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

Flavour Bastard in Soho for something completely different

Flavour Bastard – now there’s a memorable name for a restaurant. When I recommended some new openings for a night out with friends I think they chose this one purely on the name alone!

A quick perusal of their website also added intrigue when I read their statement. “Take vibrant flavours from around the world, remove rules and traditions, add a bit of mischief and creativity and you have Flavour Bastard – a story of flavours running away from home.”

I like the idea of flavours running away from home, but with no rules or traditions and some mischief added in it all was starting to sound a little chaotic. And the menu certainly makes for interesting reading. Each dish is an adventure and you really don’t know what to expect until the plate is placed in front of you.

This is not always a good thing, though I’m happy to report it works at Flavour Bastard. We had plates of food that seemed to be a mix of many different cuisines that looked and tasted delightful.

Like these doughnuts from the Tiny Plate section (it’s all meant to be food to share), made with white lentils, chorizo and pecorino. Have you ever? Best doughnuts I’ve ever had and don’t they look stunning?

Flavour Bastard: doughnuts

My favourite doughnuts ever

The next section is entitled Small plates – though don’t be alarmed, they aren’t that small. This amazing concoction is smoked goat, pomegranate and frankincense with orange and tarragon. Almost sounds like something from another solar system! I’m quite partial to a bit of goat, though have never had the smoked sort before. It was lovely – very tender and, well, smokey.

Flavour Bastard: smoked goat

Smoked goat with exotic fruity flavours

Egg-related dishes pop up on many menus these days and I’m always surprised at what people combine with the humble egg with amazing results. Today our duck egg was served with triple cauliflower and pickled watermelon. As I recently discovered on my visit to Poland you can pretty much pickle anything – and pickled watermelon is surprisingly good.

Flavour Bastard: duck egg

Duck egg with a cauliflower and watermelon extravaganza

I’ve been having a bit of a mussel run at the moment – sometimes I just feel like them more than others – and today’s were Caribbean-style with jerk spices, rum and scotch bonnet. You see, I told you there were flavours from all over the world to look forward to. The broth was light and spicy, perfect with the sweet plump mussels.

Flavour Bastard: mussels

Mussels with a flavour of the Caribbean

So we’ve enjoyed doughnuts like you’ve never seem before…how about some unique popcorn. This is a dish of roast sweet potato, fennel, yogurt, sunflower seeds and chilli popcorn. Who’d have thought of putting all those ingredients together? It worked – and created a pleasant mix of tastes and textures.

Flavour Bastard: Chilli popcorn

Chilli popcorn adds bite to sweet potato

And now time for dessert. First up the Flavour Bastard version of that Spanish staple – Churros. I’ve eaten my share of these in markets in Spain and today’s offering came with some spectacular rose petal ice cream.

Flavour Bastard: Churros

Churros with incredible ice cream

Then there’s the Mayan-spiced milk chocolate and brownie mousse served with lavender ice cream. I must admit to a growing love for spiced or herby ice creams. This is a seriously rich desert made for true chocolate lovers.

Flavour Bastard: Brownies

The most chocolatey of brownies

This is one chef with some serious imagination. He’s called Pratap Chahal and has previously been at Chez Bruce, Cinnamon Club and Claridges. I reckon there’s a lot of experimenting going on in that kitchen! It’s the sort of restaurant where I’d recommend you hold onto a menu so you can double check your dishes when they arrive – to help place all those ingredients – some of which have probably never been mixed before. I  know that some people find this annoying, today I found it fascinating because, somehow, the combinations worked. Flavour Bastard is certainly memorable – and that’s not just the name.

Flavour Bastard: Room

Start the evening pondering the menu with a glass of sparkling

Today’s price point

The food at Flavour Bastard is very reasonably priced.

We paid £44.50 for our seven dishes, which were plenty for three ladies.

There’s a comprehensive and highly international wine list with reds and whites starting from £20.

Flavour Bastard is at 63-64 Frith Street, Soho, W1.

