I have eaten Adam Handling‘s beautiful food loads of time, first when he was head chef at Caxton Grill just after MasterChef: the Professionals, then when the same restaurant took his name (Adam Handling at Caxton) and of course, at his new venture, his very own, curiously named, The Frog E1. I have written about him but never for this blog and never about his food, until now. My friend MondoMulia (read here post on the Frog) had been invited for a review lunch and she kindly took me as her + 1. Could I say no?
During mid week lunchtime, in my middle age perspective view, the restaurant is much nicer than dinner time when it gets really packed with the Shoreditch young and trendy to which I sadly no longer belong. The venue is completely different from Adam’s previous workplace, this one having his imprint and vision all over. It might not be to everyone’s taste, with mismatched furniture, contemporary art on the walls, a graffiti style logo, and coloured chalkboards on the walls. It is no longer a place where you’d take your parents for a smart meal or go to celebrate a special occasion; it’s a fast and furious eating bolt hole (at dinner at least), with a bar vibe. What is consistent and has not changed of course, is the stunning food Handling creates.
Our lunch – starters
The restaurant recently launched a 3 course lunchtime menu for £35 which is very good value (then again, the a la carte is not expensive either for the level of food provided). Drinks list is extensive with particular focus on craft beers.
I chose a starter I had not tried before: Celeriac, dates, truffle, lime. A beautiful looking dish arrived, covered in dark truffle powder, a feast to the eyes and a really balanced, cold starter with great textures of the root vegetables and the thinly sliced apples. MondoMulia opted for the Wasabi Salmon which I have had many times before, and which now has, as it used to at Caxton, a frozen pea snow too. She enjoyed it but found it too cold, almost frozen. I did not try it on this occasion, but before it’s been always a great starter with the lightly poached fish and the apple, peas and the subtle wasabi.
Adam’s menu is partly seasonal, partly signature. For main, my fellow diner opted for one of the restaurant’s regular dishes, the Mac & Cheese, which I had also never tried. This dish is pure indulgence, absolutely full of delicious cheeses and a huge portion too. I went for a seasonal option, the Lamb shank, potatoes, garlic which was incredible, the meat tender with small roasted potatoes, onions, shallots droplets, absolutely wonderful, earthy dish.
With desserts, I went for a classic this time, with White chocolate, raspberry Yuzu. It was again a perfect mix of textures, with crunchy peanuts, creamy heart which hid an intense raspberry centre and the yuzu condiment which gave acidity to the dish. Mondomulia chose a Tiramisu’ which for us Italians is always tricky. Adam’s version was an intense, too intense, chocolate slice, with a coffee and amaretto sauce which had a little too alcohol in our opinion.
Dishes from the past
Of course, I have tried many more dishes here and previously. Some are memorable, like the first time we ever dined at Caxton, we shared a mouth watering chocolate dessert serve in a sphere of dark chocolate; a couple of Adam’s signature ‘snacks’ which I absolutely adore, such as the cheese donuts (indulgent, soft balls fluffed up in cheese and truffle) or the beetroot galore that is Beetroot, beetroot and more beetroot, somewhere between a starter and a pre dessert, the texture of the little burgundy tubes candy-like, shrouded in a cloud of beetroot powder.
Adam has received his fare share of criticism since opening the Frog, not only on the food but on the attitude of the ‘concept’. I personally do not understand some of the venom, but then what do I know, I am only a blogger. I’ve know Adam for a couple of years now, and I love his passion and enthusiasm about what he does, his food of course in primis. He’s always friendly and is a pleasure to have a chat with him, he’s always going million miles per hour and his drive is evident.
I will keep happily hopping over to his Frog as often as I can.
I was a guest of the Frog on this particular occasion, never before; I was not asked to write this post, opinions are my own.