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Chef’s flair leaps off the plate at The Frog

11 July, 2019 — By Tom Moggach

Handling’s dishes display a flair for theatre and a zeal for precision

IT’S rare we get the chance to explore the fancier restaurants in London.

But a new food and travel festival in Islington inspired me to broaden my horizons.

The National Geographic, a magazine I used to collect as a boy, is hosting its first food and travel festival at the Design Centre in Islington on July 20-21.

This will be a fusion of food and travel, with tastings, stalls and masterclasses from chefs including the mighty Raymond Blanc.

Another star at the event is Adam Handling, an intriguing young chef with a string of restaurants around the capital.

The Frog in Covent Garden is his flagship – the kind of destination you might book for a special celebration.

Handling also has places in Chelsea and Hoxton, plus a coffee shop and deli where they major on cutting food waste and repurposing surplus ingredients from his kitchens.

I went for lunch at Covent Garden, skipping the main courses to try some snacks and starters.

This is a chef with a flair for theatre and zeal for precision.

Sit at the counter by the open kitchen to watch the brigade at work, brows furrowed as they decorate dishes with the petals of edible flower and fronds of fragrant wild herbs.

A razor clam in a half shell, diced and mixed with hazelnut and apple for acidity, arrives balanced on the rim of a bowl of pebbles.

The waiter pours in dry ice, which smokes and makes the stones clatter as you slurp down the mollusc in one.

A tiny crab tart was heavenly – heavy on the cream and with gentle chilli heat from kimchi, the delicate pastry barely holding the trembling contents within.

As a starter, Handling cuts a huge Orkney scallop into three slices and “cooks” them, ceviche style, with a touch of rice vinegar – the texture becomes rich and buttery, unlike anything I have tasted before.

There’s a chunky wine list, of course, but I stuck with the juices, including a mix of beetroot juice, black tea and fennel seeds, infused then sieved into a wine glass.

This is high-end cooking, so obviously comes at a price. But I haven’t enjoyed such an exciting meal in ages.

Handling will appear on the Saturday at the food festival at 4.45pm, demonstrating dishes such as a traditional seaside riff on shellfish, cockles, whelks and winkles and a dessert with mint, coconut, chocolate – and peas. (“Underrated as an ingredient,” he says.)

Also keep an eye out for Thai and Greek cooking masterclasses – Tim Anderson from Nanban in Brixton and Zoe Adjonyo – who will rustle up some dishes from Ghana.

Handling loves London because it has “every single type of cuisine”. With this new festival, they will all gather in one place – you won’t even need to travel.

Frog by Adam Handling
34-35 Southampton St, WC2E
020 7199 8370

National Geographic Traveller Food Festival
July 20 and 21
Business Design Centre,
52 Upper St, N1
Tickets £22


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