1 | Black Cod Tacos (At Freak Scene)
Scott Hallsworth really knows flavour and he really, really knows chilli. This former Nobu head chef (London and Melbourne), who also founded Chelsea’s Kurobuta, launched Freak Scene as a pop up last year but has – praise be – found it a permanent home in Soho. It fits in nicely there, perfect for time-addled lunchtime diners and those seeking a buzzy bite up at a bar top.
All of Hallsworth’s Japanese fusion food is surprising, inventive, punchy and, we’re going to say it, downright delicious. Portions are small-ish, designed to be shared, and leave you refreshed and buoyed up, with a long-lingering warmth in and around your mouth. Start with the crab and avocado wonton bombs and move onto the honey-hoisin pork belly, served in a lettuce cup with pineapple salsa and some satisfyingly salty mussels. Also don’t miss the black cod taco: covered in miso and flamed on the robata grill, the fish is as soft as you’d hope but thwacks you in the face with its flavour. It’s unlike any other black cods you’ll encounter and it’s not too spicy – it’s just awesome. Cool down again with a beer boasting a frozen lemon top. What else?
54 Frith Street, London, W1D 4SL; freakscene.london
2 | Roquefort Pebbles (At Club Gascon)
From the new world back to a classic, remastered. Club Gascon is a stalwart of fine French cuisine, and this Michelin-starred Farringdon restaurant underwent a refurbishment at the end of last year. So there are still smart white tablecloths, but the seating has livelier jewelled colours, in velvet, and everything is a touch more convivial. This is a treat-with-the-family kind of place, and so the pleasingly compact 5-course tasting menu starts to make sense.
That currently takes the form of “A Taste of Spring,” which means beautifully fresh white asparagus and garlicky lamb rump. But it also means “Roquefort pebble” which is served with chocolate-infused sugarcane and boozy walnuts. And that’s the thing: this place takes its cheese very seriously. It is a trait we whole-heartedly salute. Theirs is not just a dessert menu, it is a “cheese and dessert menu”, and your wines will be as painstakingly paired with those as the savoury dishes. Give it a whirl for a touch of proper French class.
57 West Smithfield, London, EC1A 9DS; clubgascon.com
3 | XXL Cheese & Mustard Toastie (At The Wigmore)
While we’re speaking to your inner cheese-lover, are you sad you missed out on Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day on Thursday? Don’t be: we’re continuing celebrations right through the weekend because, honestly, how on earth is one day enough? The braver among you might give Borough Market a whirl: if you can hack the queues then a tangy Kappacasein toasty – made with three cheeses accentuated by little bits of leeks and onions – is a thing of beauty and can be enjoyed during a stroll along the South Bank.
For a sit-down experience, head to The Wigmore at the top of Regent Street (the sleek but cosy pub in one corner of The Langham hotel) where Michel Roux Jr’s bar menu is spearheaded by the XXL toastie. This one also contains three cheeses, is warmed by a generous dose of mustard, and is so big it gets its own serving board. Wash it down with one of the many craft beers adorning the bar.
15 Langham Place, Regent Street, London, W1B 3DE; the-wigmore.co.uk
4 | Cast-Iron Steak (At Hawksmoor)
And while we’re remembering these important days of the year, mark Tuesday 17th into your diary: World Malbec Day. Hear Malbec, think steak. And who else would we run to but Hawksmoor? The original branch, in Spitalfields, has had a loving refurbishment to bring it in line with the others so, don’t worry, it’s as charming and low-lit as you’d expect but with a snazzy new brass bar top, vintage parquet floor, and some blue-hued stained-glass windows which colour the light streaking onto the banquettes. Delightful.
There are also some additions to the menu. You’ll have to be quick to snap up the slow-cooked short rib, which comes looking like a bona fide feast with roasted Roscoff onions and bone marrow. Or there’s the small but mighty cast-iron steak: a seared fillet topped with crispy onions and, again, that oh-so-tasty bone marrow. Bonus: the new mash variation is topped with a generous chunk of melted Tunworth cheese (can you sense a theme here?). Add the proverbial cherry on top with the ‘Hawksmoor blend’ Malbec, from the Pulenta Estate in Argentina, and your Tuesday will beat everybody else’s. By a country mile.
157A Commercial Street, London, E1 6BJ; thehawksmoor.com
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