Ever since Adam Handling opened his first restaurant The Frog E1, I’ve been hankering after his food. You could say life has majorly got in the way of my food cravings. Making bookings, cancelling, illness, babysitting fails – the list is endless. In the meantime, the former 2013 Masterchef: The Professionals finalist, wasted no time and opened restaurant number two.
So when the time arrived to celebrate yet another year on this planet Mr S and I decided to mark the occasion at his new flagship restaurant in Covent Garden – Frog by Adam Handling. Fingers and toes crossed for no mishaps to ruin the occasion we entered the light and airy dining room with a sigh of relief (hurrah for making it through the door).
The new outpost is classed as fine dining compared to its casual Shoreditch counterpart. Or should I say fine-dining-but-not-as-we-know-it. Exit tablecloths and stuffiness; enter loud music and friendly banter with the chefs who present the food at your table.
All tables are strategically positioned so that eyes fall on the open plan kitchen. A white marble counter separates the diners from the masters at work. I’m always mesmerised watching the chefs meticulously perfect each dish.
There is also a speakeasy bar downstairs called Eve, Adam’s first foray into the bar scene. We enjoyed a couple of cocktails in the subterranean surroundings before the main event.
With a choice of three menus – à la carte and two tasting with either five or an eight courses. We decided on the five course vegetarian with Mr S doing his standard swaps for a few fishy dishes. Our meal started with snacks, essentially canapés bought over in a plume of dramatic (even if slightly passé) dry ice.
Once the billowing clouds calmed down it revealed a razor clam topped with apple and hazelnut on a bed of smoking stones.
Watching Mr S trying (and ultimately failing) to eat it with some degree of sophistication was quite amusing. Others had told me it was an awkward dish to eat – I suppose it could be an icebreaker for those on the dating scene. The veggie snack came with less drama. A crispy rye flatbread topped with heritage tomato and basil tartare, which you can see (if not a tad blurred) in the background of my prosecco prioritised shot:
And a warning! Beware of the hot bread which comes with onion butter and a splash of chive oil. I always tell myself to go easy on the bread and fail miserably. Portion control is imperative here.
It’s so delicious and the carnivore version comes with fried chicken skin. Don’t let greed overtake the fact you have five or even eight courses to still eat. We clearly failed the bread test.
I’m not a huge fan of fruit in my savoury dishes, so the first course of cauliflower and grapes didn’t dazzle my palette. Good job I love the good old cauli though. It was perfectly cooked with the right amount of bite.
Mr S did well with his kingfish, jalapeno and avocado dish. Pretty as a picture it delivered on flavour too.
The second starter came in the form of his signature vegetarian dish with an explosion of textures in every mouthful. From the delicate layers of celeriac, slithers of crunchy apple piled on top of creamed celeriac and the runniest, yummiest duck egg to the small pieces of chewy dates. It didn’t end there, once the masterpiece is placed on the table it’s covered in an ample amount of black truffle shavings.
The first main dish for Mr S was a light and flaky piece of halibut sat on a bed of crabmeat and garnished with a little caviar.
The beetroot, goats cheese and sherry vinegar course reminded me of a multiple-eyed alien. Not that I’ve seen many in my time. Anyhow, the thin slithers of beetroot with the classic tangy taste combo made for sheer delight.
Meanwhile Mr S tucked into octopus, sour cream, black garlic and dulse.
Not being a big fan of squash, I swerved the next course on the vegetarian tasting menu and swapped it for my all time favourite tuber. The plate of buttery mash, topped with yet more generous shavings of black truffle and a hidden chamber of chive oil in the centre is my food heaven. I know you’re probably thinking, ‘but this is just mash.’ Sometimes though simple is best. I seriously could have sat there and ate a whole bowl of it. Comfort food incarnate.
Feeling a tad snug around the waistband, we both felt a sense of relief that we weren’t seduced by the eight course menu. Moving onto the sweet stuff, I really enjoyed my citrusy refreshing dessert. Mandarins, delicious madeleines and a hint of clove had me nearly licking my plate clean.
Mr S couldn’t resist the chocolate pudding with a secret gooey chocolate and raspberry centre served with a quenelle of vanilla ice cream.
A five course tasting menu will set you back £65, we also opted for the inventive wine pairings for £55. Well worth it, as I tried some amazing sakes I would never have tried before. They also do cocktail pairings of the alcoholic and non-alcoholic variety. Something I think more restaurants should do – think of the designated drivers and non drinkers.
The dining experience dazzled my tastebuds and whichever menu you decide upon you’re certainly in for a real treat. Staff are attentive yet not intrusive and I loved the attention to detail from the cutlery to the enthusiastic explanations of the dishes tableside by the chefs.
Adam Handling has created a stylish, slick restaurant with an informal relaxed feel. I for one will definitely be hopping back for another plateful of potatoey comfort food.
Frog by Adam Handling | 34-35 Southampton St | London | WC2E 7HG
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