Editor's note: Scott Hallsworth sold this business in mid 2017, though it is still open.
Kurobuta is the Japanese name for the Berkshire pig breed, brought to Japan in the 1800s as a diplomatic gift, and which is reared in Kagashima province. Kurobata the restaurant opened in April 2014. Its head chef is Scott Hallsworth, an Australian who previously cooked at the short-lived Wabi and originally trained at Nobu for six years, rising to the position of head chef ; he later worked at Nobu in Melbourne for a year, and also at Mirai restaurants in the Middle East. Mr Hallsworth did not grace the dining room with his presence today; apparently he was a running a cookery class in Spain.
This is according to its PR an izakaya style restaurant, though in Japan an izakaya is really a bar that serves a bit of food to go with your beer or sake, whereas Kurobata is clearly a restaurant. The menu reflects a wide range of styles of cooking, from tempura through sushi through robata grilling. The dining room is quite large, seating 84 plus tables outside in sufficiently clement weather. The menu is a la carte, with no lunch concessionary menu.
The wine list was printed on two back-to-back pages and had plenty of New World choices but, unforgivably, had no vintages shown. Eikendal Sauvignon Blanc was £27 for a wine that costs around £7 in the high street, Willow Bridge Dragonfly Sauvignon Blanc Semillon was £40 for a wine that retails at around a tenner, and Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon was £95 for a wine that will set you back about £39 in a shop, depending on vintage. Perhaps the management think: “hey, our customers are a clueless bunch when it comes to wine, and it costs us money to reprint the list from time to time when the vintages change, so let’s save a few bob”. Why not go the whole hog and just say “white or red” and skip the whole pesky list thing? If I am going to drop a bundle of money on wine then I want to know what vintage it is, so I drank mineral water instead at a steep £5 a bottle.
Two pieces of snow crab sushi (£8) had acceptable flavour, but the rice on which it was served was cold. Sushi rice should be body temperature; this is the sort of basic error that no Japanese sushi chef would ever make (11/20). Much better was tempura of prawns (£10) with fried rice noodles, the tempura batter surprisingly light and the prawns having some sweetness of flavour (14/20).
Robata grilled free-range chicken (£9) came with Japanese barbecue sauce and was pleasant enough, there being a hint of smokiness from the charcoal (13/20). Tuna pizza (£10) was not exactly from any classical Japanese cookbook, in this case a pre-bought wheat tortilla that was fried as the base, topped with tuna, red onions, green chilli and ponzu mayonnaise. This was a pleasant enough combination (13/20).
Service was chirpy and friendly, the bill coming to £47 for lunch with just water to drink. Bear in mind that I ordered exactly the number of dishes recommended by the waitress for one person, and declined the proffered dessert and coffee. For £54.80 I could have had lunch today at Le Gavroche, including wine and mineral water. If you went for dinner here and drank wine, and had dessert and coffee then your total bill would be around £85 a head. This seems an awful lot of money for what appeared on the plate, especially given that they do not appear to know how sushi is supposed to be served. It would seem best to stick to the grilled and other items when ordering, but I cannot say I am in a rush to return.