The second I heard Frog by Adam Handling was opening up in Covent Garden, I needed in. I’d heard such good things about Frog E1 but never had the time to get over given that I live central and have a pretty hectic schedule/am a total lazy arse. Monday night was the night. I lost my Frog virginity. And my God was it orgasmic.
I went with my foodie friend Tash @THEKEMPNERKITCHEN and, being the alcoholics we are, instantly screwed over our ‘no-drinking in the week’ policy (usually lasts until at least Tuesday, sometimes Wednesday but it’s the intention that counts, right?), headed down to the Eve Bar and fell in love with the menu that has been developed by The Frog group bar manager Tim Laferla who has previously worked with Jason Atherton. The bartender came over and explained that the different sections of the menu depend on how strong you want your cocktail, and we ended up going for the Adam’s Apple (Hendrick’s gin, Pink Lady Cordial, Calvados, ‘Golden Delicious’) and the ‘Calypso Deep’ (Ford’s gin, olive oil, fino sherry vermouth, white balsamic, sea foam). No prizes for guessing that it was me who went for the dry, bitter-rather-than-sweet type of cocktail to match my dry, bitter-rather-than-sweet type of character. #WhyCan’tIGetABoyfriend?
Right, so, we headed upstairs where we were greeted by manager Sion (Welsh spelling of Shaun). Love Sion. Big shout out to Sion. If (when) you go, you too will love Sion. Think Sion may have loved us too since we didn’t even contemplate the option of not having the 8-course tasting menu with wine pairings (if you’re going to screw over the no-drinking in the week policy then you’ve got to screw it hard, right?). We started off with ex Savoy Grill sommelier Shane pouring us some pink champagne to go with the upcoming snacks. I’m not going to talk about every wine we drank because, quite frankly, I don’t remember anything about them since I have the memory of a fish when I drink. What I do remember though, is that Shane was super-duper informative and even though I can’t remember all the details now, I do remember that he explained everything so well and really clearly at the time, which was great for someone like me whose knowledge of wine goes about as far as I can usually stumble after downing various bottles of said wine. He’s also just a proper nice guy, so yeah, I now am just as in love with Shane as I am with Sion.
The first snack we had was the ‘Smoked Cod, Crème Fraiche, Caviar’. Just a heads up, you’re going to get so bored of me saying how banging every dish was, so we might as well get cracking. IT WAS BANGING. The creamy cod roe filling had the perfect amount of salt whilst the casing was deliciously crisp, making for a mouth-watering match made in heaven.
The second snack we had was the ‘Frogs’ Legs Popcorn’. I LOVE frogs’ legs (having spent much of my childhood munching away on them in the land of the frogs themselves) and these British counterparts definitely did not disappoint. The meat was succulent and juicy but the outer texture remained dry and crisp, whereas so often frogs’ legs turn soggy, and sog is never going to get me going. The accompanying garlic sauce was so good we made them leave the plate so we could mop it up with the imminent bread arrival.
Next snack was the ‘Seaweed, Beef and Oyster’. This was basically steak tartare on a seaweed crisp (I’m saying crisp a lot?!) that was shaped like an oyster shell. You’ll see what I mean in the photo. The beef tartare itself also gave the French a run (on their froggy legs) for their money. It was seasoned well and the varying flavours all shone through in their own right without being overpowered by one another. It was also topped with parmesan which is always a winner for me. The seaweed ‘shell’ was flavoursome, although I could have had it slightly crispier (here we go again).
Last snack (can you believe this is all even before the first course has arrived haha?!) was the ‘Razor Clam, Hazlenut, Apple’. This was way more interesting than I anticipated. The chunks of razor clam were beautifully tender and the flavours of yuzu and dill stood out most (dill seemed to be a recurring herb throughout this whole menu… Not really sure why).
Next up was the chicken butter that I had been in a flap about getting my hands on. Freakin’ chicken butter!! Chicken feed this was not. Fern feed this was. The chicken flavour wasn’t actually as powerful as I had imagined, but I actually came to realise that you wouldn’t have been able to wolf down multiple pieces of bread smothered in this if it were too strong, so the delicate flavour of the butter suited my not-so-delicate appetite just marvellously. The chicken skin on top could have been crispier (any crisp companies out there feel like collaborating?) for me, but it was clucking cracking nonetheless.
