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Restaurant check: Adam Handling at Caxton

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Published: 02/11/2014 - Filed under: News » Tried & Tested » Tried & Tested » Restaurants / bars »

BACKGROUND

Adam HandlingAdam Handling, a finalist in last year's Masterchef: The Professionals BBC TV series, recently took over the restaurant at London's St Ermin's hotel in Westminster.

Formerly named Caxton Grill, it's now known as Adam Handling at Caxton, reflecting the shift in cuisine and the growing stature of the young Scottish chef. It has already been awarded three AA rosettes.

THE RESTAURANT

The 72-cover venue, which is located on the ground floor of the property and overlooks the front courtyard garden, has its own street entrance as well as being accessible through the hotel bar.

The room, as well as the menu, has been given a pleasing refresh, with a new vertical garden of herbs and plants on one wall, and divider screens creating more privacy for some tables. It's an elegant yet relaxed space to enjoy a meal.

There is also a private dining room.

THE FOOD

Inventive and impressive. Handling creates complex, wonderfully presented dishes influenced by Asian — especially Japanese — flavours and techniques.

A good way to start is by ordering up a number of "nibbles" — appetiser plates that are decently sized and fantastically good value at £4 each.

We did this instead of having starters, trying the doughnuts with dressed crab; mackerel teriyaki with rice and miso; "beetroot, beetroot and more beetroot"; pickled cauliflower with truffle butter; and crispy chicken with yuzu and black sesame seeds.

Beetroot starter

Starter: "Beetroot, beetroot and more beetroot"

I really enjoyed all of them — each was a finely-balanced combination of crisp, creamy and crunchy textures and sweet, savoury and sour flavours. The beetroot dish — vibrantly hued, cigarillo-shaped sugar cubes filled with beetroot panna cotta, with pickled beetroot, yuzu and beetroot powder — and the moreish crispy chicken (I could have eaten a whole dish of it) were particularly impressive.

Mains are named in minimalist fashion ("beef fillet ashed, parsley, barley, girolles, dulse"; "goat shoulder, shallots, consommé, potato bread") and are intricately put together.

I had the quail, tea, sweetcorn, popcorn (£23), which, again, was well-balanced in flavour and beautiful to look at. The tender quail leg was served with the crown of the bird pan-fried, barbequed sweetcorn and popcorn, and sweetcorn puree, and the herb "tea" was a fun touch. It was a small dish, though, and I would have liked a bit more of it.

Scottish Buccleuch beef is available in fillet, rib-eye and striploin cuts, served sliced with watercress, chips and a choice of béarnaise, peppercorn or BBQ sauce.

My companion had the vintage rib-eye (£35 for 350g), which he said was tender and perfectly cooked. He loved the side of creamy mash with roast bone marrow and jus, and also liked the spinach with chilli, garlic and sultanas, although would have preferred it with slightly more kick.

Quail

Mains: Quail

Chocolate and blackcurrant dessert

Chocolate and blackcurrant dessert

Before dessert, a zingy and refreshing palate cleanser of apple and cucumber sorbet was served. We then had the chocolate truffle, blackberries, dried, iced cassis; and the lemon tart, mandarin, raspberry, meringue. Both were thoughtfully put together and just the right side of sweet.

Wine flights are available to accompany your meal. We had the Spanish one (£15.50 for three 125ml glasses), which was a good way to try three wines of varying bodies — Vera de Estenas Vina Mariola Joven 2010 Utiel-Requena; Riba Guda Crianza 2008, Rioja; and Portazgo Monastrell/Syrah 2010 Vina Elena Jumilla.

VERDICT

A most enjoyable evening. Handling cooks with real flair, and his dishes are a delight for both the eyes and the palate. Service was excellent too.
 

FACT FILE

  • OPENING HOURS Mon-Fri 12pm-2.30pm, Mon-Sun 6pm-10.30pm.
  • PRICE Nibbles and sides £4, starters £9-£18, mains £16-£45, desserts £9. Ten-course tasting menu £55, or £95 with wine pairing.
  • CONTACT Adam Handling at Caxton, St Ermin's Hotel, 2 Caxton Street; tel +44 (0)800 652 1498; adamhandlingatcaxton.co.uk


Michelle Harbi
 

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