Frog by Adam Handling
34-35 Southampton Street, WC2E 7HF
WLC Rank : 1
Cuisine: Modern British
Glass from : £ 4.90 (125 ml)
BEST FORWines at their perfect temperature
Dinner by a Masterchef finalist
An exciting, worldly list
Cocktails at the Eve Bar
An exhilarating, democratic, innovatively compiled list at Adam Handling's Covent Garden flagship.
Adam Handling’s Covent Garden flagship Frog boasts an exhilarating, democratic, innovatively compiled list. “I was going to take a month off after working at Yauatcha, then saw Adam’s menu and thought ‘this is scary, outside my comfort zone, and what I need’,” says group head sommelier Kelvin McCabe, who created a gripping list at Adam Handling’s central London restaurant.
The venue features a chef’s wall signed by luminaries including chef Pierre Koffmann and critic Richard Vines, a long marble pass doubling as a counter with seats, ivy-garlanded pillars, and large, shiny artwork by mixed-media artist JJ Adams, showing different epochs of Piccadilly Circus. This image also features on the labels of English sparkler Ambriel, which is finished with a specific dosage for the restaurant.
Composed of categories such as ‘esoteric – unusual and lesser-known varietals and regions’, ‘celestial – wines of organic and biodynamic principles’, ‘reflections – a homage to classic varietals and regions in newer places’, ‘mavericks – producers who made a difference and dare to be different’ and ‘no skool like the old skool – fine, rare and vintage’, McCabe’s impeccable, non-discriminating list has massive personality, celebrating huge swathes of the globe.
Formerly of Roka, where he “could list anything, there being no walls with Japanese cuisine”, Zuma “for unicorn wines”, and Gilgamesh, which he helped open with Ian Pengelley, McCabe manages to shoehorn a substantial vinous collection into an eclectic collection of Eurocaves mushrooming in the dining room, with more stock held in arches under the pavement beside Handling’s Eve Bar, home to a fine antique Negroni.
Dishes by Krug ambassador Handling, who enjoys white Burgundy and North American reds, often include ingredients from the restaurant’s West Sussex farm. Opening credit “snacks” such as roe wontons, greaseless duck bhaji, and razor clams bathed in cascading pine foam are served cutlery-free to “break tension” and are best partnered with Lallier Grand Reserve Grand Cru Brut Champagne, which McCabe chose blind – “the only way to select Champagne”, he says.
From the tasting menu, signature celeriac, date, apple and truffle is a dish Handling created for his mother on his opening night when she announced she had turned vegetarian. This may be partnered with Brézème Blanc (Domaine Lombard), a Marsanne-forward Northern Rhône that McCabe calls “an icon, close in style to Hermitage Blanc”. This shouldn’t be served cold, notes McCabe, whose biggest gripe, after people standing on the left of Tube escalators, is encountering wine at an inappropriate temperature. Bright, silky Kovács Nimród Monopole Blues Kékfrankos could accompany mushroom agnolotti, bone marrow and black garlic – the definition of umami.
“Guests should experience different countries and regions alongside Adam’s food,” says McCabe. And with cod, smoked eel, brown shrimp and ever-quirky kohlrabi, assistant sommelier, Shane McHugh (formerly of The Savoy Grill) recommends the new Riesling from Tatomer’s Steinhügel, California. With pudding of torched rhubarb, millet, juniper and crème fraîche, McCabe prescribes marzipan-scented plum saké Umelicious, from Hiroshima. He also enjoys proposing cocktail and food matches, and owns a perlage Champagne-preservation system.
When not here, The Frog in Hoxton, or newly opened Adam Handling at Chelsea’s Cadogan Hotel, you are likely to find McCabe draining a bowl of ramen on a backstreet.
By Douglas Blyde.