Revisiting a Classic: Arbutus – Soho

Posted on 06 September 2011

For days in advance I was eagerly looking forward to visiting Arbutus, the Michelin starred restaurant located in the Soho media district of London.  The restaurant recently celebrated its fifth anniversary with a slight revamping of the restaurant’s decor and the menu. Having visited Arbutus a few times in the past, the one thing that has kept ringing true to me is that Arbutus consistently demonstrates that they truly care about food and use of ingredients. Known for its daily updated menu and gastronomic twist on both British and French cuisine as well as for using thrifty, road-less-traveled ingredients such as tripe and pigs head in creative yet surprisingly healthy and in various gluten-free ways. The result is an affordable menu and a foodies dream. On a quiet and rainy day in London I was joined by famed jewelry designer and artist Kali Arulpragasam for a late lunch. As someone with a broad and sophisticated palette, she was the perfect person to join me at Arbutus.

I started off with the Potato ‘gazpacho’, served cold in typical fashion but this was no ordinary gazpacho; it was filled with potatoes, scallops and Maldon rock oysters surrounded in foam.  An interesting mix of ingredients that you wouldn’t normally assume would mesh well in gazpacho or any other way but somehow worked here so deliciously together. Somewhat rich but simultaneously healthy and light, a rare combination. Kali ordered the squid and macarel ‘burger’ which included parsley, razor clams and sea purslane -she mentioned how she had to take in each bite slowly to comprehend all the flavors together. Then out came the mains; I had the traditional bouillabaisse while Kali ordered the Roast Rabbit. The boullabaisse is traditional in a non-traditional way (an ongoing theme at Arbutus) in how it’s brought out in separate components for you to put together as you please. The fish and leaks are on one plate and the soup is in a separate bowl.  A little extra leek?  Less soup?  More fish?  Put together exactly as you like it.  You have your plate in the middle to combine all the ingredients and dig in. The herbs in the soup were absolutely perfect. I could taste hints of saffron and fennel -two personal favorites of mine. Dare I say this boullabaise was perfect? I had been to Arbutus in the past but had overlooked the boullabaisse (which is one of their rare menu staples), but I was so glad to have tried it this time around. I was in heaven with my dish and hoping that Kali wouldn’t have foodie envy for my lovely soup, luckily she was quite happy with her rabbit dish. She mentioned how tender and juicey and “oh la la” the meat was on the rabbit. She also mentioned her love for the side potato gratin dish and urged me to take a bite. I did and I understood what she meant. The potato gratin tasted like something straight out of my mothers oven, and that is a huge compliment.

All in all another excellent visit to Arbutus. This is the kind of restaurant you must visit again and again -and again; not only to re-enjoy favorite dishes but also to try all the new dishes they revolve on the menu.  This is also the kind of restaurant that is so inspiring that it makes you want to open your own restaurant and introduce this unique concept to places such as Los Angeles that lack restaurants anything like this.  I will be back again soon and you should visit too.

63-64 Frith Street
London W1D 3JW
020 7734 4545‎

Categorized | Eat & Drink

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