63-64 Frith St
020 7734 4545
Date of Last Visit: Friday, July 20, 2007
The Victim: Amy
The Damage: £65 each
The Background: Amy is in town from California…her second visit since I've been in London. I know her from grad school, where we were wine club co-chairs. Good times. Except for washing all those glasses after our events. That sucked big time. But through it all, I learned that I can count on Amy for being up for spending money on dinner, so I suggest Arbutus.
The Entrance: When I call to make my booking, we do the little booking dance. I ask for 8 p.m. They tell me no, they can only do 9 p.m. I say that's too late. They hesitate. They hem and haw. Then suddenly, they "find" a table for 8:15 p.m.
Well guess what? At 8:15 p.m., the restaurant is empty. And it doesn't seem much fuller at 9 p.m. Or 9:30 p.m. Hmmm. Remember it's a Friday. One day, I will understand this process.
The Wine: I love the way the wine works at Arbutus. Everything is available in 250 ml carafes. I love carafes. And as former co-chairs of the wine club, Amy and I are in our element. Although I still have that thought…I think I know more than most about wine, but I still know less than many–like Amy. We start with something French and white. And then move on to an Austrian red. (I am in love with Austrian wines this year.) And then we move on to New Zealand (or maybe it was Australia), and we finish with some Tokay from Hungary. Very fun.
The Starters: I have the pig's head and it is mouth-watering. Really delicious and tender. I am very pleased.
The Mains: My rabbit stew was a little too rabbit-y for me. They served three rolls of rabbit, and they were just a tad too rich. I couldn't finish the third. But the cottage pie of rabbit…now that was FANTASTIC. But again, so rich that I couldn't finish it. But guess what? I expressed my wonder at the deliciousness, and my sadness to see the rabbit go, and our server offered to box it up for me. BOX IT UP? In a Michelin-starred restaurant? Wow.
I fall slightly in love with Arbutus right there. And our server. He's really great. Really. He knows the wine. He knows the food. I feel like we are in good hands.
The Loos: Eh. They can do better.
Tap Water Test: Passed.
The Verdict: Between the wines by carafe and the cottage pie and the take-away box, they've got my vote. Just work on the booking efficiency and the loos. And the slightly hotel-bar-esque decor.