The tastiest lunchtime treat at the fabulous Frog

Frog by Adam Handling

Today I’m taking you to Covent Garden – it seems like it’s been a while. And we’re eating at a fantastic new opening – Frog by Adam Handling. Adam is a young British chef who started his culinary career at 16 in Scotland and worked all over the UK before opening the first Frog in London’s Spitalfields in 2016. And now he’s opened his flagship restaurant in Covent Garden’s Southampton Street. It’s a bright and stylish contemporary space with an open kitchen so you can check out all the chefs in action.

Adam has a distinctive cooking style and the menu takes a bit of explaining. Some of the dishes sound a bit on the strange side and you’re not sure quite what you’re going to be getting. Turns out to be a great surprise – I loved his food, eating here is a real flavour adventure.

Adam also prides himself on sustainability and many of the seasonal ingredients you’re going to eat are grown at the restaurant’s farm in West Sussex.

Frog is a great name for a restaurant – and of course there had to be frogs legs on the menu. Frogs legs popcorn to be exact, served with garlic and sour cream in beautiful  heavy stone bowls. A wonderfully delicate dish with the addition of a colourful dip. The bowls kind of made me feel like I was eating with The Flintstones! In a good way of course.

Frog: frogs legs

The daintiest of frogs legs

Cheese and truffle doughnuts were served under a blanket of finely grated parmesan. How I love that cheese and truffle mix, and these were the king of doughnuts that delightfully melted in the mouth.

Frog: cheese and truffle doughnuts

The sublime combination of truffle and cheese

And this was the dish of the day for me. Simply listed on the menu as seaweed, beef and anchovy it was sort of like a steak tartare on crispy seaweed with amazing hints of the saltiness of the anchovies. Sublime.

Frog: Seaweed, beef and anchovy

An amazingly exotic concoction

After our three courses we were presented with a surprise from the chef: his chicken butter. Oh my goodness who’d have thought chicken butter could be such a delight. It was served topped with bits of crunchy chicken skin and with a basket of fresh bread for spreading on. You can buy this taste sensation to take away but I had to resist or I think I’d be eating chicken butter for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Frog: Chicken butter

The most unexpectedly delicious thing I’ve tasted this year

The mackerel was served with BBQ potato and yogurt- and a splash of herbs, flowers and sauces for a truly beautiful-looking dish.

Frog: Mackerel

A beautiful plate of mackerel

The Iberico pork was served with cauliflower and kimchi. I love a piece of Iberico pork and this was the absolute best of it, with the perfect balance of flavours and textures.

Frog: Iberico pork

Iberico pork bursting with flavour

And here’s a shot of the stylish interior looking towards the open kitchen.

Frog: interior

The stylish restaurant looks into the open kitchen

I loved Frog and think I should make it my quest to return and try everything on the inventively delicious menu.

Today’s price point

Our five dishes cost £53.

There’s a comprehensive wine list and white starts at £21, red at £24 and rose at £42.

There’s also a selection of sake (from £9 for 175ml) and cocktails (from £12).

Frog is at 34-35 Southampton Street, Covent Garden WC2

Contemporary British food at Native in Neals Yard

Today I’m heading to Native in picturesque Neal’s Yard in my favourite part of London – yes it’s time for lunch in Covent Garden.

Neal’s Yard owes its name to Thomas Neale who created the Seven Dials area of Covent Garden where it’s located. It wasn’t always the beautiful oasis it is today – in fact it had been a dark, rat infested, derelict yard behind the Covent Garden fruit and veg market. It didn’t even appear in the London A-Z until the mid-70s! This was after Nicholas Saunders started the Whole Food Warehouse there and the Yard became transformed into the secret Covent Garden space it is today.

In the courtyard you’ll find a collection of bars, restaurants and cafes set in a cute and colourful surrounds. Native is tucked away in the corner, a mini, stylish establishment with an open kitchen and small bar upstairs. We went down to the little dining area with its whitewashed walls and rustic tables. It’s a calm and relaxing sort of space.

Native’s dishes are all made from ingredients that are native (well, obviously!) to the UK. They focus on game, foraged and wild food which leads to a menu of delicious and somewhat exciting choices.

On Native’s Menu

There’s a choice of three dishes for each course. My Dorset crab was the prettiest plate I’ve seen for a while and came with thinly sliced Wye Valley asparagus. It’s asparagus season in England – so any excuse to eat as much of it as I can! The bitter herb veloute was poured over my dish at the table adding vibrancy and zest.

