I love chefs that are able to do extraordinary things with food. The ones who push the boundaries, who use their imagination and who can elevate something from good to outstanding. Pratap Chahal is one of those chefs, who I was actually lucky enough to meet at The Dog’s Dinner Grub Club Pop-Up back in January.
Pratap has worked in some of the UK’s finest restaurants including Gordon Ramsay Claridge’s, Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Chez Bruce and the Cinnamon Club. You may have also seen Pratap feature in the current series of Nadiya Hussain’s British Food Adventure on the BBC, where he demonstrated how to infuse smell into food to create a new and intriguing flavour. It was great. Catch it on iPlayer if you can!
Now Pratap has opened his first restaurant, Flavour Bastard on Frith Street. With a gorgeously elegant and regal purple front with an opulent splash of gold over the front door, you’ll find it where Arbutus once stood, close to Soho Square. My colleagues Emily & Zack came with me one lunchtime to take advantage of the 50% soft launch offer, and we ordered as much food our little tummies could take!
The menu works on a collection of small plates which can be shared as a table or ordered individually to everyone’s personal cravings. We did the latter, though we did share the nibbles and tiny plates, and I did sneak a few bites of Emily’s food as she ordered differently to myself and Zack.
Those nibbly tiny dishes that we shared were the deep-fried feta with walnuts and honey, the white lentil and chorizo doughnuts and the mackerel and anchovy paté which came accompanied by a generously sized bowl of pork crackling. The deep fried feta was a delight on all accounts. The hot, salty feta was balanced with the gooey, sweet honey while the walnut offered an enjoyable texture alternative. Two bites and it was gone, but the intensity of flavour didn’t mean you were left wanting more (though I wouldn’t have said no to several more portions!)
The miniature crispy doughnuts were a mouthful of intense chorizo meatiness mixed with a gentle, wholesome flavour of the lentil. A salty kick was offered with the addition of parmesan shavings, though it was nothing in comparison to the moorish salty kick provided by the anchovies in the final tiny plate. The crackling delivered on all fronts; loud, salty and perfectly shaped to act as a shovel for the paté – my favourite pub snack elevated to restaurant quality.
The bigger “small” plates began to arrive as and when they were ready. Emily had chosen the Tandoori Fried Chicken and the Dingley Dell pork belly. The fried chicken was tender, succulent and oozed with juices as it was pulled apart. With the crispiest skin without even a hint of grease, I’d say it gives the infamous jerk chicken of James Cochrane EC3 a run for its money as the best in London.
The pork belly, on the other hand, was elegant in flavour, which a gentle warmth from the spices. It fell apart effortlessly, and the bacon jam and pickled carrot offered a sharp sweetness to balance the intense meaty flavour. It was visually perfect and a great size for lunch.
I started with the Smoked Goat with pomegranate and frankincense (yes, that one from The Nativity story) which was sensational. With a gorgeous smokey depth and a mouth-watering sweetness from the orange, each bite managed to create a different flavour sensation depending on the ratio of the two.
My second dish was the Caribbean jerk-style mussels which packed a punch of both flavour and heat. These were the most unique mussels I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying, with an intense jerk flavour which was both rich and juicy. The sauce was thick, too, so each mussel was coated heavily to ensure everyone had all the flavour. It’s a messy dish, but I find licking the delicious sauce from your fingers at the end is one of the best bits!
Pratap has created something unique in terms of his menu. I have never tried anything even remotely similar to many of the dishes on his menu, and he has brought his special flare and passion to every dish. It’s unique without being overly extravagant in its difference; there is just enough familiarity to make it a hit, and that quite frankly is a stroke of genius.
In terms of decor, Flavour Bastard is chic but has a fun dash of humour and creativity in the mix. The walls host gold flecks which are elegant and extremely pretty, and the opulence of the front door is backed up with the use of purple trimmings within, but it doesn’t look tacky. Rather it looks like it may have been plucked straight from my Pinterest interior design dreams. Everything has been carefully considered and therefore this beautiful restaurant deserves all the success I am sure it is going to have. I may have dined with a half-price discount, but I’d say the food is worth every penny stated on the menu, and I cannot wait to return. Soho has itself a new gem!