I am not a fan of the obtuse vocabulary that is all the rage on London restaurant menus nowadays. Prosaic descriptions such as 'mince, carrots & kale' don't exactly have one's chops slathering, now do they? For pure poetry I would urge all other restaurants to read and learn from the menus at Soho perennial Arbutus. I'm not particularly squeamish and eat practically anything bar offal, but it is a rare restaurant menu that makes one agonise over what not to order. La Farmer and I were lunch guests of Aspasia 'Love Gold' Anoustis this week and we could quite happily have stayed for supper as well.
The Arbutus menu is stunning: grilled Cornish cod, cauliflower banjo's and curried lentils being the best in show on the day. But my starter was food for the gods: the creamiest burrata surrounded by succulent figs, Muscat grapes and candied walnuts. It was perfection and pretty enough to make one sigh with pleasure. La Farmer and I like a decent, succinct wine list and Arbutus serves twenty five reds and twenty five whites as well as rosé (how common!) and stickies as well as fizz. Suffice to say, the lunch was a delicious haze of crisp white wine, laughter and gossip. We heartily endorse every wine on the list being served in 250ml carafes.
So please don't expect me to remember very much more after the last bite of burrata. I do recall entreé envy when Aspasia's tartare of citrus-cured Scottish salmon, radishes and smoked buttermilk. In fact, I was all on not to lunge across the table and snatch it from her but the lady is pregnant and I do have standards. Arbutus first opened its doors in 2006 and is a duet between chef Anthony Demetre - an alumnus of Marco Pierre White and darling Pierre Koffman - and front-of-house man Will Smith. The waiters are charming to a man and La Farmer was particularly taken by the wine waiter. But plus ça change.
Where to eat ... exquisitely.
63-64 Frith Street, W1
Tel. 020 7734 4545
Tube: Tottenham Court Road
Words (c) James Sherwood, photographs (c) Arbutus