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Hands up, who here has made a reservation after stalking a restaurant on Instagram? I stumbled across the colourful, tantalising close-ups of fiery kimchi and decorative tapas plates and a week later, I was there to check out the Flavour Bastard fusion restaurant in London. But growing up, ‘fusion’ was the word for badly adapted Asian food made palatable for unaccustomed taste buds. Thankfully, it has steadily improved. Now we have the likes of Gaa sister restaurant of Asia’s Best Restaurant Gaggan, not to mention the popular rise of Peruvian food that was built on the merging of various cuisines. So what more could the new Soho restaurant add?
Decked out in a minimalist interior, featuring statement concrete walls flecked with gold and velvet pillows, the decor and ambience stands in contrast to its name. I was expecting a space filled with iron wrought bar stools and concrete tables with an open kitchen and perpetually glowing heat lamps. The real thing was a much more pleasant atmosphere.
The restaurant was empty during the Monday lunch hour, so we didn’t need to have made a reservation. We were recommended to choose three to four plates each to share. I have to say, I’m kind of sick of this dining style. Although I love to try a range of dishes, this format often comes with tiny portions, weird lapses in the arrival of the food that make you question whether you ordered too much or too little and worse of all, a hefty price tag. I’d say that the last point was the only real flaw of Flavour Bastard. Small dishes that are more like snacks come at £3.50-4, which is a palatable cost for a West Central restaurant. But the choices for ‘mains’, especially our Bastard steak tartare (£7.50), were comparatively not much bigger in size.
That aside, let’s jump to what you really want to know: the flavour.
When it comes to food, ‘subtle’ should be clearly intentional, otherwise intense flavour is preferred. This restaurant certainly lives up to its name. The kimchi with rice cakes kicks the tongue with a lashing of Indian spices, although I was told that it only contained Korean barbecue sauce. I suspect a ‘secret ingredient’ that won’t be disclosed. The mussels were powerful – laden with frazzling, numbing Scotch Bonnet fire and a moreish rum and Jerk sauce. The bread provided wouldn’t have been enough to mop up its gravy and if I had finished the whole thing, there wouldn’t have been enough tissues in the place for my runny nose and tears. That’s a challenge for you chilli addicts out there.
However, the octopus with passion fruit was a disappointment: it was slightly rubbery and I don’t want to say it’s frozen produce but I definitely won’t say fresh. It also didn’t have that fruity tanginess at all that you’d expect when you see a pairing like passion fruit. And that’s a little hard to forgive when there’s a solid Spanish place down the road, Lobos Meat and Tapas, which can serve up a chunky, crisped tentacle. Then there was the mango and miso aubergine which was a snooze and buried under peanuts. Again, Shackfuyu a few minutes walk away does a much better, fatter eggplant with a glazed, sweet miso.
You can’t really go to a place like Flavour Bastard and skip the dessert. Plus we were still quite peckish so our stomaches couldn’t really afford to. The churros with a choice of blood orange sorbet, clementine marmalade and petitgrain (perfume) or white chocolate and pecan praline were on offer.
Despite my complaints about a few dishes here and there, and of course, the price, I did enjoy my meal. It helps a lot when you’re in a restaurant with properly trained staff. Our waiter was only what could be described as a sweetheart (although I bet he was withholding kimchi spice secrets from me). It was a particularly cold day on which my boyfriend and I made a visit, and we were kindly offered complimentary hot chocolates. 10/10 would recommend for cocoa lovers, this stuff is the real thing and there are even dairy-free alternatives.
Flavour Bastard is a bombastic name for this West End restaurant with its eclectic spin on international food, where certain dishes really fly the flag for fusion cuisine but others dash high expectations. Not to mention a £50 lunch for two without alcohol and not enough food to satisfy the midday hunger, this is a restaurant for business expenses card.
63-64 Frith Street,