UK Restaurant and Hotel Reviews

London Hotels
Family Restaurants
Press Contact

Arbutus, 63 Frith Street, Soho W1

Clifford Mould was in foodie paradise

I can't believe it! It's almost a year since we reported that Chef Anthony Demetre and his colleague Will Smith had opened their new restaurant in Frith street, on the site of the former Bistrot Bruno, where Anthony was sous chef to Bruno Loubet. It was there and at Loubet's flagship L'Odeon that Demetre developed his robust provincial French style, integrated cleverly with the best of traditional British cuisine. But it was at the Putney Bridge Restaurant where Demetre gained his own Michelin star, and where we visited several times to review his cooking. It was only a matter of months after Arbutus launched that  the Michelin men bestowed a coveted star on such a newcomer.

Now some chefs in this enviable position let it all go to their heads. Usually they immediately rack up the prices: not so Demetre. His fixed price lunch - £15.50 for three courses - has to be one of London's best restaurant deals, especially since nearly all the dishes are taken from the main menu. Service under Will's expert eye is professional and happily unobtrusive. His wine list is packed with delights at reasonable prices and there's a most welcome innovation in that every wine is available in a 250ml carafe.

The menu is really innovative without being pretentious, and it makes thoughtful and skilful use of lesser cuts of meat - the interesting and tasty bits as my grandma used to say. But, I hasten to add, there's plenty for those who don't like offal, especially in the fishy line. From the starters a platter of smoked eel looked very good, and my host's squid and mackerel 'burger' was so fresh and delicious with pieces of squid scattered around the pattie that were as tender and soft as chicken liver. I'll never again say squid is always rubbery! Braised pig's head sounds like a trophy out of Lord of the Flies - but at Arbutus it has been extensively prepared and turned into a stunning terrine, accompanied by richly caramelized onions, and some velvety potato mash that had clearly cost a junior chef some real effort. Well done, perhaps one day an M-star will be yours.

One advantage of tables set rather cheek-by-jowl, is that one can get a good squint at one's neighbour's food. To follow his eel, a saddle of rabbit came out together with a little mini le creuset type casserole complete with lid. In it was a 'cottage pie' made from the shoulder meat, so, nothing wasted, no wanton pilfering of the animal's best bits. Similarly, the overnight cooked Elwy Valley lamb is served with its sweetbreads and, no, sweetbreads are not testicles, as many erroneously suppose.

My very generous host enjoyed roast halibut served with the unusual combination of braised short rib of beef. The meat was a deep brown and full of flavour yet somehow contrived not to overpower the fish. My seabass had been cooked 'sous-vide', a technique that Demetre uses to great effect. The food ingredients are cut and prepared and hermetically sealed, then cooked slowly in special water baths that have very precise temperature control. The result was amazing - I can honestly say it was the best fish I've ever had - tender without being at all gelatinous, the low cooking temperature retaining all the fresh flavour of the fish. Of course having sourced the very best ingredients is also a key part of the equation.  

As it was lunchtime and there was still work to do, we shared a floating island on which had been scattered crisp and tasty shards of pink praline. The crème anglaise was well boosted with vanilla seeds and the island bobbed up and down in it joyously. I really mean it when I say that I can't wait to return. And if it's at lunchtime I'll just cancel the remains of the day.

Clifford Mould April 2007

Arbutus 63-64 Frith Street, Soho, London W1D 3JW   T:020 7734 4545  Open 7days

Starters:£4.95 - £9.50; Mains: £13.50 - £15.50; Puds: £5.95

My love's an arbutus
By the borders of Lene,
So slender and shapely
In her girdle of green;
And I measure the pleasure
Of her eye's sapphire sheen,
By the blue skies that sparkle
Thro' that soft branching screen

Enough of that - here's a bit of what I said about Anthony Demetre's cooking back at Putney Bridge:

Game is always a strong contender in the winter months at Putney Bridge.  My woodcock couldn't have been more classic - served on a crispy croustade with all its innards properly reserved and minced up (what a flavour). The head, with its impossibly long beak, was bisected with geometric precision; the little limbs arranged around the modest but tender breasts, like those of a nubile Russian gymnast achieving that miraculous balance of contortion and grace. This is what I call full blown, grown up gastronomy, where the greatest pleasures often involve a certain element of risk. I plunged in, albeit with delicacy, to be rewarded by the most exquisite expression of wild, unfettered gaminess. It was a dish whose rarity, and the skill with which it had been prepared, left this particular gastronome entirely satisfied.

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

Your comments please!

Email us your suggestions, reviews, comments.

We very much want to hear your comments on restaurants you have visited, wines you have tried. Maybe you disagree with us, or perhaps you want to recommend a place we haven't yet covered. Email us at with all your suggestions, reviews, comments.

Back to Dine Online Home Page

Copyright © 2007 MidasCode Ltd

Views or opinions expressed by authors are not necessarily those of the publishers, Midascode Ltd.
While every care is taken in compiling this publication, the publishers cannot assume responsibility for any effects arising therefrom.

MidasCode Ltd
5 & 6 The Azure Suites, Churchill Court, 112 The Street, Rustington, W Sussex BN16 3DA
Tel: 01903 779538 International: +44 1903 779538 - Fax: 01903 856683 – Mobile: 07860 899235 – International +44 7860 899235

Want your Restaurant Reviewed? Send requests to

Registerd Office: Highland House, Mayflower Close, Chandlersford, Eastleigh, Hampshire, SO53 4AR - Company No 05916096

Grape Seed Extract | Collecting Debt | Food Gadgets