The Japanese ‘izakaya’ concept debuted on the King’s Road in October last year. It was originally launched by Hallsworth as a temporary restaurant while work was carried out on the earmarked permanent site on Kendal Street.
But planning and investment issues ahead of the opening of that site, and the huge popularity of the pop-up, has led to Hallsworth seeking a permanent lease for the Chelsea premises – which works out better than expected for the Austalian-born chef.
“The pop-up became very popular with locals and we quickly realized the King’s Road area was screaming out for an offering like ours,” Hallsworth told BigHospitality. “Our fans have become very loyal so it would be ridiculous for us to walk away from it.
“It’s a small restaurant (38 covers) so we can run it in conjunction with our Kendal Street site reasonably easily. We have an appetite to have more sites anyway, so it actually worked out as a great fit.”
The owner of the King’s Road site is in the process of changing the property’s classification to A3, which will allow Hallsworth to extend the restaurant with a balcony and add some additional space upstairs for more exclusive offering.
Meanwhile, the originally secured site on Kendal Street will open on 23 April. Hallsworth is fully prepared for the launch in Connaught Village, having learnt some valuable lessons at King’s Road.
“We set up the Chelsea site on barely any money. It taught me that you can do all of this without messing about over-training people and buying the very best of everything. We had a shabby-chic approach and, for whatever reason, people loved it - It’s an alternative to ‘the Mayfair approach’, which is very contrived and staged, in my opinion.”
Kurobuta Kendal Street is larger than the Chelsea site, with space for over 60 diners along with a separate bar area. Hallsworth is hoping to capture that ‘small-restaurant’ vibe, though, and the chef will be back and forth between the two venues to oversee their performance. Head chefs will eventually be brought in to manage both kitchens.
The menu will incorporate some of Hallsworth’s new ideas, but the offering on the whole will remain very much the same; with the traditional Japanese-style pub opening for breakfast through to dinner, serving coffee, Japanese teas and pastries before offering savoury and sweet small dishes throughout the day.
Dishes such as warm salmon with yuzu truffle miso and puffed rice; beef fillet tataki with onion ponzu and garlic crisps and warm milk chocolate doughnuts dusted with jasmine sugar will be priced between £4 and £15, with bento boxes on sale for between £8.50 and £13.50. Kurobuta's bar will offer beer, wine, sake and shochu alongside a 'playful' cocktail list which uses Japanese inspired infusions, fruits, vegetables and spices.
Speaking of future developments, Hallsworth concluded he had his hands full with a number of projects, all of which are in the formulation stage at the moment.
“There’s talk about a pop-up in Copenhagen or Tokyo; and we’re also testing the waters with a nightclub operator to create something very new in the nightclub market,” added the chef.
“For Kurobuta, there’s definitely room for further growth and that’s what we’ve identified. If you look at the mid-market, I don’t think anyone’s really nailed it. That’s where the idea for Kurobuta came about, and the formula’s absolutely worked.
“Shoreditch is the spiritual home of Kurobuta and if we split ourselves in the right way we could sustain one more there and several others across London.”
Hallsworth worked for Nobu London for six years before taking up the position of head chef at Nobu Melbourne in 2007. The Australian was a partner in Wabi with business partner Andre Cachia until leaving the company in May 2013. He helped launch Wabi's first site in Horsham, West Sussex in 2010 before opening the second at Lincoln's Inn Fields in London as executive chef in 2012.
Kurobuta Marble Arch will open at 17-20 Kendal Street on 23 April.