The beautifully delicate crab dish

The veloute adds a vibrant green-ness

The wild boar ragu was served with buttered satisfy, native curds and pickled walnuts. How’s that for an intriguing-sounding combination. Wild boar simply makes the best ragu – it was rich, packed with meatiness and oh-so-satisfying. You eat the root of the salsify plant which is sort of like a parsnip but different! It has a creamy sort of texture and a good bite to it.

The richness and depth of a wild boar ragu

Today we went for the special which was mutton served with sweetbread, garlic and jus. And an order of carrots and mushrooms on the side. It’s very rare to see mutton on menus – or even in shops – these days. I remember eating it all the time as a child on the farm. So I was very keen to have another mutton taster. It didn’t taste anything like I remembered – and I don’t think that’s anything to do with my memory! Certainly the chefs at Native have more skills in the cheffing department than our family cook (though he was very good). This tender, flavoursome mutton was served medium – medium/rare and I savoured every mouthful. Do love an occasional sweetbread, too.

Mutton, sweetbreads and a luscious gravy

A plate of multi-coloured roast carrots made for the perfect companion for the mutton. I love that carrots come in so many hues these days. They certainly brighten up any meal.

A cornucopia of carrot colours

And then there were the deeply earthy English Portobello mushrooms that were roasted with garlic. Portobellos done properly are almost like eating a juicy steak – simply delicious.

Earthy, juicy mushrooms with garlic

Neal’s Yard couldn’t be more removed from its history of dereliction. It’s the sort of place I could imagine living – right in the heart of much loved Covent Garden, surrounded by great eating! What more could anyone want?

The colourful warehouse-style buildings of Neal’s Yard

Today’s price point

It’s £25 for a two-course lunch or £32 for three courses.

White wine starts from £21 a bottle and red from £20. There’s a selection of English wines on offer, too.

Native is at 3 Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, London

The Barbary: It’s simply stupendous

Today I’m back in Covent Garden – in the delightful surrounds of Neal’s Yard. It’s a really cute, characterful area that is home to sister restaurant to The Palomar which I visited recently.

The Barbary takes its inspiration from the Barbary Coast – an area around the Atlas Mountains which includes Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. The area was infamous for its pirates and until the beginning of the 20th century was home to the Barbary lions which are now sadly extinct.

The menu reflects these countries from the Atlantic Coast and also through to the Mediterranean Sea and Israel. It makes for an amazing mix of ingredients and some of the most stunning and different food I’ve eaten in a while.

Food comes in tapas-size portions so there are plenty of opportunity for tasting. Seating is around the bar looking into the open and buzzing kitchen. You can’t book so there’s always the risk of queuing (one of my pet hates) so I’d recommend you go for a later lunch (after 2pm) or an early dinner (around 6pm) and you shouldn’t have much of a wait.

It’s the sort of menu that needs some explanation before those big decisions are made and the staff are very keen to help and describe the dishes with passion. They make them all sound so good but even once you’ve been guided by their knowledge you’re still not sure what you’re going to get. It’s just food I hadn’t encountered before but the good news is there’s no need to stress – I’m telling you that whatever you order is going to be fabulous.

Make sure to start with the Araya which is in the snack section. Little parcels of mince grilled on the fire and served with a tahini-style dip, these are sausage rolls in a league of their own.

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Simply heavenly sausage rolls

Masbacha chickpeas are soft and succulent with a wonderfully herby dressing.

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Zesty, herby chickpeas

And then there’s the Jerusalem bagel, a tasty, elongated delicacy generously coated with sesame seeds and served with a twist of spices on the side for dipping.

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The beautifully chew Jerusalem bagel

I am partial to a bit of chopped chicken liver and again this is spectacular, I think my favourite dish of the day. It’s chopped with hard boiled eggs and spring onions and served with a creamy, mustardy sauce. Another combination made in heaven.

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Chopped chicken liver and mustard

The fattoush salad of chopped tomatoes and herbs is topped with the creamiest whipped feta and a lovely limey dressing. A real star of a salad.

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Juicy tomatoes and soft clouds of feta

Our waitress enthusiastically recommended we order the pata negra neck which came with golden bulbs of roast garlic. I don’t really have the words to describe this amazing piece of meat. Rare and tender with a lovely charred crust from the fire, it melted on my tongue, the richest of flavours dancing across my taste buds.

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Melt-in-the-mouth flavourful meat

The Barbary’s bread is also stupendous. This amazing buttery nan was the perfect partner for the fishy taramasalata-like dip in all its pinkness.

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Naan and a fishy dip

The final wonder today is the goat. The second time I’ve seen goat on a London menu recently, it was roasted, shredded and crisped up on the fire. Served on a bed of garlicky tzatziki and topped with pickled red onion and fresh mint. Wow!

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Anyone for goat gyro?

