Freak Scene: Freakin’ good

If you were a chef, what would be your dream? A fair guess might be that once you had a built a cult following, open your own place on your own terms: an intimate venue, decorated just the way you would like it, with your favourite tunes playing on the sound system. One iteration of this vision can be found at Scott Hallsworth’s Freak Scene in Soho. Some have likened the venue to a teenager’s bedroom, but a more considered assessment might be a deft mingling of the retro and the cool: think NWA hip-hop meets Japanese manga culture, with a bit of graffiti thrown in for good measure. This is not a place for intimacy (indeed, it’s rather loud), but more for hanging out and digging the scene. Diners have only the choice of sitting in a row at the counter (or by the wall on the opposite side), but this is perhaps deliberate, as from here it is possible to see the whole show in action – not just the art and the music, but Scott and his team crafting the dishes. It seemed evident to us from a recent midweek visit that everything here is done with passion and prior thought, even if the vibe suggests a more relaxed and impromptu approach. The culinary angle is pan-Asian with strong Japanese influences, and draws on Scott’s prior experience at Nobu and Kurobuta. As is the current fashion, all dishes are meant for sharing, allowing diners to sample across the menu (and, more cynically, potentially spend more). Here, the choice is around twenty offerings, the majority of which are established favourites on the list, although some plates do change, depending on demand and seasonality. What stood out from the dozen or so dishes our group of four sampled were two things: the beautiful presentation throughout and the artful combination of spice, savoury, sour and sweet notes. Each mouthful was an intense flavour sensation. To give some examples, chilli crab is paired with avocado in a wonton ‘bomb,’ miso-grilled black cod (pictured) is stuffed into a taco and complemented with sushi rice and chilli salsa, or Thai pork is married with Scotch Bonnet mayo in a dainty bun. Vegetarians are also well catered for, with mushroom, cauliflower, artichoke and aubergine options featuring on the menu. Expect to pay around £10 per dish. Cocktails are also cool here and once the main dining rush is over, Freak Scene remains an enjoyable bar option. Sip your drink, take in the vibe and get your freak on.