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|Address:||63-64 Frith Street, London W1D 3JW|
|Tel:||020 3551 9855|
|Price: £46.00||Wine: £19.50||Champagne: £60.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sun 12N-2.30pm (Sun -3pm) Mon-Sat 5-10.45pm (Fri-Sat -11.15pm) Sun 5.30-10.30pm|
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Close your eyes for just a second, and Arbutus felt as if it could be some hidden trattoria in some tiny mountain village you’d searched for hours for, not the gel-slick Soho operation you might expect.
That’s because good, honest food and genuinely warm service felt paramount on our visit – not the names on the door or the faces in the windows.
Though expertly styled and ultra-efficient, each member of staff was bright, personable and intelligent. Opinions were proffered only when asked for and, when given were as forthright as much of the great food we tasted.
That simple, unabashed approach was reflected in a menu that started at Crispy Pig’s Head and ended at Pavlova, with squid, lamb shoulder and several ways with tripe in between, along with many more conventional cuts.
In fact we didn’t love everything we tried – that tripe, for example, an acquired taste perhaps and a sweet onion tart with smoked eel tart that lacked a little piquancy – but there were flavours on every plate that tasted great and each one had a genuine love about it.
A squid and mackerel burger starter, for example, was the perfect balance of soft flavours. Mains of lamb and rabbit might have looked simple but had deep meaty flavours, while for dessert clafoutis was a joyful, buttery celebration.
Unlike so many other restaurants, drinks were given proper consideration too, with several decent bottles of wine under or close to £20 and, so rare, genuinely good coffee to finish.
Good food should be able to take you somewhere else. It might have been the wine talking just a touch but coming out of Arbutus I was sure, just for a second, that I could see the roads lined with olive groves and feel the hot Italian sun. In a colder light those might have been strippers and street lights but, for that brief, beautiful moment, Arbutus had truly done its job.