A Bit Smarter Eating Out Featured

The Frog E1, Spitalfields

January 15, 2018

One of the first London life lessons I learnt was that one should plan ahead to avoid disappointment, which makes it even more hilarious that one of the last lessons I learnt was that even the best laid plans can be thrown into disarray. All it takes is one mistake, one mishap, or one big misunderstanding and the next thing you know, Oxford Circus tube station is closed and the restaurant you had your heart set on visiting for months decides to follow suit. And all because two drunkards got into an argy bargy, some noises were heard, and Chinese whispers ensued… but that’s another London life lesson right there.

So that was ‘goodbye big blow-out meal at Bonhams’ and ‘hello to plan B…’ which consisted of changing out of the glad rags, throwing a ‘why are people so silly’ tantrum, heading down to the cosy local bistro, and frantically scouring Opentable for a decent Saturday night reservation. I wasn’t hopeful but my luck was in and hey presto… hello to The Frog E1! Both of Adam Handling’s amphibian offerings have piqued my interest for some time now but they just kept being buried deeper and deeper in ‘the list’ so I thought Friday night’s woes might actually be Saturday night’s blessing in disguise.

It was in fact many, many blessings in my favourite form – the edible variety. I feel rather ill-mannered sitting here and recounting them but please forgive and indulge me, just this once? The snacks were bite-sized morsels which exploded with flavour and were ever so addictive, only giving us one seemed cruel. I marginally preferred the delicate smoked cod roe cigar topped with caviar, over the crispy beef with pickles and mustard, but that said, I would be happy to see either again. Their famed chicken butter was even better than described; on the one hand it was airily whipped, but also ironically laden with chicken skin and that unmistakable chicken-ness which makes you lick your lips at the mere sight of it.

Their salmon dish is one I feel we’ve eaten many times; despite its many guises, the formula is nearly always the same – pair the succulent, buttery fish with something tangy, sweet, salty, and you’ll have a winner on your hands. At The Frog E1, those elements where radish, apple and burnt miso… I wanted to eye-roll at their so-called originality but between the success of the combination and immaculate delivery, my eyes stayed where they were and my tongue was held. The layering of texture was also on the money, a near perfect mouthful consisted of the salmon’s fleshiness punctuated with crunch from the radish, apple and popped grains on top!

From those familiar seas, we launched into new and inviting territory involving razor thin slices of celeriac, egg yolk, apples and dates, all dubiously stacked on top of each other. A certain someone and I agreed that had it not been for the tasting menu, we would never have thought to order this. None of the ingredients are ones we’re particularly drawn to but together, they were inspired. It’s a tough one to describe; at times I felt like I was eating a fine dining interpretation of coleslaw, while other bits made me think new age raw ravioli… However I am fairly certain neither of these thoughts were passing through Adam Handling’s mind when he concocted this showstopper.

A piece of hake, so meticulously caramelised on one side whilst the rest remained generously moist and fleshy, was complimented perfectly with the nutty notes of cauliflower and the sharpness of capers. We were taken aback by how much we loved this dish; it seemed so simple but felt so luxurious to eat… I suspect a lot of butter was involved in its making. The brash sight of unapologetically, just-cooked beef is one which always makes my heart flutter however on this occasion this star of the show was outshone but a lowly side. While the meat was faultless, it was the nuggets of roasted artichoke which really caught our attention. Slightly sweet, slightly waxy, slightly sticky – all excellent characteristics in this case.

I’m not sure why they bother including the cheese doughnuts as an extra course because their description alone had me salivating and I’m sure almost everyone orders them. They are exactly as you would expect, which, my dear friends, is absolutely a good thing… nothing fancy or obscure or too clever needs to happen to these deep fried baubles stuffed with cheese, because they’re pretty good just as they are. As one of us does not tolerate beetroot, the divisive beetroot pre-dessert (I recall one particular critic giving it the most unflattering of comparisons) was swapped out and in its place was a pleasant though not overly memorable citrus version.

When it came to dessert, a certain someone and I went our separate ways. I took the predictable chocolate route which led me to a luscious, oozy cake topped with a caramel foam which had gone ever so skew-whiff during the journey from the kitchen. Meanwhile, the brown butter cake with yoghurt and pumpkin also made quite the entrance complete with plenty of dry ice and theatrics. Not that either of them needed the extra bells and whistles, like everything else we had it was a delight to devour. Aside from some dishes being a touch too salty for me, this was an almost faultless tasting menu. We found the food at The Frog E1 to be thoughtful and exciting without being overly trendy and fussy, which we think is just the right balance of style and substance!

Have you ever had your best laid dining plans thrown into disarray?

What happened and what was your Plan B?

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