Frog by Adam Handling

I was lucky enough to visit The Frog by Adam Handling with my work colleagues on a rare night out last week. It was so good that I just have to tell you about.

First impressions of the restaurant itself were that it was a bit of an odd space, and a bit sparse. We were warmly greeted but the cloakroom unfortunately felt a bit temporary. But then we spotted Adam on the pass, and all we could look at was him and the decor was forgotten.

We quickly ordered a cocktail. For me it was an Adam’s Apple, which is the frog gin, pink apple cordial and calvados served with a gorgeous mini toffee apple on the side. A bit sweet (for me) but delicious and the sourness of the apple helped offset some of the sweetness. We all agreed on the five course tasting menu and accompanying wines. We also ordered an extra helping of the now famous cheese doughnuts – a must!

First to arrive were the ‘snacks’ or as my colleague calls them, the shnicky shnacks. Wow.

We started with the most delicious crispy cylinder filled with soft velvety smoked cod, topped with caviar and beautifully presented. Then came the beef tartar which was my favourite and the tastiest tartar I have ever eaten. The final snack was smoking mussels, literally served with smoke pouring from them and flavoured with lemon and sherry vinegar. Amazing, and a real touch of theatre. Of course these snacks were additions to the five courses, we hadn’t even started yet!

Next came the bread and butter – this is not your ordinary bread and butter but the most amazing sour dough and soft butter flavoured with crispy chicken skin with the most delicious morsels of crispy chicken skin on the top. So good we had to ask for more butter (diet was on hold this evening). With this and the snacks, if I ate nothing else ever again, I would have been very happy.

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We were finally ready to start our five courses; first up and delivered by a lovely chef was the ‘Celeriac, date, lime, truffle’. This was the perfect start as it was light, fresh and delicious. Next up was the ‘BBQ mackerel, potato, apple’, another beautifully presented dish with really smokey notes from the mackerel. We washed this down with a fruity little Spanish white.

Our third starter was the ‘Cod Prawn Cocktail’, the Frog’s take on a classic. The cod was perfectly cooked served with a lightly cooked piece of cos lettuce on top still with a nice crunch. I wish I had saved some of my bread for this one to mop up some of the delicious sauce. The Australian Riesling served alongside was the perfect accompaniment. All three dishes presented and delivered by the chef who had prepared each one, such a lovely personal touch.

It was finally time for the main course of ‘Pork, cauliflower, kimchi’ and wow what a dish. The pork served pink and the cauliflower lightly roasted. The kimchi was a revelation and really bought the dish together. I could quite easily have eaten another portion. We were served a Romanian Pinot Noir with this dish was perfectly light and complimentary to the pork.

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Our additional course of cheese doughnuts came next. These have become the must try in any of Adam Handling’s restaurants and rightly so. Soft doughnuts with melting rich cheese in the centre topped with truffle shavings. What’s not to like?

The finale (or so we thought) was pudding which was the one course we had to pre-select. I went with the ‘Caramelised apple, vanilla, salted peanuts’ and was not disappointed. In fact I think I chose the best. We of course made sure we had all four puddings covered on the table so we could try them all.

We ended the evening with a few very well made cocktails in the basement bar which I highly recommend you do, an Old Fashioned being my drink of choice. The sugar coated doughnuts filled with rhubarb were the final treat in what was one of the best meals / experiences I have had in a long time.

I will be back and be sure to have my husband Sam with me next time, he will love it.

Frog by Adam Handling KATER Score 10/10 – £140 for one inc. service

The Frog by Adam Handling, 34-35 Southampton St, London WC2E 7HG | 020 7199 8370

Keeping it local – Singburi

It gives me great pleasure to tell you all about my favourite Thai restaurant, Singburi right here on my doorstop in Leytonstone, London.

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Sam and I absolutely love this place and have been coming for well over eight years now. Every year we are forced to go through a weird kind of withdrawal when the owners take a break and close for two months. Well, last night they reopened and we were quick to call and book our spot.

Singburi is run by a lovely couple, Thelma and Tony along with their son Richard. Thelma is originally from the Philippines and Tony from Thailand and the food is authentically Thai. I can honestly say I have not had better Thai food in London, or anywhere outside of Thailand for that matter. The menu at first glance includes all the classics but you’ll find some really interesting regional dishes that won’t be so familiar, along with regularly changing specials.

You can also ask for your preferred level of spice, mine being Thai medium and Sam’s Thai extra hot. They also accept western medium etc. You get the jist. After so many years they know us well and get the spice level spot on every time; although sometimes testing Sam’s request for extra hot!

