Over the course of February and March I have been lucky enough to dine at three Michelin starred restaurants (each boasting just the one star), today I’m going to sum up my thoughts on the first of these:
I was eager to try Arbutus – chef Anthony Demetre has been much-fêted over the last few years, and I have fond memories of the sadly defunct Putney Bridge, where I enjoyed one of my first ever ‘proper restaurant’ meals (at least in the role of munificent boyfriend). I was still at University back then and the cost nearly broke me. That aside, any restaurant uniformly well reviewed by messrs Coren and Gill has to be worth a visit.
Arbutus was pleasant enough, the room was a little Ramsey-esque, minimally styled and rather ‘corporate’ in feel. It put me in mind of Boxwood Cafe, there’s a clear template been followed here. The menu was far more exciting; bursting with offaly delights such as oxtripe, tongue and my choice of starter, braised pigs head. I’ll admit that I ordered this partly to shock Yasmin, but was delighted with it, even more so when she tried, and loved it. A richly tender rillete, the meat was delicate and deeply flavoured, accompanied by near-perfect puréed potatoes and caramelised onions which cut through the richness of the pork.
We then shared roast Pheasant with a game tart. I’m not sure either of us really wanted this, but the waiter sold well. Unfortunately the Pheasant was a letdown, overcooked and lacking in flavour. The mushrooms accompanying the game pie were over salted, but the pie was superb and a large slice of it would have done me just fine.
Gamely we persevered with the sharing, and selected Tarte Tatin to finish. Any reservations I’d formed post-pheasant were obliterated; the tarte was perfection. Crispy caramelised edges, soft, sweet, succulent apple and a generous dollop of vanilla infused crème fraiche. We were served a glutton’s portion, resplendent on a copper pan. I worried that we’d never manage it, but we scarfed the lot.
We drank a Grüner Veltliner, although its provenance escapes me. I order Grüner whenever I see it and am seldom disappointed. Alright, it might not be the best partner for game, but I can never really be bothered trying to match wine to food; it’s a little bit too wine ponce for my liking, and besides, I like drinking white wine at lunch. Especially when it’s a Grüner, and I’m pleased to see this Austrian gem appearing on more and more wine lists.
Service was unobtrusive and pleasant enough, although the receptionist took ages to out the phone down when we walked through the door, never impressive.
So yeah, Arbutus – I’m happy to recommend it, but preferably for lunch (which is a steal) sadly it didn’t quite live up to the star billing, perhaps the focus has shifted to Wild Honey these days…*
*A big thanks to Yasmin for treating me. I’m sorry that I can’t remember what you ate!