I loved the mats which give you a clear picture of the region that’s inspired this marvellous food.

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I thought I’d also treat you to a picture of the beautiful Barbary lion with its dark mane that goes all the way around its stomach. They needed to keep warm up in those Atlas Mountains.

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And here’s a magnificent Barbary lion

Today’s price point

This array of dishes cost around £70.

Wine starts from £29 a bottle.

The Barbary is at 16 Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden.

The taste of Thailand in Covent Garden

I love Thai food, there’s so much variety  and everything’s bursting with flavour. I visit Thailand whenever I get the chance and my favourite part of the trip is trying different dishes every day. I have established some firm favourites over the years.

So today I’m delighted to be combining some of my favourite food with my favourite part of London. Thai food in Covent Garden – gotta love the international flavours of London Town.

SUDA Thai is tucked away in a beautiful courtyard just steps away from the hustle and bustle of this popular area of the capital. It’s a real haven and you feel even happier with the warm welcome you’re given. Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles and I discovered that the Thais have thirteen terms describing different types of smiles – a bit like the eskimos do for snow. You’ve got to understand there’s plenty of smiling going on in Thailand, and there also certainly is in SUDA Thai.

The menu is impressive, and pretty huge, taking some paging through. We were directed to the section headed E-Sarn Classic – dishes from north-eastern Thailand – which include different versions of green papaya salad (som tum), which I eat large amounts of on Thai holidays. We went for the classic version which comes with cherry tomatoes, roasted peanuts, dried shrimp and chilli.

The green papaya is shredded, mixed with a zingy, spicy dressing and topped with the other ingredients. It’s a crunchy, chilli delight of a dish and even eating on a cool autumn London day, the flavours transported me to the beach – well, one of the many beaches I’ve enjoyed this dish on. Now I know where to get my fix in London

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Classic som tum – spicy green papaya salad

We found ourselves drawn to the Grilled and Stir-fried section for our next choices. Fish works so well with Thai ingredients, and the sea bass was amazing. It came in crispy batter, drizzled with sweet and sour chilli sauce and accompanied by a fresh salad.

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Sweet sea bass fillets in a delightful sauce

Our third choice was the black pepper beef. Beef tenderloin was served with a coating of black pepper sauce, crunchy onions and peppers and little stems of green peppercorns to bite into. Perfect served with a bowl of fluffy, tasty egg fried rice.

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Tender beef, crunchy veg and a peppery sauce

SUDA is the perfect place to pop in for a light lunch, as we did, though it was hard narrowing down the choices. Next time I’d like to go with a large group of friends so we can really do the menu justice and try loads of their delicious offerings. The selection of small bites looked particularly enticing, and then of course, there’s all the curries…

Today’s price point

SUDA is really good value. Our food today cost £36.25 and was a satisfying lunch for two.

Wine starts from £18 a bottle.

SUDA Thai is at St Martin’s Courtyard, off Upper St Martins Lane, London WC2. It’s a short walk from Leicester Square tube station.

The taste sensations of Tredwell’s

Today I’m back in my favourite part of London – Covent Garden – eating out in the Seven Dials area to be specific.  Seven Dials was originally laid out by Thomas Neale (who Neale Street is named after) in the early 1690s. The seven streets are designed in a series of triangles and Neale commissioned a centrepiece for his development – the Sundial Pillar (which is where the reference to dials comes from). The pillar was pulled down in 1773 but the name and concept of the area has stuck.

Neale’s vision was for Seven Dials to become the most fashionable address in London. Unfortunately it did not go at all to plan with the area deteriorating into a slum which became renowned for its gin shops. There was a time that each of the seven apexes facing the monument housed a pub with their cellars all connected providing handy escape routes for the neighbourhood’s criminal element, which seems to have been substantial.

It may have taken a while but I’m guessing he would be pretty thrilled with the way his creation looks in 2016. It’s all happening here with plentiful eateries, bars and designer shops – one of which is high on my list of must-visit London restaurants for anyone – Tredwell’s from Marcus Wareing.

The welcome is warm as you walk into the glowing interior which has booths lining the walls downstairs (gotta love a booth). We ate in the large open space upstairs where we experienced plenty more of that warmth. The service was exceptional, with friendly, knowledgeable staff who seemed to sense our mood and gauge the pace for our dinner just perfectly. I love it when somewhere gets it absolutely spot-on right, it’s no easy matter.

The menu takes some perusal and thought. Every dish reads like mix of magical ingredients and often turns up something totally unexpected. Love that.

