Adam Handling has talent (and then some). At just 25 he reached the finals of MasterChef: The Professionals. A year later he was crowned British Culinary Federation Chef of the Year, then Scottish Chef of the Year. Unsurprising, then, that before The Frog E1 opened, the waiting list for a table was two weeks long. The restaurant has since won a Bib Gourmand and been named London Restaurant of the Year and UK Restaurant of the Year in the Food and Travel awards. I book well in advance for his new flagship’s opening…
The site, in Covent Garden, promises a large open-plan kitchen and private dining room with its own kitchen and speakeasy-style basement bar. And a menu built on The Frog E1’s foundations – Adam is known for his careful sourcing of seasonal ingredients and a particular focus on Asian flavours and techniques. It has a more formal feel than its Shoreditch sibling, but with graffiti-esque artwork adorning one wall it is by no means straight-laced. With its big windows and open-plan kitchen, it is bright and lively on a sunny weekday lunchtime, and the staff could not be more welcoming.
We opt for the five-course tasting menu, with matched wines – all the better to experience what’s on offer – and are bowled over from the minute the first of the snacks arrive. Adam’s famous chicken butter is everything we’ve been led to expect, with the addition of oozing, rich gravy in the centre. We spread the bread thickly and aren’t ashamed to lick the butter dish clean. Beef tartare served on seaweed crackers with a hint of anchovy is also excellent. First up of the “main” dishes is a kingfish ceviche. Served with jalapeno and avocado it is a delicious twist on a Japanese favourite. Next up a celeriac and truffle dish first created for Adam’s newly vegetarian mother – we think she probably approves. The halibut that follows is my favourite though, served on a bed of crab and in a pool of an exquisitely moreish lobster custard that I think I could happily slurp from a soup bowl. We finish with the blackberry dessert – light-as-air sponge with the freshest cucumber sorbet and impressive “nitro” meringues, created at the table in a sea of dry ice. It is truly memorable (but heed my advice and wait for the ice to clear before tucking in). From start to finish the meal is a triumph. Divinely presented, theatrically delivered and perfectly matched with some really individual wines. We’ll be back, and urge you to come, too.
Hop to it.34-35 Southampton Street, WC2E (020 7199 8370; frogbyadamhandling.com)