What: Scott Hallsworth is back after a messy split with his business partners at Japanese restaurant group Kurobuta. In Clerkenwell, Freakscene contains some DNA from the well-received but latterly troubled Kurobuta and some from Hallsworth’s short-lived south east Asian pop-up Joe’s Oriental Diner. The affable Aussie and former Nobu head chef says he’s starting from scratch with a handful of former Kurobuta team members and has had to open the Cowcross Street restaurant on a shoestring. The restaurant is currently being billed as a three-month pop-up, but this could be extended if it is a success.
The vibe: Hallsworth has taken the site that was once home to short-lived sous vide grab-and-go brand Suchef. The restaurant retains many of the former occupant's fixtures and fittings including a large counter, menu screens and even some signage. Much of the tableware and furniture have been sourced from Ikea. While the venue isn’t likely to win any design awards, it’s been put together with care and a sense of humour (Hallsworth has adapted one of Suchef’s old signs to read ‘fresh lads rap and drink’). As you’d expect from a restaurant named after a Dinosaur Jr. track, the music is loud.
The food: Hallsworth is working pretty much unaided in the kitchen with limited kit so the menu is tight, just a dozen dishes or so on any given service. Grab a seat by the counter to watch the high profile chef work up a sweat. Despite his limitations, Hallsworth is producing high quality food.
On the menu: Freakscene’s menu includes chilli, crab and avocado wonton bombs; Thai pork meatballs with dill, chilli, shallots and tamarind sauce; miso-grilled black cod tacos with sushi rice and scorched red chilli and tomato salsa; and little buns packed with beef rendang. There are also a handful of dishes that were on the menu at Kurobuta, including Hallsworth’s famous sashimi pizza with truffle ponzu as well as miso grilled aubergine with caramelised walnuts. The drinks list is tight with a handful of beers and wines and a weekly changing selection of sake.
And another thing: The cooking at Freakscene is apparently inspired by the music of The Pixies. Metric, The Ramones, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Yo La Tengo and underrated US indie band Pavement. Quite how, remains unclear...