Fortunately this is not the case at Adam Handling’s new restaurant. Located a short distance from Spitalfields Market and just off Brick Lane, it’s in a totes cool location. Like uber cool. Probably too cool for me, but I went nevertheless.
Who is Adam Handling? If you’ve been watching Great British Menu, he was one of the chefs contesting the Scotland heats. He was also a contestant on Masterchef: The Professionals a few years back, losing, perhaps unfairly, in the final.
Handling’s new restaurant is different, in all the good ways though. For example, the chefs bring you the courses rather than waiters. Some people might be intimidated by this, but personally I thought it was a nice touch. How often do you actually meet or talk to the chefs when you go out for food? It’s a nice way to bridge the gap between the artist and the customer. And Handling and Co are definitely artists. The food comes out picture perfect and delicious.
The Frog’s menu allows for à la carte or a tasting menu. You can also have a wine pairing or even a beer pairing with the food. I went with the tasting menu on its own, but would be very interested to try the beer pairing on my next visit.
Upon sitting down at the table, over comes Handling to explain the menu and that first up on the tasting menu are several small snacks. First is a perfectly crisp chorizo croquette, followed by fresh white crab meat served on what I can only assume was some sort of crispy seaweed and a wafer thin slice of apple. Third up is beef tartare served on a something similarly crispy (but probably not seaweed) and finally, whipped chicken butter with warm sourdough.
The chicken butter and sourdough was particularly delicious. That type of delicious where you could devour an entire bowl on a rainy Sunday at home and not even feel remotely sorry.
Up next was a plate of baked celeriac with egg yolk, truffle and apple. The egg yolk added a rich creamy flavour which worked well with the earthy celeriac and tangy apple.
Onto the main courses! First up was a roast fillet of cod with butterbean puree and pancetta, all served by a chef who looked a lot like Corey Feldman’s character in Stand By Me. Celeb lookalike aside, the cod was cooked perfectly; melting in the mouth as one would hope and expect. The pancetta was not crispy enough for my liking and could have done with an extra minute or two in the pan.
Slices of pink lamb rump are next. They come served with artful splodges of sour cream and black garlic gel, with everything dusted under a jet black powder smacking of delicious umami. I have no idea what the dust was, but who really cares when it’s that tasty.
Lamb rump with sour cream and black garlic
A plate of hot fresh donuts were then brought over, an unmistakable smell of truffle and cheese wafting off the plate. Ah yes, the infamous cheese donuts. I had ordered these at the start of the evening in a haze of hunger and greed (incurring a £3 surcharge). These bad boys were delicious, crunchy donut filled with a rich cheesy sauce and topped with shavings of parmesan and black truffle. Although delicious, they are incredibly rich and are probably not for the faint of heart or waistline conscious.
After all that savoury food, I was ready for dessert and my expectations were pretty high. A pre-dessert was served first, comprising of a dense cherry flavoured mousse topped with some chocolate shavings and a quenelle of cherry sorbet. The latter being the best bit in the dish; I found the mousse too dense for my liking and the chocolate needed to be darker.
Finally, the dessert made its grand appearance. A yuzu lemon curd covering a raspberry gel, with small toasted meringues, aerated white chocolate and some sort of peanut brittle. There was supposedly some whisky in there too but it got a bit lost in all the other flavours. The dessert was good and the yuzu added a nice citrus zing, but parts of the dish were incredibly sweet.
Some might call the food at The Frog pretentious. But I think Handling is having a bit of fun with his cooking. Yes it’s not all refined but that’s part of the experience. This is someone experimenting with their cooking and not really caring what the establishment thinks. It’s brave and forward thinking.
Cost: around £40 a head (food only).
Overall Rating: 8.5/10.
The Frog is found at 2 Ely’s Yard, Old Truman Brewery, Hanbury Street E1 6QR.