The deliciously different taste of Taiwan at Xu

Xu in London’s Chinatown

I’ve been rather absent from the blogosphere in recent days – there’s been a lot going on! I’ve been travelling to new lands and enjoying new food so there’s plenty of interesting stuff to come. Starting off with a Taiwanese experience – right here in London. Love that you can travel the world without leaving our great capital.

Xu (pronounced Shu) is wonderfully welcoming with warm wooden panelling, wooden ceiling fans, a marble bar and booths with plush leather seats to sink into. It oozes style and luxury, the perfect setting to absorb some Taiwanese culture and cuisine.

The menu is absorbing. I love ordering dishes when you really don’t know what to expect – despite detailed answers to any queries from the waiter. First up a selection of bak kwa, served intriguingly like an offering of After Eight Mints. Bak Kwa is the Taiwanese name for jerky and today there were three types – 40-day aged beef, spicy pork and lamb jerky – served with a selection of shallot and sichuan relish and pickles.

As a person of Southern-African descent, I love biltong and jerky’s of the same family. These little meaty morsels were beautifully flavoursome and the Asian accompaniments definitely added that little bit extra. Full marks for inventiveness.

The jerky in its box with tasty accompaniments

Xu: jerky

Close up on the meaty treats

From the Mian Shi section we went for the Beef pancake. A shredded short rib and bone marrow combo is served in the bone with pickles, spring  onion, potato crumb and of course pancakes on the side. Sort of like a beef version of crispy duck pancakes with more exotic extras! Delicious.

Xu: beef pancake

The beef comes shredded and stuffed into a marrowbone

And then it’s time to assemble your pancake. Love the whole ceremony of this and the result was scrumptious.

Xu: beef pancake

Creating the perfect pancake

It seemed appropriate to try a dish from the Classics section so we went for the Shou Pa Chicken. Described as marinated chicken with drippings, ginger and spring onion, white pepper and chicken skin dip, this is on of the most chicken-y chicken dishes I’ve had in a very long time. The intensity of flavour was fabulous. Real comfort food with a tasty brothy sauce.

Xu: Shou Pa Chicken

A bowl of chicken packed with flavour

Xu: menu

The stylish mix of dark wood and crisp linen

Xu is the sort of place I can see myself whiling away many hours in. The bar area looked very inviting, and I feel there are more dishes that need to be tried. And those cocktails…

Today’s price point

We paid £32.50 for our three dishes which was ample for lunch.

Wine starts from £28 a bottle (both white and red).

There’s a great range of exotic cocktails from £9.

Xu is at 30 Rupert Street, Soho, Chinatown, London W1

Talli Joe for tasty Indian tapas

Talli Joe in Shaftesbury Avenue

Today I’m heading for Talli Joe on what I think of as the border between Soho and Covent Garden. The buzzing street called Shaftesbury Avenue. What a good place to be to try some Indian food with a difference.

The restaurant describes itself as serving Indian half plates and full drinks. It’s a stylish, modern little eatery with an intriguing menu. This one took a lot of perusing – thank goodness for the half plates idea, it gave us the chance to try more of the exciting options.

I love Indian food which means I’ve eaten it all over the world (though I haven’t been to India yet – must be remedied). Today’s interestingly different menu meant time to experiment and explore new flavours and dishes.

What’s on the menu

Lentils are usually beautifully done in Indian cuisine so the Moon daal Pahari seemed like a good place to start. The lentil fritters (described at Delhi’s favourite) came with grated radish and green chilli chutney. Flavoursome and crispy with the raw veg adding freshness and the chutney bringing a real chilli bite. A stunning vegetarian dish.

Talli Joe: lentil fritters

Lentil fritters nestle under freshly grated veg

The Kohapuri Chop is a tenderly tasty tandoori lamb chop served with a potato salad with mustard dressing.

Talli Joe: Tandoori lamb

Succulent lamb and a mustardy salad

Because they sounded so good, today we seemed to order more vegetarian dishes than usual. And the good news is that the Halve ki Mutter Kachori tasted even better than it sounded. Soft bread parcels were stuffed with a spicy pea mix and served in a butternut and potato curry.

