Arbutus Review – Frith Street, London

I went to London recently to see my first ever West End play – Les Mis. It was amazing and where before I was a ‘take it or leave it’ sort when it comes to theatre I would definitely see a London show again.

The only fly in the weekend was the weather, it snowed back at home and was FREEZING in London. I thought I’d never feel my nose again.

Anyway. The food.

Before the play we went to Arbutus which we had had booked for their pre-theatre menu. At £26 for three courses it wasn’t bad value at all.

When we first walked in we thought it was dead, you can’t see the seating from the street though as its all around one corner. Tables are small with tealights and service was prompt (but not too prompt).

Me and my boyfriend have really similar food tastes (yay) so we both had exactly the same thing – the rabbit ravioli, slow cooked lamb and then the cheeseboard.

  (Restaurant lighting can be the worst)

The rabbit ravioli was a perfectly fine thin pasta encasing garlicky minced rabbit meat. It came in a rich salty stock with caramelised shallots and topped with Parmesan. This was my favourite dish of the three, I’ve never had anything to savoury tasting and well seasoned. With three ravioli it also wasn’t too filling, leaving plenty of room for the lamb!

I wish I knew what cut of lamb this was. It was only described as ‘slow cooked lamb’ on the menu. It had three stripes of fat running through it that had melted down during the cooking time to almost butter-like ribbons. It came with celeriac and greens and some kind of crusted powder thing which honestly was delicious but I have no idea what it was.

Ok so maybe there wasn’t enough cheese here. But the cheese that was here was great. Clockwise from bottom you have Valençay, Cashel Blue and Comte. Served with a cranberry chutney thing and some wild honey which was amazing with the Comte. Excellent cheese. And after the starter and main the portion was about right for me.

With a couple of carafes of Rioja the meal came to around £75 which was more than reasonable for the quality of the food.

I loved the pre-theatre menu because it encouraged me to try dishes I wouldn’t usually go for. I get stuck in fish starter, chicken or beef main rut in restaurants and this totally broke me out of it. I would never usually order rabbit and it was the tastiest part of the meal.

What’s also great is their menu changes every day based on fresh ingredients so I imagine you could eat here a few times and always have a different experience. I’d really recommend Arbutus whether you’re theatre-going or just in Soho. 10/10.

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Creamy Garlic Mushrooms with White Wine

This is fast becoming my new favourite snack. Brunch, lunch, starter, creamy delicious garlic mushrooms are always appropriate!

I like to use a mix of chestnut, white and button mushrooms but this is good with any mushrooms you have available.

  

Creamy garlic mushrooms with white wine

Ingredients

This should be enough for two

1 punnet mushrooms of your choice, or 1/3 punnet each of closed, chestnut and button

4 cloves garlic

1 small shallot

1 teaspoon butter

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1 small bay leaf

Small cup of white wine

1 tablespoon of single cream, or creme fraiche

Granary bread to toast and serve

Method 

Wipe the mushrooms with kitchen towel to clean and chop roughly into different shapes. I like to slice some and quarter others so you get a nice variety in the dish.

Finely chop the shallots and garlic and add to a hot pan with the butter and oil. Soften for 3/4 minutes and then add the mushrooms.

When the mushrooms are around 80% cooked add in your wine and reduce the heat. Add your oregano and the bay leaf and lave for 5-10 minutes to reduce the wine down. Stir in the cream or creme fraiche and then season to taste.

Serve immediately with crusty granary toast and enjoy!

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Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Shoulder Sandwiches

I’ve done this once before but I didn’t take nearly enough  pictures, and the previous attempt was also in the oven with a fairly hefty 4.5kg bone-in shoulder, whereas this one was a meagre 2kg bone-out jobby from Tesco.

You get a lot of pork for 2kg, I tell you. We made this on New Year’s Eve as part of a gourmet 3 course meal in, as I was still recovering from the devil’s illness – tonsillitis. I managed to have it three times over December and January and I’m still not 100% yet, fortunately Christmas Day itself was illness free!