We can be creatures of habit and tend to choose the same main dishes which Thelma often rolls her eyes at. We like to try their specials though which means we also order far too much. Sam’s go to is usually the Gaeng Daeng (red curry) and mine is the Gaeng Penang Nua which is a dry curry of tender beef strips in an aromatic and medium spiced Penang sauce. Last night we kicked off with some delicious Miang’s, a traditional Thai snack. Fresh and aromatic flavours of lemongrass, shallot, garlic, pomello (which Thelma hand carried all the way from Thailand), Thai basil and peanuts piled on top of a betel leaf and sprinkled with toasted coconut. A mouthful of pure deliciousness. I could have eaten many more. We shared another special of the day called Larb Moo Tod, a croquette of pork served with a Thai shallot salad which perfectly cut through the fatty pork.

For mains, I stuck to my usual Gaeng Penang Nua (its been over two months) and Sam choose the special Gang Keow Wan, a green curry with beef short-rib. Of course a meal at Singburi is not compete without their vegetable Pad Thai. Not a dish we particularly loved in Thailand, or in any other Thai restaurant since, but this one is amazing. Whilst chatting with Thelma last night we asked what her secret was and she let slip that it was the tamarind. I’m sure there is more to it but either way this dish is a winner.

It’s worth mentioning some of our other favourite dishes that we have been lucky enough to eat in the past. The Moo Crob, delicious pork crackling and chilli. The chilli clams are amazing. Every now again they include whole seabass on their special board. This is another must try. Steamed in sweet soy, ginger, coriander and a very special secret ingredient.

Their Som Tam (papaya salad) is deliciously spicy and fresh. The Yam Samun Phrai is a herb salad of ginger, lemongrass, cashews, sesame, carrot, crispy shallot and crispy bean curd and really yummy. The Gaeng Daeng (red curry), Gaeng Massamun with beef and the Moo Pad Prig King (stir fried pork with chilli and long beans) are also some of our favourites and well worth trying. I could go on…

Thelma operates a strict seating schedule of 7pm and 9pm but you can get a table in between you just have to book well in advance. This place is always busy. The staff who work there also deserve a mention – they have been loyal to Thelma and Tony for years and provide some of the best and friendliest service I have experienced.

Singburi is open Tuesday – Sunday for dinner and it only accepts cash. Smaller dishes cost around £5 and the larger main courses around £10 – incredible value for money, especially with their BYOB policy too.

KATER Score 10/10 – £40 for two inc. service

593 High Rd Leytonstone, London E11 4PA  | 02082814801

Wine-ding our way around Saint-Émilion

This trip was all about food and wine for us. I had done my research before arriving and booked a couple of places which I would recommend you do as the restaurants in Saint-Émilion get very busy. We were there for five days and literally ate and drank our way around Saint-Émilion  It is a very pretty town, easy to walk around (not so easy to park) and plenty of wine houses, restaurants and quaint shops to choose from.

We stumbled uponLa Bistro des Vignobles one rainy lunchtime and were greeted by very friendly owners and blackboard menus which sounded too delicious so decided to stay and eat. I started with some local oysters and Sam had foie gras with a beetroot raspberry jam. Both delicious and washed down with a superb glass of local white. We followed with steak and chips and for Sam and roast chicken, garlic potatoes and a spicy ratatouille for me. Quite classic and simple but really tasty. The recommended bottle of Saint-Émilion red was nice too.

La Bistro des Vignobles KATER Score 8/10 – €70 for two inc. service

La Tertre is a traditional restaurant in the heart of Saint-Émilion offering classically cooked dishes along with a very nice (expensive) wine list. It’s a restaurant for a special occasion or a fine dining treat and I would recommend you book ahead. We enjoyed dishes of beef fillet with fondant and onion truffle sauce, lobster and chocolate fondant. Naturally our meal ended with a cheese plate. All deliciously rich and satisfying.

La Tertre KATER Score 8/10 – €150 for two inc. service

Whilst sampling some of Saint-Émilion finest we were recommended La Table de Catasseau which is outside Saint-Émilion  near Pomerol. Not one to ignore a local recommendation, I booked a table for lunch the next day. It was a very local restaurant and on our arrival everyone stopped and stared. No-one spoke much English. But with my pigeon French we persevered and ordered the ‘managers menu’, not knowing what was about to arrive – for me this is the best way to eat.

