(This chef has now moved from this restaurant)
Adam Handling has been crowned 2014 British Culinary Federation Chef of the Year. That’s no surprise. He is a young man who has already chalked up accolades and praise, and now he has his own name over a restaurant door – Adam Handling at Caxton.
St Ermins is a hotel of character just around the corner from Scotland Yard and St James’s Park Underground station. The hotel’s Caxton restaurant isn’t half celebrated enough. It’s hard to think of another restaurant with food of this quality that isn’t busting at the seams with folks who want to say they have been …or want to be seen there.
Adam has travelled and found his culinary inspiration, his gastronomic muse, in Asia. He hasn’t thrown away his traditional food lexicon but has introduced accents from the East. He has brought in complementary ingredients, some gorgeous crockery and has maintained his individual flair.
I am blessed by a wealth of dining opportunities every week. I am, to be honest, seldom disappointed. I enjoy fine dining with star-spangled chefs, I am energised by evenings of loud rock music garnished with juicy ribs, I have a passion for good curries. Yes, I have been spoilt but I am still thrilled by food, and Adam’s always shines, even against the best competition.
The first time I wrote about Adam’s food I described it as whimsical. He has changed much of his menu but I still stick by my initial observation. His bill of fare has become a tad more exotic but it displays great thought, balance and charm. It still makes me smile. A meal here is an accessible event. Granted, one will pay more than at one’s local pasta chain but Adam Handling at Caxton offers a meal that will remain memorable long after the ride home on the District Line.
Asian food is about flavour, freshness and texture. Japanese dishes are presented artistically, Korean dishes have the impact of spice. Adam has access to the finest ingredients and he tends them slowly and lovingly or fast and furiously, as the dish demands. He allows the individuality of fish, meat and vegetables to impress, but enhances them with the less banal. He has a deft hand with seasoning.
We started our evening with sourdough bread (a whole little loaf), chicken butter and a pot of duck liver parfait. This isn’t at all Asian but falls under the heading of International Comfort. It’s moreish. Doughnuts with dressed crab is finger food and that trending concept of smart-casual pairing. Delightful partner to a flute of chilled prosecco.
Beetroot, Beetroot and more Beetroot is a signature dish here. This will convert even those who profess to hate that finger-staining, earthy-tasting vegetable. Adam has elevated this humble and shunned salad ingredient to cheffy heights. It’s architectural and multi-faceted.
Chicken and lobster, yellow curry with palm sugar was my guest’s starter. Each element complemented the others; unmistakable Asian spice but warming rather than searing. I chose beef tongue bulgogi broth: Korean accents here but subtle. The prospect of tongue will likely strike fear into the uninitiated and that’s a shame. It’s a cut of meat that has good flavour and texture and was once a standard sandwich-filler for Sunday supper. Adam does it justice.
Goat with ragu and Japanese ponzu was hearty and rich. Slow-cooked meat in two guises and not tasting too goaty, this ticked all the boxes for my carnivore companion. But I had a yen for fish and chose Black Cod, miso, kohlrabi, and kimchi. The flesh flaked into moist shards complemented by the well-flavoured kimchi which was delicate rather than robust.
A meal at Adam Handling at Caxton is one over which to linger. It isn’t a white-linen tablecloth kinda place but it’s an attractive restaurant with cosy corners, comfy cushions and friendly service. The food answers for itself in eloquent fashion, making this a must-visit restaurant. I don’t know what’s next but I know it’s going to be exciting.
Mon-Sun 11:30am – 11:00pm
Mon-Fri for lunch: 12 noon – 2.30pm
Mon-Sun for dinner: 6.00pm – 10.30pm
Adam Handling at Caxton
2 Caxton Street
Phone: 0800 652 1498
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018