arbutus, London w1
arbutus, named after the tree that grows in the centre of nearby soho square, is a new restaurant that has been on my list of places to try for a while. it has just won the time out 2006 eating & drinking award for best new restaurant which spurred me to choose it for lunch with my friend elizabeth.
the restaurant is very simply decorated (perhaps a little bland) and became quite noisy as it filled up. the bar, as you enter, is set up for people who want to eat more casually which is a nice touch.
we both opted for the set menu, £15.00 for three courses, £13.50 for two.
to start, i chose terrine of smoked pork knuckles with lentils. the lentils were in mayonnaise-type dressing which i wasn’t keen on but the rich flavours of the terrine were complemented well by the accompanying watercress which had a sharp lemony dressing.
elizabeth’s starter of soup of sweetcorn with apple was beautifully presented - an intensely flavoured, slightly foamed soup was poured around an island of sweetcorn topped with slivers of a deep-red ham and apple matchsticks.
for my main, i chose another pork dish, crispy pork belly with crushed potatoes and savoy cabbage. the flavours were rich and comforting and perfect for the wet, grey day outside. elizabeth had sea trout with butternut squash (puree) and curley kale, a more delicate and gently flavoured dish that soothed the senses.
we were both too full to want pudding but couldn’t resist the sound of floating island with pink pralines and custard, so decided to share a portion. the pink pralines were beautiful, served atop a quivering island of meringue which floated in a sea of vanilla-scented custard.
we definitely didn’t need the pudding but were glad we‘d indulged and, 90 minutes after our arrival, strolled back to the office, replete and planning to return. the bouillabaisse is on both our lists and i’m also keen to explore their wine list, which includes the option of ordering by the carafe (250ml, one third of a bottle).