Adam Handling chef at the Frog restaurant in Covent Garden, London
Photo credits @Hazel Thompson
Adam Handling, one might say, has truly made it. Yet he shows no signs of resting on his laurels. He navigated the pandemic with a very successful home dining service while the doors of his restaurants were shut, and came back with a vengeance with his relaunched Frog in Covent Garden. Finally awarded a much deserved (and longed for) Michelin star in 2022, Frog’s (now tasting only) menu costs upwards of £175 and promises an experience not easily forgotten. The dishes look too good to eat with unbelievable attention to detail; they are, in his words, “extremely personal and emotional”, linked to events and aspects of his life. His intention is for diners to fully immerse themselves in the multi-sensory experience. The kitchen is exposed to the restaurant so when booking, request counter seats and enjoy the ride!
With sustainability one of Handling’s core values, his informal Chelsea eatery utilised discarded items from nearby Cadogan Hall restaurant (at the time also under his supervision). Closed when COVID struck, he named his stunning, new Cornish outpost after the short lived London diner. And, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Ugly Butterfly is an incredible place, one of those with a proper ‘wow factor’. The view alone is worth the five hours drive from London: restorative, peaceful, overlooking the natural crescent that is Carbis Bay. Imagine a wide half moon of white, powdery sand stretching into the vast seas, surrounded by a lush green coastline and beyond, the infinite horizon. And yes, we’re still in England, not the Caribbean. Former Frog head chef Jamie Parks moved there to head the kitchen and who can blame him? He surfs on his day off, and cooks overlooking such a view. The dining room is luminous, airy, family friendly (we had lunch with our six-year-old and our dog) and the menu makes the most of the local land and sea, always in line with Handling’s ethos. From the ‘snacks’ which - like at Frog - are masterpieces of visual delight and flavours - to petit fours at the end, the entire meal is proof that this ugly butterfly is here to stay.
As if Frog and Ugly Butterfly didn’t keep him busy enough, he’s also taken over a luxury country pub The Loch and the Tyne in Royal Windsor where one can also spend the night in boutique bedrooms after enjoying the chef’s excellent take on British classics. The surrounding orchards provide the kitchen with herbs, veggies and fruit and it doesn’t get more local than this. His two chefs are Co-Chef Proprietors (Steven Kerr, his Group Executive Chef, and Jonny McNeil, formerly Head Chef at Adam Handling Chelsea). In a subtle nod to their long standing collaboration, the name of the pub is representative of where Adam first met both Steven and Jonny.
And despite relying on his trusted senior staff to run his venues smoothly, Adam goes up and down the country every week, to be present for customers and teams. And that’s what we find so fascinating with Adam. He’s full of energy, and his passion is contagious. It’s a mystery when he finds the time to sleep as he’s often also seen travelling to cook at high profile events such as Formula 1 Grand Prix in Singapore and the British Embassy in Grand Cayman. Oh and did we mention his books? Another “labour of love”, Adam recently published a three-part volume that covers his food recipes, showcasing the excellent British Producers he uses, his cocktail recipes and his zero waste philosophy.
A whole volume dedicated to “Why waste?”: a simple pair of words and yet there is so much to it. It’s a motto that is even printed on the merchandise from the chef’s site. Sustainability has always been at the forefront of Adam’s ethos throughout his career. He told us - back in the days when leftovers from the Cadogan hotel were turned into delightful dishes at Ugly Butterfly - that his favourite ‘waste’ item was off-cuts of cheese from the cheese board: “When they’re too ripe and start to ooze or have a strange shape - I turn them into cheese donuts, I love it so much!” adding that he also delighted in “using cauliflower leaves to ferment and make into kimchi, one of my favourite things”. Of course there is a line to be drawn on using discards from the main kitchen. “At the end of the day I’m a chef. If I couldn't use something and not make it taste nice due to its texture or flavour, I wouldn’t use it and it would then be waste”. Peels, tops and leaves also make their way into the expertly crafted cocktails (Eve Bar, right under Frog, has won various awards in the bar category).
Ginger and strawberry trifle
Still, he finds the time for more. He’s just appeared again on the BBC representing his native Scotland in this year’s edition of the Great British Menu where he brought an outstanding dessert to the show’s final banquet and, come May, he’ll be preparing his own tribute to King Charles III coronation, a classic British trifle with ginger and strawberry for GREAT, the country’s official campaign to celebrate all things British. We can’t wait to see what else chef Handling has in store for the future.
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A British citizen from Naples, obsessive scuba diver, digital marketing manager Monday to Friday, foodie at any given time