Adam Handling, three ways

The British chef has opened The FrogE1, Frog and Bean & Wheat coffee shop. Gaining a few accolades in the process

17-10-2017
by Federica Carr
Adam Handling, 29 years old, Scottish, at the helm

Adam Handling, 29 years old, Scottish, at the helm of London restaurants The FrogE1 (2 Ely's Yard, Old Truman Brewery, Hanbury Street), Frog (34-38 Southampton street) and Bean & Wheat (ph. www.adamhandling.co.uk)

We already wrote about Adam Handling, initially when he was the chef at the Caxton Grill, swanky and perhaps a little old-fashioned restaurant at the St Ermin’s Hotel. At the time, the chef appeared on MasterChef the Professionals and ended up a finalist, thus quickly becoming a household name in the UK. Some time has gone by, enough to allow to the young chef (he’s still only 29) to open not one, but two restaurants under his own name and, in between these two, a coffee shop too.

The first place Adam opened about 15 months ago could not be farther from the Caxton Grill in concept. Backed by investors, he moved east, to Shoreditch, the fashionable centre of the London nightlife, where he opened up a place in between a restaurant and a bar, perfect for the crowds who flock to the area especially in the evenings. Unusual name, street art style logo, hops hanging from the ceiling, mismatched furniture and al fresco lounge area; the set up might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the Frog E1 obtained a massive success almost immediately; Adam’s food praised by the critics who admire his mature and solid cooking style.

Celery, apple, truffle

Celery, apple, truffle

Elegance and depth of flavours already present in the Caxton dishes, here have evolved allowing Adam’s talent to fly high. On one hand, the signature dishes are still available (the chicken skin butter, the cheese donuts), on the other hand each season the chef comes up with new creations, with plenty of textured contrasts and original touches, as we saw in a roasted lamb shank with potatoes, sour cream, burnt onions and black garlic, or, amongst the puddings, in a pannacotta with white chocolate, toasted hazelnuts, fresh raspberries and a yuzu coulis. On the drinks’ list, almost to match the location, a lot of room for artisan and craft beers.

The kitchen works closely with the nearby Bean & Wheat, cute, contemporary cafè in one of the historic alleyways by Liverpool Street station which Handling opened a couple of months ago; key factor in this cafe is sustainability and fighting food waste which is such a major issue in modern society. Fruit and veg discarded by supermarkets for being ‘ugly’ are used in smoothies, the Frog’s leftovers and offcuts in terrines and spreads available for sale and in the shop’s salads and sandwiches.

White chocolate, yuzu, raspberry, peanuts

White chocolate, yuzu, raspberry, peanuts

Adam however, didn’t stop east and launched an outpost in the hearth of Covent Garden in September, Frog by Adam Handling. A slight change in style, the new venue is smart, reminiscent of nordic minimalism in the interior and artworks by up and coming artist JJ Adams, with a large open plan kitchen and plenty of room to indulge in a relaxing meal. Downstairs, a small but equally elegant bar offering classics and original concoctions (fabulous is the Adam’s Apple with Hendricks gin and calvados), as well as a private dining room. If the Shoreditch Frog aims towards a younger, millennial crowd, here the target feels a bit more mature and perhaps, more gourmet-oriented.

We don’t mind, as Adam’s personality shines through each dish, from the signatures still on the menu (the legendary donuts) to the new, beautifully put together, proposals (burrata with beetroot and lime, seaweed cracker with beef tartare and anchovy); there’s a tasting menu and a whole vegetarian option there too. The hard work is paying off: only a few days ago The Frog E1 was awarded ‘Best Restaurant of the Year – London’ and ‘Best Restaurant of the Year’ overall in 2017 at the Food & Travel Reader Awards. It’s only the beginning; we just need to wait and see what stars which shine for Adam.