Talli Joe: Pea and butternut

Pea-stuffed bread and a rich butternut sauce

Now this is an exciting and unusual dish. The Parsee Venison Keema Ghotala offered a richly satisfying spicy venison mince which was served with an organic egg yolk, lightly toasted sweet-flavoured bread and a side of pao (a chopped chilli and onion mix). We mixed the egg through the mince, making for an almost creamy delicacy and spread it liberally on the bread. Wow! The chefs here have certainly mastered those complex spice balances that make for the very best Indian cuisine. Every dish popped with a delightful roundness of flavours.

Talli Joe: Venison mince

A magnificent mix of spices for a fabulous mince

Talli Joe: Venison mince

Close up on the mince and yellow yolk

The Bohri Chicken was cooked with a combination of masalas and served with a pretty fenugreek flatbread. Another perfect spice blend for the melt-in-the-mouth drumsticks. Love a good Indian flatbread –  and doesn’t this look lovely with its herby greens and seeds.

Talli Joe: Bohri chicken

Spicy chicken drumsticks with fenugreek flatbread

Time for dessert – and fabulous dessert, too. The berry malai was a warm, creamy bowl of baked yogurt topped with fabulously zesty seasonal berries.

Talli Joe: baked yogurt

Sweet creaminess combined with great berry flavours

I love a bit of rose flavouring so couldn’t resist the rose-flavoured ice cream. A little glass of perfect pinkness with flavours that danced on my tongue. The perfect refreshing finish to a wonderful lunch.

Talli Joe: rose ice cream

Two tasty puds made for the perfect ending

Today’s price point

Our seven dishes cost £38.75 – really great value for delicious food.

Wine starts from £21 a bottle and there’s a good selection of spirits and cocktails.

Talli Joe is at 152-154 Shaftesbury Avenue.

Download the CAKE up and get £5 free

I used my CAKE app to book and pay at Talli Joe. A really simple and quick way to eat out in London – yes there’s an app for it. CAKE has a wide range of restaurants on its books and you can also earn credit when you eat out with plenty of chances to get a percentage of the cost of your dinner back.

Download the CAKE app now at thecakeapp.com and quote the referral code EATINGCG to get £5 credit for free and start exploring London’s wonderful restaurantland.

 

The CAKE app for easy eating out in London

Today I’m trying out the new CAKE app which really is an app meant for me. It’s an app which makes it easier to find, book and pay at London restaurants. And there’s a wide range of establishments already on its books.

I loved the fact that when you turn it on shows you nearby eateries and how far away they are – and you can book instantly. Or of course you can select any of their restaurants in advance and make your booking at any time.

On arrival at your chosen restaurant, simply open up a tab on your phone using the app and inform your waiter. Then when you’re done it’s quick and easy to pay. You can even set it up to instantly split the bill between your party.

You can also earn credit back when you eat out with special offers, just select somewhere with credit on and you’ll get a percentage of the cost of your dinner back (usually 15-20%). The more you eat the more you save! And of course as your credits build up you’ve got a great excuse to be going out and about again.

£5 for free

If you download the CAKE app to your phone you’ll get a £5 gift from me to get you going on your exploration of London’s restaurantland. Just use the referral code EATINGCG when you download the app. Happy dining.

Find out more and download your app at thecakeapp.com

The restaurants

My first outing using CAKE I visited Talli Joe in Shaftesbury Avenue. A buzzing little Indian tapas-style restaurant with great food. Full review coming soon, here’s a taster, the spicy venison mince served with an organic egg yolk atop.

CAKE app

The delectable Parsee Venison Keema Ghotala

Among the myriad restaurants you can use CAKE at here are three of my London favourites.

Ember Yard in Soho serves up a great range of dishes cooked over fire. Like what’s possibly the best cauliflower dish I’ve ever eaten.

CAKE app

Delightful spicy, grilled cauliflower

Lima Floral in Covent Garden transports you to Peru with an amazing array of truly different dishes. Peruvian ingredients are like no other and make for an exciting eating experience.

