The man behind Horsham restaurant Wabi says he believes he has created a brand that can rival established Japanese restaurant operators such as Nobu and Roka as he unveils plans to open a restaurant in London's Lincoln's Inn Fields this autumn.
Scott Hallsworth, who spent six years as a chef at Nobu and opened the company's Melbourne branch in 2007 before leaving to set up his own restaurant, will open Wabi London with business partner Andre Cachia this October with plans to bring new-found 'passion' to the market.
"I think we can square up to the likes of these restaurants," he said. "Nobu will survive because of its strong brand, but I think as we're still fairly new that we have that real passion to bring to the table. Nobu has multiple sites, this is just our second, but I really think we can take them and others like them on."
Wabi London will offer a more 'high end' experience than that offered at its sister site in Horsham, Hallsworth told BigHospitality, with a central theatre kitchen, a pastry bar and a sushi bar, manned by another ex-Nobu chef Taiji Maruyama, to feature.
Signature dishes will include foie gras martini with umeshu jelly, nashi and black vinegar, onsen egg with dashi-soy, truffle salt and chives and tea smoked duck tataki with burnt ginger amazu sauce.
Rocco Catalano, who has worked at Maze, Buddha Bar and the 5th Floor Bar at Harvey Nichols will oversee the bar in his role as bar manager.
Hallsworth said Horsham had been a good testing ground for the concept, but that the London site would be a very different place.
"The brand is the same," he said, "but London will have a very different feel to Horsham as they're very different markets. There will be similarities, but we see Horsham more as a diffusion brand rather than a copy of what we will have in London."
"London's always been on the radar, but the opportunity for Horsham came up first so we decided to take that site on and have managed to test things out on a much smaller scale. We've learnt a lot in Horsham but the main thing we'll take from there will be experience."
Wabi's second site is not expected to be its last. Hallsworth said the company, which is financially backed by aviation professional, Cachia, has plans to operate five sites by 2016.
"Our plan is to open five Wabis in five years, but we are taking it step by step. We have had interest from outside of the UK, but we are undecided about which direction we'll take at the moment. It's hard to say where the next Wabi will be, but I think in the next year we'll start planning site number three."