Having made his name in competitions such as winning BCF Chef of the Year 2014 and a repeat contestant at prestigious shows such as The Craft Guild of Chef’s National Chef of the Year, he was also a finalist on BBC MasterChef: The Professionals 2013 before opening at Caxton in September 2014.
Now, having opened in June this year, Handling’s new 60-cover restaurant allows him to focus on his own style of food – using down-to-earth ingredients such as mackerel, beetroot, and a wide range of herbs, putting emphasis on freshness, texture, and accessibility of price and flavour. (The five-course tasting menu costs just £40 per head; good value for London.)
The team – whose head chef is Steven Kerr ‒ also grows its own herbs on-site, and the vibrant cocktail list is made using The Frog’s own gin, specially-made by local brewery Portobello Brewery. There are also 22 craft beers available, offering a mixture of home-grown and overseas varieties.
Collaboration and positioning within the local community is also important to Handling, who used UK design team Fat Punk Studios to create the restaurant’s unusual aesthetic – from the greenery-draped beams inside, to the expansive front opening to a cosy terrace, to the graffiti-inspired logo of the place itself.
The restaurant also showcases pieces from local artists, who will receive all the profit should they sell any work to customers, alongside a programme of local DJs who will spin decks outside in the evenings.
With a view to opening many more Frogs in future – the current plan is for two more at least ‒ Handling is a man on a mission to create good food, good drinks, and a relaxed atmosphere, beginning in cool and creative Shoreditch.
We went to take a look.