Sitting at my table in the recently renamed Adam Handling at Caxton, I was thinking It just goes to show you how persistence pays off. Adam Handling is fast becoming one of Britain’s hottest young chefs following his appearance in the Professional Masterchef Final back in 2013 and a succession of accolades ever since.
Make no mistake, this serious Scottish culinary wizard (often referred to as the cheffing equivalent of Andy Murray) may be in his mid 20s, but he has earned his ‘chops’ the hard way, working since he was 16 in luxury hotels, on cruise ships, under Gary Rhodes and finally as Head Chef back in Scotland at the legendary Fairmont St. Andrews Hotel.
I remember speaking with Adam last year when he first took over as Head Chef at St. Ermin’s Hotel, one of my favourite London hotels, whose Caxton Grill was then known for excellent fare but leaning towards more American influenced steak dishes. Back then he told me he was determined to realise his vision to transform the restaurant through his innovative Japanese inspired tastes, textures and depth of flavours and bring something entirely new and exciting to the table. The hotel owners backed him all the way, rebranded it as Adam Handling at Caxton and were quickly rewarded with a triple AA Rosette.
We began with some nibbles, a collection of small but flavoursome snacks at £4.50 each which had Adam’s signature all over them; melt in the mouth mini doughnuts filled with dressed crab and burnt lemon, mackerel teriyaki with rice and miso (my companion’s favourite), delicate tubes of beetroot filled with a beet pane cotta and covered with beetroot dust aptly penned as beetroot, beetroot and more beetroot and lastly a smoothly rich duck liver parfait served with fresh crusty sourdough and chicken infused butter. All intensely delicious, and not really a nibble, more a nosh.
Nevertheless, we dived into a pair of starters as well; first some seriously good Scottish salmon with fennel pollen, basil, sweet and sour wasabi and topped with a succulent courgette mousse £12, (one of his MasterChef final dishes) while my partner enjoyed a chicken and lobster duo beautifully cooked with a mild curry- like coconut and chilli veloute at £18. The little chicken sandwich on the side was a welcome touch.
The mains were up next, and we passed on goat shoulder with shallots, consommé and potato bread, and even wild sea bass, crisp pork, ceps, figs and endive in favour of Adam’s most popular signature dish, the ashed beef fillet. This was a slow boiled fillet rimmed with ash giving it a dark smoky flavour, on a bed of barley with parsley, Girolle mushrooms and sea lettuce (£26). The fillet was delicious and perfectly cooked, for me the only regret was there was perhaps too much barley and its strong flavour overwhelmed the rest of the dish.
The production finale was mango with a lime mouse, caramelised pineapple and yoghurt (£9.50) a proud and full flavoured cleansing dessert which combined beautifully on my already overworked palate.
I really enjoyed the whole dining experience that is Adam Handling at Caxton. The food was clearly stellar, the service was excellent and even the kitchenware was unusual enough to be a subject of conversation.
It can only be a matter of time before even greater honours are awarded to Mr. Handling, the latest one being British Culinary Federation’s Chef of the Year 2014 and you will be hard pressed to experience food of this quality at these prices.
Adam Handling at Caxton offers this talented culinary magician the perfect stage to perform his craft and though it is tempting for chefs these days to go all Hollywood on us once they get a bit of celebrity, I sincerely hope Adam Handling sticks around and repays St. Ermin’s for backing him so diligently.
All images (c) Andy Mossack
Adam Handling Taster Menu
Available Monday – Sunday 6pm – 10.30pm (last orders 9pm)
Ten tasters from Adam’s signature dishes – £65 per person
with paired drinks – £105 per person
Doughnuts, dressed crab
Beetroot, beetroot and more beetroot
Mackerel teriyaki, rice, miso
Sourdough, chicken butter, duck liver parfait
fennel pollen, courgette, basil, sweet and sour wasabi
Salad of salt-baked celeriac
truffle, apple, dates
Chicken and lobster
coconut and chilli Velouté
parsley, barley, girolles
Truffled brie de meaux
blackberries, dried, iced cassis
Tel: 0800 652 1498
2 Caxton Street, London, SW1H 0QW, UK