***This restaurant has now closed
Our expert restaurant review of Pickled Fred, a hip Shoreditch restaurant that’s all about pan-Asian sharing plates, quirky cocktails and pickling
Pickled Fred in a nutshell
A quirky, pan-Asian restaurant in Shoreditch that specialises in inventive pickling and veggie-friendly cooking.
Pickled Fred restaurant review
The pan-Asian restaurant is an ubiquitous creature in London, but there are plenty of details that distinguish Pickled Fred from the crowd. As the name suggests, the restaurant is keen on pickling (read our expert guide here) and fermenting (read our expert guide here), with a menu peppered with anything from preserved strawberries to Korean kimchi. Vegetarians and vegans will approve of the many meat- and dairy-free dishes on the menu, while carnivores will be lured in with the likes of flatbreads loaded with pork belly, mince, chilli butter and pickles.
Pickled Fred also boasts a good pedigree: the brainchild of friends Ben Lusty (formerly of Som Saa) and Can Turker (Berber & Q, Hawksmoor), their head chef Dan Borham is a graduate of London’s street-food scene, previously cooking at the likes of Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, Fleisch Mob and Sub Cult.
Inside, Pickled Fred has a hip-yet-cosy vibe; jewel-coloured jars of pickles line one wall, exotic house plants are dotted around, and salvaged and recycled elements feature heavily, from Japanese ship bulkheads to pendant lights from an East Indian warehouse.
Ben and Can’s globetrotting travels have made their mark on Pickled Fred’s menu, too – the name of the restaurant refers to a wayward, pickle-stealing monkey that the pair encountered on a trip to the Philippines – where you’ll find twists on Asian and Middle Eastern dishes and ingredients. Try mackerel in dry red curry with golden pickled beetroot, or sriracha- and honey-marinated chicken wings with kimchi, and roasted cauliflower with ras el hanout, mustard oil and tahini. They also have a roster of flatbreads topped with similarly eclectic ingredients (think chermoula, aubergine, labneh and dukkah, or yuzu, avocado, halloumi and chilli jam).
To start, a dish of pickles featuring everything from pomegranate seeds and golden beetroot to enoki mushrooms proved that the kitchen knows a thing or two when it comes to preserving, while a jackfruit scotch egg was an impressive vegetarian take on a pub snack classic.
A kohlrabi som tam was a successful twist on a Thai staple; fresh, crunchy vegetables and vibrant heat, while a beef shin rendang was rich and spicy, the tender, falling-apart meat topped with a wobbling, luscious chunk of bone marrow.
Grilled octopus was slightly overcooked on our visit, but nevertheless impressed as one of the more intriguing dishes of the night; the charred mollusc marrying well with spicy, harissa-marinated chickpeas, smoky black tahini and sweet-sour pickled red onions and preserved lemon. From the flatbread section, a gluten-free chickpea pancake with saag tofu, mustard broccoli, sesame and chilli oil could have done with a little extra heat, but still had plenty of flavour.
For dessert, apple and sesame fritters were suitably sticky and nutty, although we couldn’t really detect the Szechuan pepper that was promised in the accompanying salted caramel.
Drinks expert Can has created a cocktail menu full of intriguing, off-beat creations – Fred’s Preserver (green and black peppercorn-infused vodka, preserved strawberry and rose petal wine, Suze and Aperol) was a pleasingly dry, fruity number, while the Geisha’s Tipple – plum and Sichuan gin, basil/tarragon sherbet, egg white and orange blossom – was sour and fragrant, displaying an imaginative use of ingredients and flavours that seems to be Pickled Fred’s calling card.
Menu must-order at Pickled Fred
The jackfruit scotch egg will convert even the most diehard of meat-eaters: a crisp, crunchy golden exterior concealing a jackfruit casing that tasted properly meaty, and an egg with a yolk just on the right side of runny. An accompanying masala mayonnaise had just the right kick.
Price range: Good value. Snacks start at £2.50, small plates at £5 and flatbreads at £7. Cocktails start at £8.50.
Written by Hannah Guinness
Photographs by Pickled Fred