Anyway. A 2kg pork shoulder is plenty for two hungry people – it would feed four easily with leftovers. We have LOTS of pork in the freezer, but that’s only a good thing really isn’t it?

I’ll leave my coleslaw recipe for another day but it really does pay to make this stuff yourself. It is SO easy, and tastes way nicer than what you get in shops. I typically slice cabbage, red onion and grated carrot and toss in a bit of lemon juice, mayonnaise, creme fraiche or yoghurt and a dash of mustard. Serve on white baps with sweet potato fries or salad as a side.

 

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Chorizo Macaroni Cheese

 


Thank you, Americans, for the dish of macaroni cheese. One of my all time favourite pasta dishes, there are few ailments a good bowl of macaroni in soft oozy cheesy sauce can’t fix, especially when it comes to January blues.

And this recipe has chorizo in, because life is for living on the edge.

I am such an aficionado of Lidl’s chorizo. It’s like £2 and lasts forever and has a really full flavour, isn’t too spicy but adds lovely savouriness to any dish. If you’re spending loads on chorizo, swap for Lidl’s at the next opportunity.

My recipe uses cheddar and Wensleydale but you can substitute in any good cheese. Parmesan can make it a bit over salty however with the chorizo so be careful.

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Avocado Basil Pasta Sauce

If I’m completely honest my favourite way to eat avocado is just on toast. Why try and make it into something it isn’t?

I have my friend Caoimhe to thank for this idea, and it really does make a truly tasty pasta sauce. You’ll need some things to bring out the flavour – lots of basil, garlic and lemon, but it’s worth it.


Cook the pasta first and reserve some of the pasta water to make the perfect sauce.

Take a splash of the pasta water in a jug (you can always add more later) and an avocado lightly mashed with a fork. Stir in minced garlic, salt and pepper, a handful of fresh basil and a squeeze of lemon. Blitz with a hand held blender until you have a rough textured sauce – some lumps are fine.

Serve stirred into the pasta with extra fresh basil and some grated Parmesan. If you’re that way inclined, dried chilli flakes can add some extra zing.

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Wintery chicken, macaroni and leek casserole

What is the actual difference between stew and casserole? I would love to know. Answers on a postcard please.

This is actually my dads recipe, handed down and reinvented for my partner who can’t digest celery. If you can digest celery, please do put it in because it’s wonderful.

The lovely thing about this casserole is that it tastes different every time. Depending on your stock; your chicken; the wine, no two versions are the same which I love.

You can use any part of chicken on the bone or off the bone, obviously on the bone takes longer but yields a tastier broth. I like to use a mix of chicken breast and thigh, usually three of each to produce enough for about 4 meals from one pot. It’s hard to make a small amount!

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Quick and Thrifty Beef Burger Ragu

What is it with supermarkets selling insane portions of mince? Who eats 250g or 500g in one serving? Who?

This crafty recipe uses a hamburger split into bits for the mince, saving money and food waste. Obviously the mince quality depends on the burger you use, but as a disclaimer it’s not usually the nicest meat. Combining it with some good veggies and not overcooking it means you get a tasty result though. Plus adding lots of cheese at the end, because everything is better with cheese.

  



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Christmas Turkey, Stuffing, Sprout and Sausage festive kebabs

Who doesn’t want Christmas on a stick!? A great party snack for the festive season, these are so easy to make.

We all have our own recipes for stuffing balls (mix sausage mixture and an egg with stuffing mix) and pigs in blankets (take sausage, wrap in bacon) so I haven’t “reciped” these for now.

Bake them ahead of time and set aside for a day or so in the fridge so you’re not doing everything at once. They’re also easier to ‘thread’ if they are cold from the fridge!

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Vegetable Ratatouille with Feta

Ratatouille! My boyfriend hates this dish, but for me, there’s nothing like tucking up with a big bowl of vegetables. And cheese. Lots of cheese. I eat it as a main with bread, but you can serve it as a side too. It also freezes really well and can be eaten over pasta, rice… any carb!

The secret to a good ratatouille is to cook the vegetables one by one according to their size and cooking time, rather than all at once.

 

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