63-64 Frith Street, Soho, London, W1D 3JW www.flavourbastard.com
What’s in a name? Nick finds Flavour Bastard a restaurant in search of grown up marketing for its fashionable finger food.
I’m sorry, I don’t like the name, I really don’t. I’ve read why they called it that of course, it’s all about how Executive ChefP ratap Chahal’s ‘cooking has no’parents’, no traceable lineage as such, but I find it jejune.
I don’t much like the space it’s in either, it was okay when it was Arbutus a semi-fine dining restaurant, but it doesn’t suit this style of food at all. Sharing plate menus need small rooms and young crowds, queues to get in and people waving phones over their food. In this space it feels like an upstart has taken over the royal palace.
In fact, that may well be the design idea; faux graffiti is on the walls and even in the loo, making my teeth itch with annoyance. The first Meat Liquor did a great job of punking up a room, there it really did feel like a genuine illegal squat, but this is too self-conscious and mannered.
Ah but the food? Well thankfully this is interesting, if all over the shop style-wise and lacking cohesion. True to the concept nothing seems to fit into any category at all. How do you classify a dish of pork scratchings served with a tin of mackerel and anchovy pate? The tinning is done in the kitchen, by the way.
It’s gimmicky of course, the waiter has to wrestle with the ring pull at the table, but it’s good to eat. The scratchings are perfect; crunchy without breaking your teeth and pate is loose, richly flavoured and easily spreadable.
Dishes arrive in no particular order from the menu of small and’tiny’ plates. White lentil, chorizo and pecorino doughnut are three cute little flavour bombs, spicy and tangy and pop in the mouth perfect, but why three? I know it looks better than two, odd numbers always come across badly on the plate Instagram-wise, but there are two of us and cutting the third in half is awkward.
Same applied to deep-fried feta, walnuts, honey and mint. I love feta, but I’ve never tried deep frying it. I will now, this had salt, sweet and mint with the added bonus of crunch.
Deceptively simple but defiantly addictive and like the former dish something well suited to street food crowds, were this a street.
A dish called a cloud of curds, gram confetti, mint relish, guindilla chilli had to be tried. Curds have become a lot more fashionable since the time of Little Miss Muffit, but can be rather gruesome when handled badly. This we liked despite its sharing unfriendliness, the chili enlivening it without drowning it and the flavours while mixed still individually distinctive.
On we went with Dingley Dell pork belly with cinnamon and clove, bacon jam, pickled carrot. This had the makings of a proper dish, and not just a snack, with its recognisable structure and the pickled carrot was particularly good against the jam and the excellent pork.
Also very promising was the monkfish, watergrass cream, flaked rice, crispy lotus. A proper dish for grown ups and one I would have happily eaten sized up to be a main course with perhaps a bit of rice on the side.
We had other dishes too, but I can’t describe them all. Some, such as the Tandoori Fried Chicken that came with a smart vinegar dunk, we liked more than others, but none were disappointing. Except perhaps my dessert of quinoa and cucumber pudding scented with vetiver, berries, pistachio. It felt a bit like eating breakfast in Islington.
The food, although somewhat repetitive in its unpredicability, is certainly accomplished and enjoyable at FB and the sommelier, Nick Jones, founder of Wines of Momentary Destination, managed to choose us a white wine that pretty much went with everything, which was no mean feat.
Change the menu to a more traditional structure and be less scattergun with the dishes’ styles, and FB will work. Call me an old fart, and many have, but I like to eat starter, main and dessert in sequence and to share my plate with nobody.
So for that reason, and really for that reason alone, I am afraid I am out as they say in Dragon’s Den.