Like my starter. On the menu it says: slow cooked hen’s egg, Alsace bacon, mushroom, brioche. So I was sort of imagining a kind of egg, bacon and mushroom concoction on toast – given Marcus’s special touch of course! But no, a little bowl of creamy deliciousness arrived instead. Rich, earthy mushrooms, salty bacon chunks and a brilliant yellow yolk immersed in a light, savoury liquid. And brioche soldiers for dipping. This is bacon and egg taken to a new level, so clever and just so delicious.

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An inventive version of bacon and eggs

The chargrilled scallops were served with butternut squash, miso and crispy sage. An amazing combination and the sweetest of tender scallops.

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A beautifully vibrant plate of scallops

I rarely order chicken in restaurants, it needs to sound suitably intriguing and like nothing I’ve ever cooked myself. Like this crispy buttermilk chicken which was tender and crispy with flavours of bergamot and served with crunchy pickled cucumber and radish.

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A plate of crunch in pinks and greens

And so on to mains. A tempting selection of meat and fish dishes makes for an almost impossible decision. I spent so much time pondering,  confused myself several times – and eventually went for the rare roast beef salad which was served with pickled mushroom, sesame and rocket. The beef was so skilfully thinly sliced, packed with flavour and generously coated with sesame seed crunch. A lovely light dish of great textures.

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Tender slivers of beef star in a delectable salad

The sea bass came with beetroot, aioli, smoked creme fraiche and fennel, all stunningly displayed.

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A delicately sweet fish dish

The prettiest plate of lamb was done two ways – Hardwick lamb rump and braised lamb belly and served with piquillo and sumac creme fraiche and a dollop of delicious smoked aubergine.

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There’s a selection of cuts of steak on the menu, including their Chateaubriand (put that down for a special celebration). The Lake District 35-day dry aged ribeye was served with a pretty giant bone marrow, shallot and peppercorn sauce. Plates for carnivores don’t come any better than this.

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The irresistible steak and marrowbone combo

As well as this amazing array of food Tredwell’s also has one of the most exciting assortment of sides you’ll see on any menu. As result we ordered several. The triple cooked chips came with and absolutely sublime hollandaise mousse that I could have drunk with a straw or eaten with my fingers even.

Okay, truffled macaroni cheese is a little indulgent for what is basically a vegetable course, but it was just one of those nights. And it was perfect, light with tiny bits of macaroni and plenty of that unique truffle flavour.

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A truly indulgent truffle side dish

We really had a feast tonight which sadly meant we just couldn’t venture down the pudding page. Though we did manage to retire to the lovely, cosy Tredwell’s terrace (complete with heaters and blankets) for mint teas and coffees – and a chance to inhale more of that Seven Dial’s atmosphere. Thank you Thomas Neale.

Today’s price point

Food for four people cost £145.50, which included a starter and main course each and four side dishes.

We had a bottle of house red wine for £26.

NB All my price points don’t include service charges.

Tredwell’s is at 44 St Martin’s Lane, London WC2. It’s a very short walk from Leicester Square Underground station.

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Lunch at Frenchie, a lovely new Covent Garden opening

The eating opportunities continue to grow in Covent Garden with more and more deliciousness to enjoy. Frenchie, Covent Garden gives Londoners the chance to try chef Gregory Marchand’s fabulous menu. He hails from Paris where he has a restaurant, wine bar, takeaway and wine shop in the Rue du Nil in the 2nd arrondissement. Frenchie is the name Jamie Oliver gave to him when he ran the kitchen at 15 in Shoreditch.

It’s a lovely modern, bright room with friendly, welcoming service. The menu offers starters (generous enough for sharing), mains and desserts, as well as a five-course Carte Blanche menu.

We pretty instantly spotted four dishes we couldn’t resist so shared them for the table. I love asparagus (I know, I’ve said it before) and the white type is a particular treat. Served here with parmesan and puffed barley, it was a true masterpiece and a dish I could eat every day.

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Beautiful fresh white asparagus

Plump smoked anchovies were served with Neal’s Yard salted butter and shallots.These silken, smoked treasures are some of the best anchovies around and perfect served simply with toast, butter and lemon juice.

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Smoky and succulent anchovies

I’m loving all the pea dishes around this year. Here we have burrata with a fresh pea pesto and pecorino cheese. The creaminess of the burrata combines with the sweetness of the peas to create a real taste explosion. And dishes rarely look this beautiful either…simply wonderful.

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A stunning and delicious plate of green-ness

The squid came in a more-ish broth with home-made harissa and carrots. Wonderfully tender squid with a silky sauce with real depth.

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A delicately smooth squid dish

This is the kind of restaurant I can picture myself whiling away plenty of hours in. And you can also eat at the bar, now that’s going to be hard to resist this summer.

Frenchie is at 16 Henrietta Street, just off Covent Garden Piazza.

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