Name: The Frog Restaurant
Where: 2 Ely's Yard, Old Truman Brewery, Hanbury Street, London E1 6QR, http://www.thefrogrestaurant.com/
Cost: The Tasting Menu offers a selection of four snacks, three small dishes, one pre-dessert and one dessert, and is priced at £45 per person. The A La Carte menu is divided into snacks priced £4 and a selection of dishes under the headings Garden, Sea and Land costing £7 - £18; desserts are priced £7 - £10.
The Frog's drinks menu has a good choice of crafts beers from £3.50 to £12; cocktails are £6.50 - £13.50 while the wines are both available by the 125ml glass from £4.50 to £13 and bottles from £21 to £72.00. If you are having the tasting menu, it is possible to choose between a beer pairing at £25 and a wine pairing at £35 per person.
About: The Frog is the first restaurant by Adam Handling, a Scottish chef who captured the public's imagination when he became one of the finalists of Masterchef The Professionals in 2013. Since then, Handling worked as Executive Chef at the Adam Handling at Caxton in the St Ermin's Hotel in Westminster, and went on to be awarded Chef of the Year 2014 by the British Culinary Association.
At the beginning of 2016, he decided to set out on his own and created The Frog, where his love for fresh produce and elaborate techniques is free to leap forward. Located in hip Spitalfields, at first you might mistake the entrance into Ely's Yard for an unused industrial backyard but will soon be faced by a large marquee framing the restaurant's outdoor bar.
The main restaurant is reached through an entirely glazed wall, revealing a high-ceilinged white space with polished concrete floors where the industrial open kitchen is visible. A long bar with a thick oak worktop and shelves occupies the wall to the right while the dining room is furnished with a mixture of galvanized steel and reclaimed furniture.
What We Ate and Drank: The Tasting Menu (£45pp) caught our eye as an opportunity to try 10 dishes also available on the a la carte menu. Our dinner started with a crispy chorizo croquette with a deliciously soft centre, served on caramelised onion puree topped with yet another layer of puree, a slice of Manchego cheese, a sprinkling of smoked paprika and a micro nasturtium leaf. I enjoyed the contrast of textures and flavours of this delectable morsel which quickly disappeared from the plate.
As a vegetarian alternative to the croquette, we were brought a salt-baked celeriac slice cooked al dente and filled with cream cheese, then covered with shaved truffle and salty egg yolk flakes.
Our second snack was a stunning plate named "Beetroot, beetroot and more beetroot". Two translucent sugar cannoli were filled with beetroot pannacotta, beetroot gel with a hint of yuzu and covered in vibrant beetroot powder and micro red amaranth leaves. This was a wonderful dish where the crunchy sugar casing paired beautifully with its beetroot cream and yuzu gel fillings, while the powdered beetroot added chromatic drama.
The third snack to reach our table was a light and crunchy beer cracker topped with beef tartare, with aromatic chilli and egg yolk flakes. So fresh, spicy and salty, this was another moreish snack.
The non-red meat option was a beautifully pearlized tapioca and squid ink cracker topped with little pieces of salt cod tartare, baby cucumber slices, parsley cream, caviar and micro herbs.
Our last snack arrived in the form of thick slices of freshly baked spelt sourdough served inside a hessian pouch and accompanied by two quenelles of churned butter, one plain salted and the other flavoured with rich roast chicken gravy. We adored the warm lace-textured bread and the intense flavour of the roast chicken butter, which I believe is one of the most flavourful bread and butter combinations being served in London at the moment. A must.
Our wine pairing for the above snacks was a glass of Prosecco Glera, Italy (£4.50). Fresh and dry, with hints of citrus fruit and grass, this prosecco was a little too high in acidity for my liking but light and versatile enough to accompany the wildly different flavours of the snacks.
We then moved on to our first small plate from the "Sea" section of the main menu - an attractive composition of curled thin apple ribbons, white crab meat, daikon, grapefruit, samphire, dill & gin granita, avocado cream, micro sorrel and nasturtium leaves. Beautifully presented and with some great textures, it was however bland in flavour, and despite all the lovely ingredients, it did not come together as a whole dish in my opinion. An example of when less would definitely be more.
Our next dish was a perfectly cooked hake loin with crispy skin, served with limestone mashed potatoes, baked radishes, tarragon leaves and a delicious sauce of beurre blanc and tarragon oil. Well presented on a stunning piece of ceramic pottery, the smooth mashed potato was accompanied by a generous drizzle of tarragon beurre blanc sauce, while radishes added colour and crunch.
The hake was paired with a glass of Paper Road, Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (£28.80 per bottle). A youthful wine with hints of gooseberry, grapefruit, lime and cut grass, this had an intensely refreshing finish.
Our final small plate came from the "Land" section of the main menu - pieces of caramelised beef bavette with a juicy pink centre were served with delicious crispy potatoes, micro onions, onion puree, green herb cream and micro nasturtium leaves.
We requested the mac & cheese from the "Garden" section of the a la carte menu as a non-meat option. Handling's version of this comforting dish displayed macaroni standing on their end in a circle at the centre of the plate which were then generously covered in a super light cheese sauce of Gruyere, Montgomery Cheddar and Parmesan, aerated with CO2 and sprinkled with shaved truffles. This was delicious and one of the best versions of macaroni cheese I have ever tasted.
The beef bavette and mac & cheese were paired with a glass of Primonero Livelli, Negroamaro, Italy, 2013 (£34.50 per bottle). Fine and intense with a rich ruby colour, this had aromas of plums, leather and spices, and on the finish had soft tannins and fruit.
A cheese course can be added to the tasting menu for a supplement of £4 and consists of fried doughnuts filled with cheese and topped with shaved truffle. The rich combination of crispy sweet batter and a creamy, salty cheese centre was absolutely delicious, and a highlight of our dinner.
I was looking forward to my pre-dessert as a refreshing palate cleanser. Sadly, a dish of red cherry sorbet with crumbled almonds, pecan nuts, and what seemed to be granola (?) and chocolate proved to be sweet, filling and confusingly reminiscent of a breakfast bowl. I could not believe I was eating granola after 8 savoury courses.
For dessert proper we ordered a nitro tiramisu which was a rich chocolate ganache on a crunchy biscuit topped with chocolate soil, nitro-mascarpone cream and amaretto crumbs. The billowing nitrogen created quite a spectacle, but I found the chocolate mousse and biscuit were again for my palate too sweet and rich, and the dish did not match up to the finesse of the savoury courses.
Our second dessert was a yuzu bavarois with a raspberry coulis centre served with a quenelle of milk ice cream, crumbled toasted meringue and chunks of aero white chocolate. As with the other desserts, this was also out of synch with the rest of the meal - the yuzu had an unfortunate, overpowering and artificial flavour, and the dessert as a whole was excessively sweet.
Accompanying our dessert we had a glass of Kombucha Bellini (supplement £5) made with Prosecco, 20-day yeast-fermented silver leaf tea and roobois tea.
Likes: We loved the beetroot, the wonderful bread with intense chicken-flavoured butter, the weightless indulgence of the mac & cheese as well as the luscious hake with tarragon sauce. Both food and drink menus are reasonably priced.
Dislikes: The desserts were a bit of a let down. The wine pairing at £35 per person only provided 3 glasses of wine throughout the meal, which arrived in a random order. At £70 per couple I feel it might be better ordering your own bottle.
Verdict: There is real culinary flair on display in The Frog – the beetroot, mac n cheese and sourdough bread were some of the best things I have eaten lately, and I can’t wait to have them again. Recommended.