Fans of MasterChef: The Professionals will know Adam Handling from the 2013 series where he was a finalist. Since then he’s been a busy chap opening The Frog E1 in Shoreditch; a zero-waste coffee shop called Bean & Wheat; and his flagship restaurant, The Frog, in Covent Garden.
The latter is an impressive operation: the whole place screams money. Tables of two face the open kitchen, so all the action, and Adam, are on display. You get the feeling he enjoys being watched.
We start with drinks in the basement bar, called Eve. He’s called Adam, geddit? I have a perfect Sipsmith Martini with some gorgeous cheese and truffle doughnuts (£6).
Back upstairs we order more snacks. Frog popcorn with garlic and parsley (£7) sees little deep fried nuggets of soft, sweet frog and a garlic-tastic mayo for dunking.
Nibbles are certainly the kitchen’s strong point; beer, beef and egg yolk (£5); smoked cod, caviar (£6) – they’re all great. A little potato dusted in leek ash and loaded with more of that caviar is the best thing I’ve eaten all year.
The second best thing comes in the form of bread and chicken skin butter. The main reason being there’s so much crisp, salty skin on that butter. It’s like eating a roast chicken. Pure heaven.
A starter of BBQ mackerel, potato and apple (£13) is a pretty lil’ thing. There’s more of that leek ash from earlier, dusted over the entire plate, which makes for a full-on flavour.
Butternut agnolotti (£17) (that’s little pasta parcels) are topped with frozen foie gras at the table. It’s theatrical and lots of fun, but most of all, it’s delicious.
A chunk of halibut (£26) is surrounded by a gloriously rich, seafood sauce. There are baby shrimp, croutons, sea herbs and shredded cabbage – it’s a brilliant blend of textures and flavours.
Lamb Wellington (£28) gets the meat just right but the pastry could be a little more delicate and buttery; it’s no Holborn Dining Room. A side dish of pearl barley, mixed with leg meat and raw mushrooms, is a hearty addition.
For pud we share a carrot cake (£10) – deconstructed, naturally – consisting of ginger bread and a quenelle of mascarpone. It’s light, which is a perfect finisher after all those snacks.
The whole Frog experience is impressive to say the least. Dishes are intricate and clearly a lot of effort goes into each component of the dish. For me, it’s those snacks where the magic really happens. And that chicken skin butter.
Would we go back? Yes