Arbutus, London

The crowd – before and after (completely full!)

I was looking for a nice restaurant in Soho a few weeks ago, to have a pre-theatre dinner before my ballet at the Royal Opera House (Swan Lake was amazing. I’m not sure if there are any performances left for the season. If there are tickets available, I’d definitely recommend it – it was completely sold out the last time I checked). Having dined at her sister restaurants (Le Deux Salons (review in the new future) and Wild Honey – review here), I thought I’d give Arbutus a try! Arbutus was the first of the three restaurant to be opened by Anthony Demetre and Will Smith. It serves modern European cuisine (just like Wild Honey) and earned it’s first Michelin star in 2007. The restaurant is spread over two rooms. The first consisting of a long marble tabled bar and the second with regular tables and black leather seats.

The menu is seasonal, however it appears that a few dishes pop up regularly (such as the cod and the chocolate ‘aero’ bar)

My starter was the Squid and Mackerel ‘Burger’

I did not know what I expect when I ordered this. I thought that maybe it was a  modern take on a seafood burger, with seafood wedged in between two slices of bread. Instead, the squid and mackerel “burger” was a delicious patty/fish cake lying on top of a sea of cornish razor clams, with a creamy sauce. The “burger” was smooth and delicate, nothing like a burger patty or fish cake at all. The seafood was not minced, and you could taste bits of the squid and mackerel in every bite. The razor clams were very fresh and sweet as well. I’m not really sure what the sauce was but it was light and complimented the “burger” and clams very well. I enjoyed this starter very much.

For my main course, I had the Cod.

The cod came with crisp boneless chicken wings, pink grapefruit and a side of ginger and honey preserve. The cod was perfectly cooked, it was nice and silky on the inside. The cod was delicious with the ginger and honey preserve, but it was good by itself as well. The chicken was crisp on the outside (just like how crispy pork belly should be) and the meat was very tender. I don’t really know why they had to call it “boneless chicken wings” though. I enjoyed this dish but…it reminded me a lot of my mother’s cooking and I don’t know whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. Let me elaborate. Being away from home (Singapore) for months at a time, has made me yearn for my mother’s home cooked food. I thought that the cod reminded me of what she would cook for a typical home cooked asian dinner. After I had a bite of the vegetables, I thought…yes, this is EXACTLY what my mother would cook! Naturally I was delighted to be able to taste something like my mother’s cooking. However, I also felt a slight tinge of disappointment because I was really hoping to try something really unique at Arbutus. Maybe this dish was too Asian-inspired? I don’t know. However, I did enjoy this dish though, don’t get me wrong.

After staring at the menu for the longest time, I decided to have the Cheesecake for dessert.

This, my friends, this was the best cheesecake I have had in my life. These two little pieces of vanilla and rose scented cheesecake were about the size of 2 mini toblerones, and I spent about 20 minutes savouring every bite of it. It was neither too dense/heavy nor too light. The right balance between the tangy/sourness you would expect from a cheesecake and sweetness that you would expect from a dessert. The biscuit base was moist, sticky and not too thick. Words cannot describe how much I love this cheesecake.

It’s 10:30pm now in England, and I am contemplating making a booking at Arbutus soon so I can have another serving of this wonderful cheesecake (or maybe I should try something else the next time I go to Arbutus). Needless to say, I would recommend this restaurant. Wines come by the carafe as well, so you can order a few carafes to split with friends. The service was…well…not very good, takes a while to get someone’s attention but then again, the restaurant was packed…It is a small space, essentially just one room since the other room is taken up by the bar so, it was very very noisy. You’ll probably find yourself trying to speak at a notch louder than the people next to you. I’m guessing Arbutus would not a good place for a romantic date. However, I do think that it is a good restaurant and I would definitely return.

Ambience: 2/5
Service: 3/5
Food: 4/5

Arbutus
63-64 Frith Street
London, W1D 3JW

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