & oyster tartar with a foam-like potato ‘gazpacho’. Mains move the meal from interesting to downright amazing. Belly of veal is quite simply one of tastiest and melt-in-your mouth tender pieces of meat you are likely to eat anywhere and comes accompanied by some equally decadent dauphinoise potatoes; literally one of the best dishes in London. Not too far behind in the wow factor is the Roast rabbit, shoulder cottage pie, artichokes, carrots & pancetta, which again is beautifully cooked and full of lovely autumnal flavours.
Finishing the meal, desserts also impress. Cold chocolate fondant is rich, velvety smooth and accompanied by salted caramel ice cream; and the classic custard tart takes you straight back to your childhood with sweet buttery pastry and fluffy custard.
Concise but varied and offering good value, the wine list also provides an accessible approach, with all of the wines available by 250ml carafes, allowing diners to explore a range of wines with their meal; particularly useful when, for example, you are starting with a fish dish but moving onto meat.
Cuisine type: Modern European
Dinner for two (excluding drinks): £70
Wine: £6.50/250ml carafe
63-64 Frith Street
Tel: 020 7734 4545