Nestled in the beating heart of London's West End, Frog Covent Garden stands proudly as the pièce de résistance of Adam Handling's culinary empire—an establishment that had long held a coveted spot on my must-visit list. For the uninitiated, Adam Handling, a distinguished chef and restaurateur in the UK, made his mark as a finalist on Masterchef: The Professionals. In his own words, "frogs live in water, so they are either going to sink or swim. Frog is what I will call my restaurant, as this is my test." The verdict? The frog not only swam but soared to the pinnacle of acclaim, clinching its first Michelin Star in the illustrious year of 2022!
My rendezvous with Frog by Adam Handling unfolded unexpectedly, turning what was meant for a special occasion into an impromptu soirée with a dear friend. It was a day of bonding and catching up, spilling the tea, quite literally, on my recent engagement in London. Serendipity favoured us as we secured a table on a nondescript weekday afternoon, thanks to the team at Frog for how they accommodated knowing it’s a short trip for me to London and I might not be able to try my ‘on top of list’ restaurant for the next few months until I visit again. The restaurant's exterior, adorned with beautiful flowers, and its brassy interiors cast an immediate spell. Despite the high echelons it occupies, Frog exudes an unexpectedly laid-back ambiance. Each table, strategically arranged to face the luminous expanse of the open kitchen, invites patrons to revel in the culinary spectacle unfolding before their eyes. It is the meticulous attention to detail that elevates the experience, from the warm towels graciously offered upon arrival to the thoughtful provision of a petite chair for my friend’s bag—an embodiment of the establishment's commitment to unparalleled hospitality. The staff, in their gracious demeanor, further elevated the entire affair, ensuring that every nuance of the dining experience was nothing short of exceptional.
Set against pristine white walls and illuminated by vintage filament globes, the restaurant's design seamlessly incorporates reclaimed timber flooring, sleek dark marble tables and an ensemble of delicate glassware adorning the tabletops. Accompanied by luxuriously padded dining chairs, the ambiance at Frog by Adam Handling exudes an inviting comfort.
A delightful detail catches my eye: the wines are nestled within two expansive copper coolers. This imparts an atmosphere of inviting warmth, a snug and convivial camaraderie.
Frog's menu draws inspiration from the vibrant tapestry of London, weaving a narrative of theatrical delight to craft an innovative contemporary British culinary experience. In this vast and diverse city, just like Doha, where myriad influences converge, each dish on the menu is a canvas painted with emotional resonance.
Moreover, the restaurant takes pride in its commitment to a zero-waste ethos—an ethos that transcends mere proclamation and is seamlessly interwoven into every dish served throughout the afternoon. In a meticulous dance of culinary craftsmanship, every ingredient is utilised to its fullest potential, from trims to off-cuts, leaving no room for the customary discarding of parts.
Snacking our way:
The moment you’re seated, whilst you’re just sipping on the premium beverage, settling in, watching the head chef do his magic right infront of you in the kitchen, comes little charm bombs in the form of pretty little snacks. Starting with pumpkin caviar tart, which despite its pumpkin essence, really was light on my palette. I was pleased with this tartlet, and a testimony to the amazing food that awaits us till the end of the afternoon.
We were then tantalized by the Crispy Black Cod Skin Cracker, a visually stunning creation adorned with meticulously placed marigold flowers. Crafted with dried cod skin and a whipped cod’s roe emulsion, each bite delivered a savory seafood essence, reminiscent of seaweed crackers but elevated with a touch of finesse. Following this visual and flavorful delight, the Kimchi Beef Tartare took center stage as the pinnacle of our starter experience. Utilizing aged Highland Wagyu beef, the tartare was impeccably dressed with pickles, capers, chives, and chili, all wrapped in a delicate Feuille de brick tube and crowned with a kimchi emulsion. This dish proved to be a personal favourite, especially for someone who is very particular about the kind of meat I usually consumer. This Kimchi Tartare offered a burst of umami that awakened the taste buds. The exquisite layering of textures, from the outer crunch to the buttery richness within, culminated in a truly sensational culinary experience. Served back-to-back, these starters showcased the chef's artistry in crafting dishes that not only delighted the palate but also told a story with each bite.
The next up:
Introducing the next course, we were presented with the signature Chicken Butter & Bread. Delving into this offering, two large sourdough loaves were generously shared among the two of us, accompanied by a chicken stock-infused butter adorned with crispy chicken skin. The butter also featured a delightful combination of chicken liver parfait and chicken wings stuffed with a flavorful chicken and tarragon mousse.
