By Haya Zoubi
Imagine an idyllic dining spot in the center of the bustling city that makes you feel transported, but not completely cut-off from the world. Arbutus offers just that: a sexy yet minimalist style laid-back space with pleasing food to match. Traditional British comfort food accentuated by a kiss of continental flavor is just the twist you’d expect from a restaurant that will defy all expectations. The menu is dictated by the seasons and can change on a daily basis which means you can have a distinct tasting experience every time you visit. The service is excellent and the staff is knowledgeable. Don’t hesitate to ask your server if you have any questions about the menu -If you ask, they will not only make recommendations but will also be able to advise you exactly what ingredients are in each dish and suggest the best wine to pair with it. Dishes such as the robust “Bavette of Scottish beef accompanied by Swiss chard with gratin dauphinois” and the delicious “Saddle of rabbit with caramelized endive and shoulder cottage pie” keep fans of this beloved restaurant coming back for more.
63-64 Frith Street
London, United Kingdom
+44 20 7734 4545
Saying the name: “Wild Honey” can incite hunger in itself. Located in Mayfair, Wild Honey is the cultivated younger brother of Arbutus. Strangely reminiscent of bygone upscale gentleman’s club days, the entrance features a lively bar area and a dining hall with mahogany tables and leather booths which compliment the oak paneling and very cool modern art. The service is very friendly and the menu is reasonably priced with three course meals starting at £16.95 and just like Arbutus the menu can change daily and is dictated by seasonal availability. The “Mayan Gold potato soup with organic hen’s eggs” is delicious beyond belief and not as heavy as you might expect a potato soup to be. “Organic Roasted Pork with carrots and rosemary” or the “Slow cooked shoulder of Welsh Lamb” are simple yet heavenly choices for the main course. Straightforward yet tempting desserts round it out: “Vanilla Cheesecake with Yorkshire rhubarb”, “Tarte Tatin of English apples” or better yet a selection of cheese from La Fromagerie would be nicely complimented by a Portuguese or Argentinean red wine to help carry you home.
12 St. George St, London
London, United Kingdom
+44 20 77589160
Haya Zoubi: What are some of the qualities that you think a successful chef should have?
Anthony Demetre: They need to be commercially-minded, driven, be good team-leaders, and non-egotistical.
Q: How do you keep your staff inspired?
A: I never suppress my staff’s talents. Our menu changes constantly and I encourage an open forum for my staff to contribute their ideas. I’m not precious about how we present dishes, and I think it is so important for the chefs to express themselves and their own opinions. I find it’s the best way to keep them interested and motivated.
Q: Who have been the greatest inspirations in your career?
A: Pierre Koffman, Bruno Loubet and Gary Rhodes – they all have their own qualities and they’re all passionate and driven. Even today, they are still driving and producing great food.
Q: How has being a coeliac influenced your menus, cooking and life in general?
A: Before being diagnosed 100% coeliac, I was quite cynical of people with the disease as well as other intolerances and thought it was just an excuse to diet. Since being diagnosed, my perception has changed enormously. It also helped when my gastroenterologist (who is a foodie) assured me that the options for coeliacs are not dull and that I would feel a lot better for it. I now always make sure that I have 1-3 dishes that are gluten-free on the menu.
Q: In your opinion what region (or regions) in the world offer the finest food?
A: Definitely Europe. I love the building blocks of French cuisine, the tapas style of Spanish cuisine, the freshness and lightness of the Mediterranean, and the creativity of the Nordic players, such as Noma. Food has evolved enormously and every major city has something great to offer.
Q: Best piece of advice you would give others who are suffer from gluten sensitivity/intolerance (Coeliac Disease) yet can’t bear to stop eating all the foods they love?
A: I go through stages of abstaining from gluten and then have a week of submittal. As a chef, it is difficult to completely avoid gluten, but I always avoid inferior gluten products. I can never refuse a toasted crusty piece of sourdough, but I am very choosy and stay away from bleached, un-organic flours. I have also started researching buckwheat flour, which is gluten-free. And now, leading supermarkets such as Waitrose have introduced an extensive range of products free from allergens, wheat, gluten or nuts. The diet of a coeliac actually promotes good health.
Q: What are some of the differences and similarities between the Wild Honey & Arbutus menus?
A: Arbutus and Wild Honey are very similar in terms of concept and ethos. They both exemplify the informal, spontaneous dining experience and are not intended to be temples of gastronomy. Both restaurants are within a 10-15 minute stroll of each other, but the clientele can be quite different: Soho is more rock ‘n’ roll, where as Mayfair is a little more bourgeois. However, we still don’t lose our vision of where we pitch ourselves.
Q: What has been the most unusual item on your menu and what was the reaction from your guests?
A: We currently have “pieds et paquets” as a main course on the menu at Arbutus, which is lambs tripe parcels and lambs trotters, served with vegetables and herbs. It’s one of the oldest recipes from Marseille, and we are the only restaurant in London doing this dish. Most people respond with intrigue or unfamiliarity. Tripe has a bad reputation in the UK but in France, it’s quite a familiar product.
Q: Is there a particular ingredient or type of food that’s capturing your imagination right now?
A: There’s not anything in particular that is capturing my imagination at the moment. However, Spring and Autumn are my favourite seasons, so I’m really looking forward to working with asparagus, Morel mushrooms, the new season lamb, raspberries and strawberries.
Q: Between writing books (such as “Today’s Special”) and running two successful restaurants do you actually find the time to relax and cook a nice meal for yourself?
A: Definitely. I’m always cooking at home and having two children means there’s always family and friends around. I just love the conviviality and social aspect of cooking and dining, and especially seeing the expressions on my kids’ faces when they are eating.