Every so often we hear about a pop-up that trumps all the others. Be it cooler, more secretive or more innovative, it’s not long before the whole of London finds out about it, and then all of a sudden it’s just not as cool any more. Mr Pig quietly popped-up (or should we say down) underneath Kurobuta on King’s Road last weekend, born out of an urge to cook food even more playful than Kurobuta itself. We headed over to check it out.
New? Brand new. Mr Pig began last weekend and, as it stands, is only around for one more weekend before disappearing again. We’ve heard rumours that it may hang around so watch this space…
Where? Kurobuta, 312 King’s Road, Chelsea, SW3 5UH www.kurobuta-london.com
On the Menu: The menu will change daily so as much as I can gloat about what we had, I can’t promise they’ll be there when you visit. Expect some seriously creative small plates; everything from foie gras croissants to BBQ octopus with yuzu juice, cooked by Scott Hallsworth himself at an open kitchen in the middle of the room. This theatre is as much a part of the experience as the food itself; food is blowtorched, pans are tossed and lovingly plated in full view – ask for a table by the soft whip machine for the best seats.
First Impressions: Darting inside out of the rain, we bypassed the restaurant itself and headed downstairs, to the room that used to be storage. Everything about Mr Pig is unassuming – even if you were dining upstairs you wouldn’t know it was down there. As you sit at communal tables there is some kind of connection with your neighbours; a feeling of smugness. No one knows you’re tucked down here, and we’re the ones laughing.
The Look: Mr Pig has been transformed quickly. Exposed brick walls and a couple of neon signs reading illegible (to me) Japanese words, the long wooden sharing tables and kitchen counter give off the effortless vibe that many places invest a ridiculous amount of time and money into achieving. The whole room has a pink glow from the neon, dimly lit with fairy lights making it warmer.
What We Ate: Advised to start with 3 dishes, we dived straight in with crispy oysters with nam jim (Thai dipping sauce), foie gras croissant and soft tacos with short rib rending and coconut/crab sambal. Three stunning choices; the oysters, served in their shells, were fried in a wispy cloud of shredded pastry – the best oysters I’ve ever had, and I’d go as far to say they’d convert those with an aversion to the salty, slimy texture of norm. The foie gras croissant was equally stunning, and if one dish were to sum up the experience it would be this one. Why has no one ever thought to pair the sweetness of croissant with the richness of foie gras? Indulgence at its finest… in a brick-clad basement in Chelsea. The tacos were doughy and warm, with chunks of subtly spiced rib rendang – messy, get the napkins at the ready.
Before ordering our first three dishes we got the heads up that many of customers the previous night ordered the whole menu… “and once you start you’ll see why.” Whilst we didn’t manage the whole menu we had a good crack at it. Dish four was BBQ octopus with a spicy salsa verde. Deeply charred on the outside, the tentacles were tender and not a bit chewy. Dish five: eringi mushrooms baked (and served) in a foil parcel, swimming in a dangerously good sake, butter and garlic sauce, with beurre blanc for dipping. Rich and boozy, the theme of the night was definitely indulgence. For what it’s worth, next time I’d try the 5 spice fried quail with sweet and sour dip, and the crunchy Singapore chicken. Oh, and it goes without saying that the crispy oysters, tacos and foie gras croissant would be on the table in a flash. Sitting behind us was an ice cream machine, churning out beer and pretzel soft serve, drizzled with salted fudge sauce so it would have been rude not to – it was amazing and a suitably innovative and playful end to the meal.
What We Drank: A ‘hipster’ cocktail menu packs a punch. Don’t expect a half-hearted mixer, here you will find Patrón and sake-laced concoctions, as well as a good old fashioned G&T. A tall glass still packed a punch though… Good job it was Saturday night.
Go With: Anyone who appreciates innovative food or who would normally head to Soho/East for a food fix. Kurobuta fans are the obvious target but as long as your companions aren’t expecting somewhere quintessentially ‘Chelsea’ you won’t go wrong.
Final Word: Mr Pig saw me eating some of the best food I’ve had in a long time, if not ever. Up there with the finest of fine dining restaurants, there’s something pretty unbeatable about the confidence of great food, served in unassuming surroundings and that is absolutely the appeal of it. Book a table quickly, it won’t be long till the whole of SW3 (and beyond) are queuing down the stairs.
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Fran can be found sipping espresso martinis by night and, by day, on the hunt for London's best brunch. Bonus points for a runny yolk and the perfect flat white.