The wine list was something else, so I took a punt at what looked like a reasonably priced bottle and ordered a Château Clos Saint Emilion Philippe 112, 2012. The waiter looked suitable impressed which made me feel better and wow, were we in for a treat. An amuse of truffle croquet came first, followed by lobster rolls, monk fish truffle risotto, the best beef wellington I have ever eaten, finished with the prettiest mixed berry and cream combination. And the wine was stunning. I would definitely recommend coming here if you’re ever in the area – don’t let the locals put you off!

La Table de Catasseau KATER Score 9/10 – €160 for two inc. service

We tried another restaurant near Pomerol called La Terrasse Rouge which I found online after a bit of research. It’s set on top of a working vineyard, offering stunning views across the region. It is modern in style with an open kitchen. We started with a local pork platter which we shared along with their homemade bread and assorted butters which was were divine. We followed with seabass and parmesan risotto for me and spit roast chicken, fries and salad for Sam. We had an early table at 12.30 and by 1pm it was jam packed with what looked like local business men mainly.

La Terrasse Rouge KATER Score 8.5/10 – €90 for two inc. service

On another recommendation, we booked a table at Cafe Cuisine  this was a risk as it was 20 minutes away in Branne and a taxi cost 40 Euros one way! It was a true local restaurant, quite romantic and cosy. I really wanted to like it and the 30 Euro menu sounded delicious with mackerel to start, then veal for main and apple cake for pudding. Unfortunately both starter and main were served with purees and didn’t offer any texture or variety. I know that the French eat their meat rare but this veal was on the edge for me, despite asking for it medium to well. The apple cake was just ok.

Cafe Cuisine KATER Score 6/10 – €85 for two inc. service

When it was time to go, we asked for a taxi to be told that there weren’t any, they had finished for the night. Oh! Fortunately, a lovely English couple sat next to us offered to drive us back to our hotel, which was very kind. Our hotel got an earful when we returned. Not impressed. Perhaps we were just unlucky.

We ended our trip with a day in Bordeaux checking out the sights (which there weren’t many of) and trying to find something semi healthy to eat after our over indulgent week. We found a fab little Japanese place called Un soir a shibuya with incredibly welcoming and friendly service. We each choose a mixed bento box of seaweed salad, maki, nigiri, gyoza’s and tempura. It was delicious and a welcome break from truffle, wine and cream. I would recommend this place if you’re in Bordeaux.

Un soir a shibuya KATER Score 9/10 – €65 for two inc. service no wine

Seville – time for tapas

We love visiting Spain, and usually find ourselves around Malaga as we have friends who live nearby. This time we decided to meet up somewhere different so via Airbnb we booked a beautiful town house in the centre of Seville with a roof top pool – much needed in the 40-degree heat. We stayed for a week whilst they joined us for a long weekend.

Seville is packed full of tapas restaurants, ranging from traditional to modern in style. We were literally spoilt for choice, so after a bit of research (thanks to TripAdvisor) we decided we’d take a chance and book a food tour with Azahar Food Tours (KATER Score 8/10 – €65 pp) Not something we have done before, but friends had recommended that we try it, so we thought why not. We also decided that as we would be eating our way around Seville and with this blog in mind, we would mark each tapas bar out of ten as we went around. Here goes.

Our tour was made up of our tour guide, a local girl who taught English by day, a lone American guy, myself and Sam which was great, as a big group wouldn’t have been the same.

We started in the main square by the Cathedral and headed to the oldest Tapas restaurant in Seville, Casa Morales (KATER Score 8/10 – inc. in tour) They have been serving up local wines, sherries and tapas for over 150 years. We enjoyed a glass of sherry to pair with our manchego cheese, venison chorizo, jamón and salted cod – it was all absolutely delicious and a great start to our tour.

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Jamón, Venison Chorizo and Manchego from Casa Morales

We then had a short stroll towards the Alcázar of Seville (Royal Palace where they filmed Game of Thrones) to Casa Roman (KATER Score 7/10 – inc. in tour) where we were warmly greeted by the owner and ushered to a table. It felt like a proper local spot, with no other tourists in sight. Pork cheeks, mushrooms with salsa verde, salt cod and pork cuts, chips and gravy were promptly served and washed down with some delicious local red wine.

We ended the tour in a modern style tapas bar called Viniera San Telmo (KATER Score 5/10 – inc. in tour) which had a great atmosphere and a promise of something exciting. We ordered some gambas, squid ink spaghetti with crab, beef carpaccio and lemon meringue pie. Unfortunately, it was all a little style over substance for me and I found it all a bit bland.