CAKE app

Tender beef Peruvian-style

And then there’s the grandeur of Brasserie Zedel. Sitting right by Piccadilly Circus, it’s a glamorous Parisian-style brasserie of marble and glitz serving great-value French food.

CAKE app

Style and sophistication at Zedel

And that’s just four lovely restaurants to tempt you – London is teaming with them after all. And eating there with CAKE makes life easier.

 

The tastiest Thai food at Busaba

Enjoying Thai food at Busaba

Today’s rainy summer day started with an amble down Oxford Street. The street of myriad shops, frenzied tourists getting in their retail therapy and streams of London buses slowly making their way. I love a bit of time in Oxford Street, but a word of advice – go in the morning – by afternoon it can get unpleasantly packed.

On one of my first meanders down Oxford Street I was surprised that I couldn’t find one of those famous London pubs I’d read so much about. I was too nervous to go off the main drag in case of getting lost! In fact there is one pub on the street which is right near Tottenham Court Road tube station. It used to be called The Tottenham but has recently been renamed The Flying Horse. Not sure why. But of course if you step down any of the side streets off this great London thoroughfare there’s no shortage of pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants to enjoy.

And as London’s restaurant scene gives you the opportunity to enjoy the whole world’s cuisine, just a hop and a skip off Oxford Street is Busaba where you can tuck into the flavours of modern Bangkok. It’s a beautiful, contemporary space with large tables and benches for convivial sharing. We tucked into some tasty, crunchy prawn crackers served with sweet chilli sauce while we pondered the comprehensive menu.

Busaba: prawn crackers

A bowl of crunchy crackers with a sweet and spicy sauce

What’s on the menu

There are several sections to consider – snacks, small plates, stir fry, wok noodle, curry, chargrill, soup and salad – and everything sounded delicious. A hard place to make choices but it had to be done.

We started with the Pandan chicken – tender, fried chicken pieces wrapped in pandan leaves and served with dark soya and sesame dipping sauce. It’s amazing just how tender and flavoursome this chicken was – and I do love the pandan leaf idea, it’s like unwrapping a gift. A very tasty one, too.

Busaba: pandan chicken

Delightful little chicken parcels

Busaba: inside chicken pandas

The luscious parcel contents

A different take on prawn tempura – where the prawns are tossed in Thai-seasoned mayo and topped with chopped mango and chilli. A wonderful combo of textures and flavours with quite a serious chilli bite.

Busaba: prawn tempura

Crunchy prawn tempura and creamy Thai mayo

From the stir-fry section we chose the ginger beef. Strips of bavette in garlic and ginger sauce with mushroom, Thai pepper, fresh chilli and spring onion. The beef was lovely and tender and the sauce packed plenty of gingery flavours.

Busaba: ginger beef

Tender beef in a zingy ginger sauce

I do love a Thai curry. Today’s was one with a difference – red mullet, pineapple and betal leaf -with the fillets poached in the light red coconut milk curry. Mullet is so sweet and tender and goes perfectly with this creamy sauce.

Busaba: Red mullet curry

Double reds: mullet and curry

Busaba: red mullet curry

Sweet fillets of mullet atop egg fried rice

We enjoyed our mains with a fluffy portion of egg fried rice.

Busaba: egg fried rice

Perfect fluffy egg-fried rice

As a regular consumer of Thai food I was happy to discover that the menu offered some interestingly different dishes. And there’s a vast selection of Asian beers and Thai spirits – perfect for cocktails. I didn’t get round to any cocktail sampling this time around, think I’ll have to go back for a refreshing guava bellini or how about an Asian mojito with kaffir lime leaves? Yes please.

To finish off, here’s a shot of the stylish room through our delicious wine. Why not?

Crackers and wine to get started…just perfect

 

Today’s price point

Our two courses cost £38 without drinks or service.

Wine starts from £17 a bottle.

Cocktails are £7.50 and there’s a wide range of fresh juices starting from £2.50.

Busaba is at 52-53 Eastcastle Street W1, just off Oxford Street. Oxford Circus tube station is a few minutes walk.

There are twelve branches across London, so there’s bound to be one near you.