Scott Hallsworth and Adam Hills on Freak Scene: ‘A little bit of magic has happened’

What happens when an ex-Nobu chef and a stand-up comedian come together?

Updated on • Written By Ellie Donnell

Map view
Close map
Scott Hallsworth and Adam Hills on Freak Scene: ‘A little bit of magic has happened’

Celebrity-chef restaurant partnerships aren’t anything new. There was that time Idris Elba opened a wine bar, Porte Noire, with mate and wine entrepreneur David Farber. And, of course, The Wealthy Beggar over in Kensal Rise is the product of Emily in Paris star Lucien Laviscount and head chef Gary Drew putting heads together.

And now we have Scott Hallsworth, an ex-Nobu head chef who’s spent years working in some of the world’s best Asian kitchens, and Adam Hills, a stand-up comedian, TV and radio presenter perhaps best known for hosting The Last Leg on Channel 4, joining forces to open Freak Scene in west London.


To understand how the partnership came about, a brief history of Freak Scene is required. The pan-Asian restaurant has undergone numerous guises since its inception back in 2017, when it originally opened as a pop-up in Clerkenwell. At the time, Scott had just closed his popular Japanese izakaya concept Kurobuta due to unforeseen circumstances, and was at a crossroads about what to do next.

‘It was kind of a happy accident in a way. I just lost my company Kurobuta, and I was left with not many options. My dad was over from Australia, and he said, what are you gonna do? I said, as usual, I'm going to sell food somehow and we're going to do a pop-up or something.’

That pop-up was to become Freak Scene, the punky pan-Asian concept which six years down the line has amassed a loyal legion of fans, some harking from his old Kurobuta days, others joining the ride later on. Following whirlwind success as a pop-up in Farringdon, Freak Scene quickly graduated to a permanent site in Soho after just a few months. It had a strong year and the appetite for Scott’s whacky plates and high-octane dining was clearly there, but sadly the stars were not to align. The pandemic hit and, like many other restaurants at the time, was forced to close its doors for the time being.

New beginnings

It’s this part of the story when Scott met Adam. In fact, the duo had connected prior to Freak Scene Soho at a charity event for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, an air medical service in Australia.

‘It's the Aussiest story ever!’, proclaims the comedian. 'I went to Freak Scene in Soho not long after that and just absolutely fell in love with the food. It was the kind of place that I would take people and show off about as if I was the one responsible for the food!’

Actually, it was Adam’s wife who gave him the push to invest in Scott’s project. 'I took my wife to the pop up that Scott had last year called Double Dragon. And again, the food was just as amazing.'

'I took Scott out for dinner and basically proposed.’

‘He [Scott] was chatting and said he wanted to open a permanent place. It was on the way home that my wife went, "well, you've got some money sitting around. Why don't you invest?" And honestly, it was the best steer she has ever given me. That was July last year. And so, I took Scott out for dinner and basically proposed.’

As far as restaurant romances go, this one is particularly touching. 'Yeah, a little bit of magic has happened. You just know when you're with the right one’, says Adam.

Fast forward to present day and we land at Freak Scene 3.0, which has taken up residence in the heart of Parsons Green in west London. So, perhaps not quite as rock ’n’ roll as its Soho days, but then all children must grow up one day – right? Scott concurs.

‘I wanted to sort of polish the rough edges. I still wanted to harness some of the wild and crazy energy Freak Scene in Soho was about. But present it in a more mature way.’

‘I describe it like when Nirvana morphed into the Foo Fighters’, Adam jokes.

Having seen the new site, we can attest to this coming together of styles. Its trademark fluorescent lighting gives the dining room an atmospheric glow, which is especially intriguing if you’re on the outside looking in. But there’s definitely a wave of elegance and ‘polish’, as Scott puts it, strewn throughout the decor.

sashimi pizza at Freak Scene
The sashimi pizza at Freak Scene

If you’re worried that Freak Scene has lots some of its, well, freakiness, you need not panic. The food is just as surprising, eclectic and fun as it's ever been, bringing together Scott’s experience working in Japanese kitchens with his own playful twists. Returning to the menu are plenty of classics from its Soho days that Scott admits he couldn’t part with: ‘A lot of the dishes we did in Soho – there are about 15 or so that I thought I just can't take off.’

There’s the famous the chicken fried chicken, the beef tataki and the ‘magic’ hispi cabbage drenched in brown butter. All the greatest hits are there, but for Adam, there’s one that stand out from the rest. ‘Whenever that sashimi pizza comes out, I always think this is the hit single that I fell in love with.’

There are a plenty of new dishes exclusive to the Fulham site, too. Elaborating on the process, Scott explains: ‘There are loads of new ideas that have been brewing away in the background. I scribble them on pieces of paper and draw pictures. I didn't have an outlet for a long time so they're slowly making their way onto the menu as well, bit by bit.’

For a chef with such a clear vision, we're surprised when he struggles to define his cooking style. ‘I've been trying to sum it up in a snappy way and I still can’t figure it out’, Scott admits. 'With the original Freak Scene, we used to call it ‘curious Asian plates’. Sometimes I call it Australasian because I think it's an Australian perception of Asian dishes. There's nothing super classic about it. Like we do a duck curry with fried doughnut buns. I don’t know if any Asian culture would embrace that or even like it? I don't know. But it's just the way I see it and it happens to work sometimes.’

What is clear, though, is what Scott and Adam want people to feel when they dine at Freak Scene. ‘I just want them [diners] to get that small smirk in the corner of their mouths,’ says Scott. ‘You know when you taste something good. It shouldn't take over the whole conversation at the table, but it should be a smirk of ‘shit that’s good’.

Even Adam, a newcomer to the restaurant industry, understands the level of joy that can be had from a great meal. 'It’s been a complete eye-opener for me watching people eat food that we’ve somehow contributed to. I do stand-up comedy: I tell jokes and I make people laugh and they go home with a smile on their face. But I think there's another level of joy and satisfaction that people get out of a good meal and a good night at a good restaurant.’

‘My first ever review at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 20 odd years ago, said something about, "leaves people stumbling and smiling into the street". And I think that's exactly the feeling. If Freak Scene does that as well, then I'll be more than happy.’

Looking to uncover more chef stories? Read our interview with the peerless Andrew Wong where he discusses the closure of Kym's and shares his favourite instant noodles.

Join SquareMeal Rewards

Collect points, worth at least £1, every time you book online and dine at a participating restaurant.

Start Collecting Points

Already a member? Sign in