I am yet to experience the all-consuming nirvana that SoulCycle acolytes speak of. Equally, the wonders of Black Friday, sweet tea and paying for health care elude me. Basically, most of the delights America has to offer pale in comparison to being immediately understood when asking for a glass of water. Yet there is one American tradition I can firmly get behind. Unlimited brunches.
I first went to Kurobuta when it was a mere pop-up on the far end of the King's Road, the tentative beginnings of something from the Australian Scott Hallsworth, who had left the heady echelons of top-cheffing at Nobu to try something new. And something new was exactly what Kurobuta was- a Japanese restaurant that defied expectations. Kurobuta, which is a Japanese word for pig (or so Sean, from Melbourne, our exceptionally accommodating waiter told me, and honestly, with cheekbones like that, who would lie?) is as far away from the delicate, ethereal flavours of Nobu as one can get. In a tiny space in Chelsea I stuffed my face with huge, sticky, miso-saturated wantonness, and fervently hoped that this was one pop-up that was going to stay.
And, as 'luck' (it is very important not to under-estimate one's own importance) would have it - it has. Not only is the original pop-up still there, but Kurobuta is now available both in Harvey Nicks and in its 3rd restaurant, in Marble Arch. And, for those of you who can still remember how I started this piece- it is doing a Sunday unlimited brunch.
'Every single person here is Australian,' my guest whispered, as we sat down to our welcome cocktail. Why wouldn't they be? Once I got past the irritation of everyone telling me that they 'invented brunch' (spoiler: no-one 'invented' brunch. It's simply what happens when everyone's too hungover to face making any decisions at all), I have rarely eaten better than I did in Melbourne.
The Kurobuta unlimited brunch is not for the faint-hearted. The restaurant itself is loud, and bright, and has a singer-songwriter type sneaking in his own songs alongside acoustic versions of more established artistic output. The luminously coloured cachaca welcome cocktail is so sweet as to be almost undrinkable, and scrawled upon the exposed wall are the happy hour cocktails and shots. 'Wet pussy?' my guest asked. 'It's like they're not even trying.'
Which is exactly the point. The unlimited brunch at Kurobuta isn't trying. It just is. And what it is- as far as I can make out from the almost illegible notes I took, which are smeared with jalepeno dipping sauce and stains from the miso grilled hot wings, is tremendous fun. There is bottomless beer, wine and 'brunch punch' ('It's a mimosa, isn't it?' I checked with Sean from Melbourne), and an extraordinarily good unlimited buffet.
Hallsworth calls most of his buffet 'Junk Food Japan'- and is this is what they're eating over there instead of Dominos, I'm off. The food is, not to put too fine a point on it, exceptional. We had Wagyu beef sliders, which came in a steamed bun with crunchy onions, pickled cucumber and umami mayo; BBQ pork ribs with a honey-soy-ginger-glaze; tea-smoked lamb with spicy Korean miso; yellowtail sashimi with wasabi salsa; an extraordinarily good aubergine dish, which seemed to be drenched in sweet miso and candied walnuts. There was a make-your-own ramen station, and a little dish Hallsworth has decided to call tuna sashimi pizza - a mouth-sized flaky crisp topped with tuna and truffle ponzu, a tart, crunchy, soft mouth-treat, which bears no resemblance whatsoever to a pizza but of which I ate 8.
Kurobuta's bottomless brunch saw me arrive at 1.30pm, and leave at 6pm: this is a restaurant you will not want to leave.Suggest a correction