Okay, first proper dish: Kingfish, Jalapeño, Avocado
Tash hates raw fish. Tash polished this dish off. Speaks for itself really, does it not? There were so many textures going on here that made for a pretty epic mouthgasm. The fried garlic highlighted the dish but in such a way that the other delicate flavours remained untouched. It was a resounding yes from us.
Second up: Roasted Roots, Burrata, Lemon Balm
This dish looked so simple and unassuming, but in true Adam style, just wait ‘til you get it in your mouth. The food that is… Ya filthy animals. There was definitely another cheese at play here aside from the burrata, given the goats cheese-esque consistency of what we were eating, and my God the combination of the strong black pepper cut by the acidity of the grapefruit was genius. GENIUS I TELL YOU.
Third up: Plaice, Caviar, Dulce
Personally, I felt the plaice could have been cooked just slightly less, simply because I like most of my food on the more ‘alive’ end of the spectrum (steak still mooing please and tartare for days. Salmon usually a tiny bit pink in the middle too). Anyway, Tash thought it was cooked perfectly, so it’s really just a case of personal preference. The caviar added a salty quality to the dish, although not much texture, but the pommes purées pulled through with a somehow smooth but also textural quality without being lumpy. Loved it.
Fourth up: Black Potato
‘Black Potato?! WTF is that?!’ I hear you cry. We thought the same. We also couldn’t resist cracking up when it got placed in front of us one cocktail, one glass of champagne and three glasses of wine down, resembling something that very much set off our childish humour. I’ll leave it to you to deduce from the photo what exactly it was that triggered such shitty behaviour from us. This potato was a reminder of one of life’s great lessons: Looks aren’t everything. Woah. The texture was crazy cool. The mashed potato had been turned black by leek ash that subsequently added this amazing grainy texture to the potato and reminded me a bit of the texture of polenta. Vinegar cut the carby dish in the cleverest of ways and rendered it one of the standouts of the night for me.
Fifth up: Beef and Carrots
I like beef. I like carrots. I have no idea where dill fits in, but it was there. There were some very nice spices warming up the flavour of this slow-cooked beef dish, but I felt like the potato wrapped around the beef could have been crispier (really need to find a new word for crispy). It was a good dish but I didn’t die over it. ‘Twas not a standout for me.
Sixth Up: Cheese and Truffle Doughnut
This sounded like an absolute dream, so I was sad when it didn’t quite hit the spot for me. I expected a pop of melted cheese when I bit into it, which didn’t happen, and so I felt the texture was pretty much just dough with not much else exciting going on. Maybe had I tried these without having just been taken on Adam’s gastronomic whirlwind adventure, the bar may not have been set so high and I may have enjoyed them more.
Seventh Up: Blackberry, Cucumber, Honey
I didn’t really know what to expect from this, since, as you’ve probably noticed, Adam doesn’t give too much away in his course names. Turns out the blackberry was in a cake that didn’t really do much for us, we didn’t get much honey coming through, but the cucumber was in the form of an ice cream, which I’ve never seen before. I’ve always assumed cucumber would be more of a sorbet candidate, but this cucumber ice cream was really interesting and really impressive. We also loved the addition of micro coriander sprinkled around the dish. Tash has a weird thing for micro herbs and I have a weird thing for mixing sweet and savoury so we were quite happy.
Last, but by no means least: Chocolate, Raspberry, Vanilla
This dessert was LIIIIIIIFE. It looked like it was just going to be a chocolate cake but then when we cut it open it looked more like a sort of fondant, and when we put it in our mouths we only went and realised it was freakin’ RASPBERRY MARSHMALLOW! We couldn’t get our head round how the raspberry flavour was centre stage and not being overpowered by the chocolate, even though it was completely brown from the colour of the chocolate… What is this sorcery?! Tash likened it to an adults’ version of a child’s dessert, and I don’t know if you understand what she means by that, but you will when you go and try this beauty.
I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I adored my dinner at The Frog, but I am seriously terrified about how much of a habit this place could become for me, given that I live so nearby. Amazing cocktails in a bloody cool bar, paired with a restaurant that has an open kitchen preparing stuff that dreams are made of, paired with a fleet of staff I just want to be best friends with… I think I’ve fallen a lottle bit in love and might finally be ready for a kermitted relationship with The Frog.
Frog by Adam Handling
34-38 Southampton St, London WC2E 7HF
For events, contact Victoria at firstname.lastname@example.org