Here’s our review of Frog by Adam Handling in Covent Garden. Check out our favourite restaurants in Covent Garden here.
In a nutshell
Frog by Adam Handling is the Scottish chef’s second solo restaurant focusing on British seasonal food (with a few Asian twists) paired with unique pre-bottled cocktails and unusual wines.
After starting his career as Gleneagles’ first ever trainee chef and winning Scottish young Chef of the Year 2011, Dundee-born Adam Handling reached the final of MasterChef: The Professionals in 2013. In June 2016 he opened his funky Shoreditch restaurant The Frog E1. Just over a year later and Adam has launched his new flagship restaurant, Frog by Adam Handling, on Southampton Street just off the Strand in Covent Garden.
What’s the vibe like?
Frog by Adam Handling is smarter and shinier than The Frog E1, with a huge open show kitchen where you can sit at a large marble pass to watch chefs (and chat to them) assemble intricate dishes onto bespoke hand-etched crockery.
How does the menu work?
Choose between the five-course (£65) and eight-course (£80) tasting menus, and pair with wines (£70) or matching cocktails (£65). The set menu changes fortnightly, but some of Adam’s signature dishes stick around. You can also choose from an à la carte menu.
What’s the food like?
We chose the five-course menu and started with a succession of snacks – anchovy emulsion gave finely chopped steak tartare a salty hit, lightly smoked cod and crème fraiche mousse was wrapped in crisp cylinders, and razor clams with a fine hazelnut crumb and fresh apple were served on dry ice.
Starters proper came as kingfish ceviche with pretty blobs of avocado purée and jalapeño, followed by a thinly sliced salt-baked celeriac parcel hiding a sous-vide duck egg, a little mound of crunchy apple and intense butter-confit dates with truffle flakes on top – a dish that delivered all the flavours of umami, sweetness, saltiness and bitterness.
Mains were substantial enough to get your money’s worth, but not too rich – a perfect portion of crisp-skinned roasted halibut sat on a bed of grapefruit and freshly picked crabmeat and was dressed with caviar and a crab sauce split with red onion oil. Pink ibérico pork came with a crisp pork belly croquette and charred cauliflower.
What’s dessert like?
We just managed to fit in chocolate mousse with cubes of chocolate ‘tofu’ (with the springy texture of tofu), dark chocolate crumb and creamy almond ice cream, and a beautiful plate of mandarin segments soaked in mandarin syrup with small pieces of sweet madeleine cake, sweetly spiced clove gel and mandarin ice cream.
What should we order?
Adam’s famously intense chicken butter from The Frog E1 was ramped up even more with crispy chicken skin pieces and a hidden gravy centre, with freshly baked sourdough to mop up. The cheese course twist came in the form of epic cheese and truffle donuts – choux buns filled with creamy cheese sauce and covered with a blanket of shaved cheese and fresh truffle.
What are the drinks like?
We chose to try the matching wines and cocktails. For something a bit different, go for the latter. As with matching wines, the mixologists conjure up the best flavours to match the food, creating a pre-bottled cocktail for each course. Fresh yellow pepper with lemon and thyme oil livens up a creamy vodka, with a separate spritz of fresh cardamom from an aromatiser to bring out the desired flavour in each dish. We also loved the zingy and refreshing blend of Granny Smith apple, fresh ginger, charred sage, Sencha tea and Blanco tequila.
Different wines are sourced each time the tasting menu changes. Assistant head sommelier Séan was particularly enthusiastic and knowledgeable, giving us a chirpy run through of the wines. We began with a smooth, biscuity champagne from the central Lallier region before moving on to Rouera Verdejo, a light and unoaked citrusy wine from southern Galicia (Spain).
Next was an Austrian Kremstal, more savoury and acidic due to the cooler climate of the North West, to pair with sweet and salty celeriac, followed by a light and creamy Japanese genshu (undiluted) sake blended with yuzu liqueur to balance the rich halibut dish. Finally, a pinot noir from the South West mountainous region of Romania delivered a light-medium bodied wine with plenty of crunchy fruit flavours, and a sweet Corsican wine made from a rare muscat grape variety balanced the spice from the clove gel in dessert.
What else should we know?
Staff informatively answer questions and advise on choices. Assistant head sommelier Séan was particularly enthusiastic and knowledgeable, giving us a chirpy run through of how the cocktail and wine pairing works. You can also chat the chefs over the pass about unusual ingredients while they’re assembling them.
34-35 Southhampton Street, London