The Frog E1 Shoreditch, restaurant review: ‘Only propriety stops me licking plate clean’

Inside The Frog E1. Picture: Tim Green

Inside The Frog E1. Picture: Tim Green - Credit: Archant

With a name like The Frog emblazoned on a graffiti logo, you could be forgiven for thinking that this new Shoreditch restaurant is an art gallery or a cool new bar.

Crab, Apple Dish. Picture: Tim Green

Crab, Apple Dish. Picture: Tim Green - Credit: Archant

While it is, in fact, both of these things, it is also the latest venture of award-winning chef Adam Handling, who came within a whisker of winning Masterchef: The Professionals in 2013.

He’s been winning plaudits heading up the flagship Adam Handling at Caxton restaurant at St Ermin’s Hotel in Westminster.

But he’s now left to create The Frog E1­ ­­– one of several new eateries he’ll open over the next few years.

Its décor is immeasurably ‘Shoreditch’: all industrial-chic tables and works by young artists for sale on the walls - part of the ethos to showcase young creative talent.

Adam Handling. Picture: Tim Green

Adam Handling. Picture: Tim Green - Credit: Archant

The food, however, is exquisite fine dining at its best.

We try the 10-course tasting menu at a very reasonable £45, with the drinks pairing (an extra £35 pp). All wines are made by young winemakers, and they suit each course perfectly.

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The menu starts you off with four ‘snacks’ – appetisers to you or me.

There’s moreish fatty croquettes that have a satisfying crunch from crackling, the aniseed-tasting herb lovage cutting through the fat.

‘Beetroot, beetroot and more beetroot’ is a smooth mousse wrapped in a crispy coating, exploding in beetroot flavour.

Delicate droplets of salt cod are served on what tastes like a posh prawn cracker, garnished with indulgent caviar.

Last is Handling’s famous smoky chicken butter, reminiscent of Sunday dinners when eaten with the warm home-made bread.

Onto the mains. The mackerel with apple, avocado and lime is refreshing and delicate; it lets the fish do the talking.

The roast hake is meatier but still falls apart on your fork, served with the creamiest mashed potatoes and a zing of tarragon.

But the highlight is the lamb, served with artichoke and wild garlic.

The flavour is so intense and luscious, that only propriety stops me from licking the plate clean.

The cheese course is rich, gooey cheese doughnuts, which have a mess of truffle shavings on top; we stuff them in our mouths greedily.

The almond, dill and milk sorbet arrives just in time to cleanse the palette, but I’m not sure about the addition of dill – a slightly medicinal taste.

I finish with a dessert of burnt honey, malted ice cream and toffee. It’s a bit of childish fun at the end of the meal, but the burnt honey is more of an adult taste, a deeper treacle-y flavour that ensures the plate isn’t too sweet.

It’s easy to see why Handling, at only 27, continues to win awards with his near flawless food.

I can’t wait to see what his next venture will be.