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Breaking the mould: feisty Freak Scene of Frith Street

Soho restaurant with echoes of hippy counterculture has food that will surprise and wrongfoot you

09 May, 2019 — By Tom Moggach

The dishes, such as this pork and pineapple sambal, at Freaky Scene surprise and wrongfoot

FREAK Scene is a wacky name for a restaurant, offering few clues about its style of food. It has echoes of the hippy counterculture, or perhaps a fragrant coffee shop in Amsterdam.

But this is the bold identity of a feisty place in Frith Street in Soho – the unique creation of a chef with an intriguing CV.

Australian Scott Hallsworth was head chef at swanky Nobu in Mayfair before forays into Japan, Turkey and Dubai. Freak Scene is an expression of the flavours he loves from Asia – especially Japanese, Singaporean and Malay.

This site was once home to Barrafina, a well-known tapas joint which moved around the corner.

Weirdly, a meal at Freak Scene shares many features with this Spanish style of casual dining

The food is served tapas style, in small portions to share. You still sit at the counter hugging the open-plan kitchen, watching the tattooed chefs at work.

Indeed, I suspect they have even kept the same counter installed by Barrafina – why rip it out and start again?

The walls at Freak Scene are thickly plastered with music posters and Manga-style graphic design. There’s a soundtrack of Indie tunes; a projector throws out scenes of cult Japanese gameshows.]

“We’ve got a huge picture of Lemmy from Motorhead staring right at us,” said my friend, slightly startled as she settled in.

Start with the homemade pickles – a humble dish that explodes with zingy flavours.

Roam between shiitake mushrooms dusted with sesame seeds, slivers of mooli radish, kimchi and more – a medley of intense tastes and textures.

The Hispi cabbage dish is a showstopper: the chef throws wedges on the grill before roasting, then layering with a dressing of yuzu citrus, truffle oil, soy and dried miso.

This is food that will surprise and wrongfoot you. Scallops are served on a bed of braised oxtail – a savoury combination that somehow works well.

Crisp-fried wonton “bombs” are filled with squidgy avocado and crab then topped with shredded shallot, coriander and red chilli – messy finger food of the highest order.

The 100-watt waitress brings us a chicken thigh and leg to the table, then shreds the flesh with a fork. This is served with a sticky soy base studded with crunchy peanuts and discs of pickled cucumber.

Our only dud dish was a tuna tartare – the delicate flavour of the fish struggling to make itself heard.

For drinks, there’s saki, cocktails and a fashion-conscious wine list.

“This is limited production, micro wine straight from a garage in Valdejalon” reads one description. Their prosecco is “vegan, unfiltered, organic … refreshing, funky and complex”.

Seating is either on stools around the counter or on a ledge table along one wall – so not ideal for large groups.

Freak Scene is a restaurant that breaks the mould. So the name, in fact, is rather apt. Expect to pay around £30 per head, before drinks and service.

Freak Scene
54 Frith St, W1D
0207 734 6370
www.freakscene.london

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