The official description of Adam Handling’s cooking here is contemporary British but you have never tasted anything like this remarkable food before. Some restaurants are about décor, some are about the view and some are all about the food. Restaurant Adam Handling Chelsea is definitely all about the food. Elegant Décor, a sleek open kitchen and Sloane Street views aren’t bad either.
Based in the newly opened Belmond Cadogan Hotel, sister property to Raymond Blanc’s glorious Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Adam Handling Chelsea is really in the bosom of Chelsea in a building made infamous through a long history of colourful royal dwellers and actors. Step out of the main entrance and be dazzled by Knightsbridge’s uber luxury brands or slip out a side door to be immersed in artistic Chelsea, filled with craft boutiques, antiques and yummy mummies.
I was thinking who Adam Handling’s competitor restaurants are but he doesn’t have any. At the same time Adam Handling isn’t a mad scientist Chef who wants to rule the world. He just understands flavour and his cooking style is so very precise in every element. His use of different cooking techniques (particularly Japanese) results in creative ways to elevate simple quality produce.
We couldn’t decide what to eat so we settled in and chose the tasting menu, a selection of signature creations that show off Adam’s personality. I only met Adam a couple of times but I will attempt to briefly review the 8 course tasting menu that I feel also describes his personality traits:
Playful – It all starts with snacks full of little fun surprises. IPA sourdough with a chicken butter so light is complete with crispy bits of satisfying chicken skin on top. My favourite snack – savoury, dainty, cheese stuffed doughnuts with lashings of truffle.
Passionate and proud – The ‘Mother’ signature dish was created for Adam’s mum to try to embarrass her when she said she was going vegetarian for his first restaurant launch in 2014. Salt-baked celeriac stuffed with truffled cheese with a confit yolk is covered in truffle, apple and lime. It’s a moreish plate that covers every dimension of flavour – salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami. No wonder he is so proud of this dish, which has stayed on the menu since day one.
Talking of passionate, the illustrated cocktail story book menu is beyond amazing. Each cocktail tells a different story and the Mother cocktail with celeriac distilled vodka is a must try with Adam’s signature creation. Another favourite was a Royal Mistress with mescal, tequila, sweet vermouth and even an embossed ice cube.
Patriotic – A proud Scotsman, Adam underpins everything he does with an ethos of British, seasonal and sustainable ingredients that aren’t just buzzwords. Many of the ingredients are grown at a farm in West Sussex. A scallop dish only appearing on the tasting menu features sliced raw Scottish scallops lightly cured in lime and bergamot with an avocado puree and a tempura oyster. Refreshing, light and bursting with taste.
Precise – A tender lobster tail with delicate pink peppercorns, dill and dulse seaweed combines challenging ingredients that were executed with pin point precision.
Performs under pressure – A cod so soft is married with pickled kohlrabi, caviar and brown shrimps in a velvety bouillabaisse style froth is complex cooking with subtle flavours. Clearly Adam and his brigade don’t let the toughest of dishes panic them.
Popular and proper – A deceivingly simple yet popular fillet of Highland beef is paired with celeriac and a blue cheese cream. Alongside (and again only available on the tasting menu), I dug into a creamy mash which unearthed an intensely joyous beef ragu. Proper, soul stimulating fare.
Punchy – I love it when desserts push boundaries. A toasty yeast parfait is infused with Earl Grey tea and pickled Granny Smith apples. This made way for the final course, a simply described compressed cucumber, burnt basil and dill. Alongside came a theatrical liquid nitrogen frozen granita of cucumber and apple. Dig into some cucumber to find a hidden surprise of smooth white chocolate ganache. Other sweet treats can be found on Adam’s new Afternoon Tea menu at Cadogan’s inspired by childhood memories of feeding at his grandmother’s house, served on funky tea stands.
Patient – A tasting menu of this standard requires a Chef with patience and drive to constantly evolve and create. My indulged patience at the end of lunch were some petit fours including Earl Grey truffles and juniper meringues.
Perhaps Adam’s mum can confirm or deny the above personality traits of her talented son. One thing I am sure of is a feeling that you get when you know a restaurant is pushing limits and striving for excellence that sets new standards in the evolving contemporary British cooking genre. Adam Handling and his young, hungry brigade are delivering cuisine of exceptional standards in this little pocket of Chelsea that will put a smile on your face and a spring in your stride.
To book and discover more, visit: www.adamhandlingchelsea.co.uk
For more information on Adam Handling and his other establishments, visit www.adamhandling.co.uk
By Mark Captain