I ate many wonderful things at The Frog, yet my abiding memory is a simple one: chicken butter. Yep, something so obviously wonderous that one could happily make a meal of it. At home I would do just that. The restaurant is so confident about it that it serves bread and butter as a course. A course, mind you, not something to fill up on while waiting for the meal.
Having attended the launch party of The Frog some months ago and had a taste of Adam Handling’s creations, I was delighted to be invited by Fiona Maclean of London Unattached to waltz through a tasting menu. I have a love/hate relationship with the notion of the tasting menu. To be fair, more love. Still, I do find 10 courses too much and usually feel that towards the end it turns into an endurance test for my appetite. On the other hand, one gets to sample a wider variety of the repertoire of the chef. Additionally, each dish is small enough to avoid any boredom factor creeping in and it banishes any fear of menu envy, nowadays known as FOMO, spoiling the meal.
I had intended to stay teetotal for the evening, but it is beyond my resistance to turn down a kombucha Bellini especially when I know that it is home brewed. What a thirst quenching aperitif to put one in the right mood for dinner. As Fiona chose the wine pairing, I had a taste of each wine and good they were too.
Throughout the evening we were attended to with care and professionalism. Not only did we have the services of an extremely friendly Italian server, but also the attention of the chefs who brought their respective dishes to the table. I am aware that not all reviewers have found favour with the chefs arriving tableside, but we enjoyed the opportunity to hear from those who prepared the food. It gave us a chance to discuss ingredients and preparation methods which enhanced my appreciation of the dishes set before us. This was how I got to know how that marvellous chicken butter is made. So imagine my delight when the chicken butter man prepared a piping bag full to take home for my son (the roast chicken chef in my family) and even had the forethought to put it in the fridge so that it was ready for transporting home, it being a hot night.
The tasting menu began with a course called Snacks which were three bite sized creations. The first was a cute looking taste of Spain – a warm chorizo croquette topped with a disc of cheese. The second was a melt in the mouth seaweed wafer with an apple disc and white crab meat. It was light and delicate with a pleasing spiciness.
The third bite was a beef tartare with beer and egg. This time the wafer was crunchy and the beery meat had a strong tomato flavour which reminded me of a Fritos crisp (in a good way). It was topped with very finely grated egg yolk. We were intrigued with the taste and the chef listed the ingredients which included capers, shallots, parsley, ketchup, Dijon mustard and fermented chilli paste. No wonder it packed such a delicious punch.
Next up was a hessian basket filled with warm sourdough accompanied by the chicken butter that I have become slightly obsessed with. It was unctuous, addictive, delicious, and was topped with crispy shards of fried, roast chicken skin. I tried this at home and have to report that my fried, roast chicken skin was nothing at all akin to that at The Frog. But have a go if you please, just remember to whip the butter with nori seaweed powder. For my money I am just going to return to The Frog.
Main courses were plentiful. We began with Celeriac, truffle, yolk, apple and dates. As the plate was purposefully a similar tone to the food, it appeared as if something organic was growing out of it. Once again wafer thin discs were served – someone in the kitchen likes the wafer making equipment – this time of celeriac. Matchsticks of apple appeared too.
On lifting the celeriac disc one discovered a perfectly cooked egg yolk nestling on a truffle mouse with dates. This was a good one for the vegetarians but I was more taken with the next offerings.
Roast cod, white beans and pancetta once again took us off to Spain, a classic composition prepared by a chef from Seville. The dish was pretty on the eye. Delicately cooked cod was just set. The seasoning was slightly understated for my taste; however, it was accompanied by a lovely tarragon oil flavoured sauce.
My favourite of the mains was the Beef, sour cream and black garlic. Slices of rare roast beef shared the plate with pools of sour cream and black garlic flakes in pearl onions. There was also a scattering of roasted potato with roast garlic puree.
I was concerned that I would simply have no space for the Cheese Doughnuts which I recalled fondly from the launch party. These really are rather moreish – Lincolnshire Poacher is used in a Mornay sauce which fills the batter. Once the doughnut is fried it gets a generous topping of grated Parmesan and truffle. They looked like floppy haired cartoon characters and were a delightful mouthful enhanced even further by a glass of Port.
I don’t really understand what a pre-dessert is, as opposed to a dessert, but that is what the next course was called. Cherry and Chocolate was a cherry mouse with a granola with chocolate nibs. There was also a tiny quenelle of cherry sorbet. I really enjoyed the lovely contrast of colour and texture and the sculptural white bowl in which it was served further heightened its aesthetic appeal.
For dessert I chose the Yuzu curd, white chocolate and whisky. Yuzu being the new lemon om menus, it was a contemporary take on lemon curd and was, pleasingly, much less sweet than the traditional variety.
Throughout the meal we admired and coveted the beautiful Asian ceramics on which the food was served. Since we taste with our eyes before our taste buds, the attractive crockery enhanced my pleasure considerably. The simple décor of the interior does not match the quality of what is served on the unadorned tables. Perhaps it is an age thing. I am old enough to be the mum of most of the diners who looked to be in their twenties, but we were treated with great kindness even if the restaurant is aimed at a younger demographic. As I waddled home with my precious stash of chicken butter, I thought about the generosity of spirit behind this personal touch which went beyond the call of duty. It is this level of service that made an evening at The Frog such a pleasure.
2 Elys Yard, Old Truman Brewery, Hanbury Street, E1 6QR