This review was published in 2017. Flavour Bastard closed in 2019.
I’ve reached an age where my digestion is readily affected by anything which taints the serenity of my eating experience. By way of extreme examples, consider listening to techno music or watching swirling, lurid patterns while eating. Something discombobulating would happen, I feel sure. Knowing very well how Soho shapes up as a night out, I approached Flavour Bastard just three weeks into its existence with a combination of intrigue and trepidation.
The bar area of Flavour Bastard bears all the hallmarks of virtually every Frith Street haunt I’ve set foot in: short of space, full to the brim and loud. Mixologists threw cocktail apparatus around, splashing ingredients on those perched on nearby stools. Beyond the corridor-like bar lies the restaurant proper. I dined on a weeknight (blessing and a curse) and there was the obligatory work party on a table occupying a big portion of the dining space. Its members grew louder and louder with their alcohol intake, competing with each other to be heard. In turn, all other diners were fighting to maintain their conversations and the restaurant’s atmosphere became one giant blanket of white noise; a human-generated din that made my bones vibrate. It was as if the sound waves had made an enemy of my body.
I assuaged the agony with a tankard of the restaurant’s own beer: “Bastard Brew”. Chilled as lager, 4% ABV and made with Amarillo hops, it really was the perfect hybrid of lager and ale. It was wheat beer-esque and mightily flavoursome, as well as crisp. Without exaggeration, it could turn out to be my preferred craft beer of 2017.
The food menu makes obvious that powerful flavours are at the heart of the offering – all with an accent of Indian cuisine. Everything is on a small plate basis, similar to tapas. About a dozen were on offer, to include tantalizingly unusual entries such as tandoori fried chicken and jerk mussels. The chef (or kitchen team) had marked up the menu to elucidate finer particulars to the reader, such as the use of vetiver in one of the dishes. The hand-written annotations had me in mind of a partner’s scrawl all over documents during my trainee lawyer days.
I worked my way through most of the small plates menu, preferring the roasted guinea fowl, pork belly and duck egg with curried cauliflower. The guinea fowl in particular (at £18 for half the bird) shone. It appeared in a cast iron pot and I hacked off dense, gamey meat. Oddly, perhaps the item I enjoyed most during the meal was from the hors d’oeuvres section, namely bread and dripping, the latter element made from pork, beef and lamb fat. Oh my word. The fat! The dripping was off white and boarded my knife like room temperature butter. So savoury and decadent was it, I ordered two rounds.
The wine get-up at Flavour Bastard is interesting in that it has plenty of great wines to offer – just not much is made of it. The wine part of the drinks list doesn’t show vintages, which sort of betrays an obvious commitment to aged bottles given I was able to order a 1999 Toro. A bit of customer attention ensued when a staff member named Nick, ostensibly in charge of drinks, came over to muse that he figured I was into wine due to my multitudinous vintage questions and, further, that he used the heel of his shoe to encourage the stubborn cork out of the Toro. The office party had since cleared out and we were able to hold a 5-minute conversation in relative calm.
As to the rest of the service experience, I cannot fault the attitude of those I met. There was some forgetfulness and a long, slow wait at the start to get water. I think these minor issues are symptomatic of the restaurant’s newness and are capable of being ironed out in the coming weeks.
I can certainly praise Flavour Bastard. The food is experimental and unapologetic. It fits Soho entirely and will appeal to London’s fun-seekers. I thought initially that I wouldn’t be able to get past the melee of loud voices and music – however, in the end, there was more than enough enjoyment within the outing and a very reasonable bill to boot. Go along if you too are intrigued, but don’t necessarily expect to hold intimate conversation.
63-64 Frith Street
by C Ley