Scott Hallsworth, the one time Nobu head chef and founder of Kurobuta, the izakaya-like Japanese restaurant brand with sites on the King’s Road and in Paddington, will launch a new solo venture in Soho called Freak Scene. It will take the site formerly occupied by the iconic London tapas bar, Barrafina (and which more recently served as Adam Simmonds’ Test Kitchen.) It is due to open on Thursday 29 March.
With co-founder Phar Shaweewan, Hallsworth first launched Freak Scene — named after a song by 90s indie grunge band Dinosaur Jr. — last July as a “pan-Asian pop-up,” serving “curious Asian plates” in Clerkenwell. It is, they say, “inspired by [Hallsworth’s] experience in Japanese, Singaporean and Malay cooking.” It will open despite the fact Hallsworth’s crowdfunding campaign, launched late last year, failed to meet its £22,000 target.
The new site, on Frith Street, says it will take inspiration from “bustling Singaporean hawker centres” with a south east Asian-inspired menu. A number of dishes created for the Clerkenwell pop-up will be reintroduced at the restaurant. They include: miso-grilled black cod tacos with sushi rice and scorched red chilli; chilli crab and avocado wonton “bombs”; chicken-fried chicken with peanut soy and cucumber pickles; and a honey-hoisin grilled pork belly, mussels and chilli jam ssam wrap.
New additions to the menu are said to include a foie gras croissant with star anise jus and crispy nori cone with tea-smoked beef fillet, pickled onions and wasabi cream, alongside fermented Thai sausages and Pumpkin som tam with pomegranate.
About the new opening, Hallsworth said: “I’m thrilled that we’ve found a permanent home for Freak Scene, and I think Soho is the perfect spot for us. We can’t wait to fire up the grills and introduce our take on Japanese small plates to a whole new part of London.”
Much of the cooking will be done on Japanese robata grills, around which counter bar seating will be offered to guests, while replays of the cult Japanese gameshow Takeshi’s Castle will be projected onto the wall.
At the bar, which unconfirmed reports say will be called “The Thirst Trap,” guests are invited to order from an “irreverent drinks list,” which will include Scoby yeast-based cocktails “with a rich umami hit”; sake bombs; and, somewhat astonishingly, “blends” such as “the cheekily-named Wet Pussy” — a drink that comprises peach schnapps and vodka, with a twist of lemon and lime, and a not insignificant measure of bro spirit.
Added to that will be a New World wine list, a sake selection, flavoured shochu, something called 100% vegan Skinny Prosecco and yuzu-spiked Wild Beer, “for the beer drinkers.”
Freak Scene is a lot.