Commencing with the sourdough, its freshly baked perfection manifested in a beautiful crust and an airy texture. However, the chicken butter, though richly savory and undeniably unique, fell just short of the anticipated "oomph." But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t pleasant for the palette. It was! It was just that every course had really upped our expectations for the flavours bursting in our mouth.
Completing the course were chicken wings stuffed with chicken and tarragon mousse, presenting tender meat lightly seasoned with fresh herbs. In contrast to the bold flavors of the chicken butter and liver parfait, this offering leaned towards subtlety. While delightful, it made an indelible impression on the palate, standing out as a truly memorable highlight of the menu.
The dancing flavours:
Presenting the next indulgence, The Sturgeon graced our senses—an artfully crafted heart-shaped waffle adorned with caviar, sturgeon emulsion, and a drizzle of maple syrup upon its grand entrance. This dish paid homage to the entirety of the sturgeon fish, ingeniously utilising every facet. Following the delicate extraction of caviar, the residual fish meat underwent a meticulous process of curing and hot smoking, eventually intertwining with fermented cream. In a delightful dance of flavours, the creation proved to be a playful and intriguing symphony, weaving together the salty, fishy, and sweet notes. The essence of the fishy undertones primarily emanated from the fermented cream, while the caviar introduced a luscious buttery richness. A masterstroke was the inclusion of maple syrup, skillfully employed to harmonize and counterbalance the potential overwhelming nature of the fishy flavors, adding a touch of sweetness to the culinary ensemble.
Frog by Adam Handling effortlessly achieves perfection in the art of preparing lobster tails, and the Roasted Lemon, Lobster & Chilli is a testament to that mastery. The lobster tail, cooked to perfection, boasts a tender al dente texture, remaining delicately opaque at its centre. Its flavours were a symphony of lightness and mildness, adorned with a subtle natural sweetness that harmonised seamlessly with the airy lobster foam crowning it. This culinary creation was a testament to impeccable harmony, where each element of the dish contributed to a flawless and delectable flavour combination.
The perfectly cooked pigeon was a demonstration of culinary finesse, with a succulent texture and a rich, gamey flavour that captivated the palate. The hen of the woods mushrooms added an earthy dimension, complementing the pigeon's robust taste. The black garlic introduced a subtle sweetness, creating a symphony of flavours that danced on the taste buds. Each element was thoughtfully curated, resulting in a dish that transcended expectations. Frog by Adam Handling excels in elevating ingredients, and this dish is a true embodiment of gastronomic artistry.
The main performance:
Now the main for me: Indulging in the Wagyu beef with black truffle and bone marrow was an extraordinary journey into gastronomic excellence. The Wagyu, cooked to perfection, boasted a melt-in-your-mouth tenderness that was a testament to culinary mastery. Each bite unveiled layers of flavour, with the richness of the beef harmonising seamlessly with the earthy, aromatic notes of black truffle. The inclusion of bone marrow added a decadent dimension, enhancing the dish's lusciousness. This culinary ensemble was not merely a meal; it was an opulent experience, where each element contributed to a symphony of indulgence. Adam wasn’t in the kitchen for us, but he really was!
The sweet notes:
Embarking on the yoghurt, lemon thyme, and citrus was a refreshing divergence into the realms of culinary innovation. The yoghurt base brought a velvety, tangy note, serving as a perfect canvas for the delicate infusion of lemon thyme. The herbal essence wove elegantly through each spoonful, elevating the dessert with a harmonious blend of citrusy brightness and earthy undertones. The citrus elements, thoughtfully incorporated, provided a burst of zesty freshness that enlivens the palate. Moments before settling the bill, a delightful touch awaited us: a selection of petit fours gracefully concluded our afternoon. Arriving in an elegant box, the assortment featured enchanting chocolate frogs, dainty choux pastries, and delectable chocolate bonbons, alongside a yuzu and rhubarb jelly. Each petite indulgence showcased a refined interplay of flavors, adding a sweet note of sophistication to the conclusion of our dining experience.
Frog by Adam Handling: where the plates are as impeccably styled as the Londoners, and the flavours whisper secrets only the privileged palate can decode. You know you love it. Frog is a confident, beautiful triumph. And I couldn’t be happier I could try this master-stroke of a restaurant! Here’s to the next time, hoping to dine with Adam himself! Xx