Overall I would recommend a food tour to anyone on a city break, it was a great introduction to Seville, our tour guide was full of interesting facts and advice plus it gave us a chance to get our bearings for the next few days of tapas grazing.

Over the next few days we visited:

  • Bar Catedral (KATER Score 8/10 – €12 for two inc. service) Smack bang in the tourist area so didn’t expect too much but surprisingly good pig cheeks and artichoke salad
  • Baratillo (KATER Score 7/10 – €15 for two inc. service) Delicious Russian salad, roasted peppers with mackerel and some Jamon
  • Bartolomea (KATER Score 7/10 – €30 for two inc. service) A modern looking tapas restaurant in the Arenal district but unfortunately the sous vide squid let this down as it was overcooked. However, the mushroom and cheese risotto was gorgeous
  • Postiguillo (KATER Score 6/10 – €20 for two inc. service) In the Arenal district we had a quick stop here to break up the walk and enjoyed some Jamon, fois gras and manchego – average
  • Petite Comite (KATER Score 8/10 – €25 for two inc. service) A great find where we sampled some local croquettes, potato salad, pork cheeks and artichokes with Jamon
  • Bar Kiko De La Chari (KATER Score 9/10 – €10 for two inc. service) This place doesn’t look like much as it is literally a whole in the wall with a couple of aluminium tables and chairs in an alley way BUT wow do they do a good meatball! We also sampled their ‘potaje de garbonzos’ (chickpea stew) which was delicious – definitely recommend seeking out this place
  • Sal Gorda (KATER Score 10/10 – €35 for two inc. service) This was our absolute favourite tapas restaurant, we went their twice, taking our friends when they arrived. Over near Alfalfa plaza, a less touristy spot in Seville we enjoyed seabass with spiced noodles, tuna tartare, pig cheeks with creamed potato, lamb shoulder, prawns in a yuzu dressing finished off with a selection of local goats cheeses. Everything was beautifully presented and was delicious – an absolute must when visiting Seville.
  • Las Teresas (KATER Score 9/10 – €10  for two inc. service)  This is the place to go for your jamón fix. Traditionally cut jamón, using a just a knife and no ham stand you are greeted with a ceiling of hanging meats. The jamón was melt in your mouth and the best we had all week. A busy hang out for the locals but a definite stop off for anyone visiting Seville.

We were lucky enough to visit the Triana area on a day where they were celebrating La Vela de Santa Ana, a festival dedicated to the mother of Virgin Mary. This basically meant all the locals took to the street and pop up bars and tapas spots were spread all along Calle Batis. We stopped off for a beer and enjoyed some pulpo a la gallega (freshly cooked octopus) which was a real treat. I’m not an octopus lover normally but this was something else, sprinkled with some smoked paprika and olive oil, so simple yet delicious.

Seville was absolutely fabulous, the food, the culture and the company was just perfect – I would go back in a heart beat although maybe not in July (too hot)!

Belfast – a foodie birthday surprise

As a treat for my birthday, my husband Sam took me to Belfast for a long weekend. It’s become a bit of a tradition to be away for our birthdays, although Sam’s is in St Lucia for his in November, so I think I might have drawn the short straw this year.

That said, Belfast was a real foodie surprise for me. My colleague Pete had organised a table at OX (KATER Score 10/10 – £175 for two inc. service) for my birthday dinner on the Friday night. I’d heard great things about the restaurant, and the experience did not disappoint. For an incredible £50 you get their full tasting experience featuring the very best local and seasonal produce, expertly put together and beautifully presented. There is no menu, just a list of local and seasonal ingredients that chef has to choose from that month. I loved this element of surprise. For an extra £30 you can experience their wine pairing which was superb. It was a cracking first night of our trip.

Saturday was spent exploring Belfast, starting with a traditional Irish breakfast, which nearly finished us off it was so big. I’ve never had so many varieties of bread and pancake on one plate. We sampled the famous Tayto crisps washed down with a few (too many) pints of Guinness.

Realising we hadn’t eaten since breakfast we needed to refuel and luckily stumbled across a fab little place called Yügo (KATER Score 8/10 – £35 for two inc. service) Serving modern and contemporary Asian inspired small plates this was right up our street. We sat at the bar and enjoyed some delicious bao buns, pork dumplings and spicy pork mince with green beans.

Belfast is a beautiful city, we found the people incredibly friendly, the pubs and bars welcoming and full of Guinness memorabilia. We can’t wait to go back!