What? Scott Hallsworth, the Australian chef behind Kurobuta and author of Junk Food Japan, has embarked on a new project, waving goodbye (for now) to the formalities of running a restaurant in favour of a three-month, one-man-band (two if you include his partner who runs front-of-house) pop-up in Farringdon.
New? Freak Scene opened back in July and was only ever intended to stick around short-term. Saying that, Kurobuta started life in a similarly temporary guise before becoming permanent so you never know, Freak Scene could be here to stay.
Where? 91 Cowcross Street, Farringdon, EC1M 6BH, www.scotthallsworth.com
On the Menu: For a venue titled ‘Freak Scene’ and the author of ‘Junk Food Japan’, the menu is suitably Asian, with a hint of rock ’n’ roll. Dishes are designed for sharing (good bonding for a date) and come in familiar appetiser, starter and more substantial form, as the menu descends. Think flavours of rich miso, tangy citrus and the odd unexpected twist in every dish.
The Look: The interior is minimal, giving the impression that they set up shop pretty quickly, after a quick trip to Ikea. Diners perch on low stools, with a lucky few at the window or at the bar – a position to request if you want to see the chef in action – whilst tea lights on each table add ambience.
What We Ate: We dived straight in with a selection of dishes from the menu, but our enthusiasm was thankfully met with a little more restraint from the kitchen as the plates arrived one at a time, in an acceptably chronological order. Chilli crab and avocado wonton bombs kicked things off as they meant to go on, with miso-grilled black cod tacos an early highlight. Everything is made by Scott and if you glance through to the kitchen at any given moment you’ll see him tossing/mixing/grilling every one of his innovative creations himself.
Cubes of miso-grilled aubergine were so tender and well marinated they could almost have been mistaken for fish, whilst grilled pork belly served in lettuce ‘wraps’ was paired with unsuspecting mussels – the dish captured every flavour you would hope of Asian food; it was spicy, tangy and fresh with every bite.
The real highlight was the wonderfully named ‘chicken-fried chicken’, proving that no matter how delicious the dish in question, it is the power of words that captures our attention. A rich, almost sticky soy sauce was packed full of peanuts, and it wasn’t long before we were mopping up every last mouthful with the ‘chicken-fried chicken’ itself.
Though we no doubt could have stopped at this point, food envy courtesy of the next table meant we couldn’t leave without trying the duck red curry. Served on the bone, the meat practically flaked off without assistance, bathing in the perfectly-flavoured curry sauce below. Lychees added a touch of sweetness, whilst fresh chillies quickly took it away. A wonderful end to a very indulgent and innovative meal.
What We Drank: Freak Scene is a license-free zone, so nip to the nearby bottle shop or bring whatever you fancy from home. They do offer a strong selection of soft drinks – everything from Karma Cola (the does-good, tastes-better cola variety we should all be drinking) to iced tea.
Go With: The space is pretty cosy, so leave the friends at home and take one special guest.
Final Word: Scott Hallsworth proves that the prefect ingredients for a great meal out are really only creativity, a humble kitchen and hungry, inquisitive diners. Visit before its run is up (mid-October) to let them know you want Freak Scene to stick around.
Freak Scene: 91 Cowcross Street, Farringdon, EC1M 6BH
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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.