Pickled Fred's Ben Lusty on how a monkey inspired his new restaurant

By Rachel Graham

- Last updated on GMT

Pickled Fred's Ben Lusty

Related tags: Pickling, Fermentation

Launched last month by friends Ben Lusty and Can Turker, Pickled Fred is a Shoreditch-based pan-Asian restaurant that – as the name suggests – brings pickles and other ferments to the fore. As Lusty (pictured right) explains, they’ve even put them in the cocktails. 

Why focus on pickles?

We knew we weren’t going to have a holiday for a long time if we opened our own place, so we had a big one and went to the Philippines. We saw a little monkey who kept creeping into the hotel’s kitchen and nicking their pickles. Jokingly, we called him Fred and the idea was born.

How has Pickled Fred been received so far?

People have been receptive to the food and the drink but also the brand. A couple of my friends were sceptical about all the pickles, but we gave them a couple of dishes with fermented ingredients in and they loved how seamlessly it worked with the food. A favourite has been sticky rice parcels with caramelised pickled plums. Caramelising takes away a lot of the instant sourness of the pickling and gives great flavour.

What are you main influences?

My business partner Can and I like south east Asian food. We always go out for Thai and Malay. Can is Turkish so there’s a definite Middle East influence in there too, and Dan (Borham, head chef) likes Indian flavours so it’s an eclectic mix of all of those flavours.

What’s on the menu?

Our launch menu includes kohlrabi som tam with peanuts, pickled shallot, cherry tomato, cucumber, chilli and fresh herbs; mackerel in dry red curry with pickled golden beetroot and lime pickles; and chermoula aubergine flatbread with rocket, labneh, dukkah and pickled cherry tomatoes.

How did Pickled Fred come about?

I’ve always known I wanted to own my own place, then Can and I met working in various London restaurants together. We’ve dipped in and out of places taking the best ideas forward and have been looking for a venue for the last three years. Finding somewhere that’s available and works does take a lot of time, but as soon as we saw the Hanbury Street site we knew it was perfect.

How do the pickles work in cocktails?

We’re using a lot of ferments and preserves as well. We’ve got a fermented rose petal and strawberry wine which is perfect in cocktails. The fermenting process gives it a nice fizzy, sour quality. Can made a kumquat preserve to accompany classic dark spirit cocktails. He calls it Picon’s Golden Orange. It’s been a labour of love but great fun to invent stuff. We’re also working on a pickle martini, which will be ready soon. 

Have you had any pickling disasters?

We have tried every method of pickling and fermenting there is so of course there have been a couple of bubbling kimchi, but no massive disasters yet. You have to keep an eye on them because they can turn quickly.

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