Chef Adam Handling is seriously inspiring. At 27, his portfolio of successes to date includes a fistful of “Chef of the Year” awards from industry leaders including the British Culinary Federation. His eponymous restaurant, located at St Ermin’s Hotel in Westminster has garnered three AA-rosettes in its first year.
The restaurant may have had culinary nods from the greats but I feel it has yet to reach its absolute commercial potential.
The place itself has a pleasant look, although the vibe is still very boutique-hotel-restaurant rather than restaurant-in-a-hotel (if that makes sense).
B and I caught up over dinner and thanks to a really good Bookatable star deal, we managed to score a three-course meal and glass of wine for £32.
Greeted by freshly baked sourdough bread with an awesome crust served with chicken butter and a good olive oil (produced by the chef himself), we were off to a decent start.
B’s starter of nitro salmon came with theatrics. One of the chefs poured some sort of liquid nitrogen et voila, smoky salmon. Har har.
Once the smoke subsided, we recognised how truly striking the presentation was. The salmon had a sashimi-esque flavour profile – unsurprisingly as Adam has a thing for Asian flavours particularly Japanese – and the texture of peas complemented the dish. There’s a hint of wasabi although not as apparent as I would have hoped.
I opted for the smoked pork which exceeded my expectations as I only really ordered it for variety. The cuts of meat were so tender and flavoursome: a great balance of salt and smoke. I usually hate fruit with my savouries, but the classic pairing of ham and pineapple was a winner, and combined with some crumbed parmesan, a champ.
B’s main was a dish of lamb and artichokes, garlic and sour cream. The meat was cooked beautifully and had an earthy depth to it. You get a richness from the artichokes and the jus which is nicely tempered by the sour cream sauce.
My dish of hake, limestone potatoes, radish tarragon was good, too. The fish was pan-fried to perfection and the flesh just flaked out nicely.
My mash was creamy and addictive – and I don’t even like mash that much – plus the butter tarragon sauce was quite a nice touch. My mains may sound boring on paper, but I genuinely thought it was beautiful in its simplicity.
B’s dessert of yuzu and white chocolate looked quite pretty (although upon seeing the textures made me think they really adore liquid nitrogen here). Frankly, I’m not a fan of this dessert. I found the yuzu custard too sweet and can be quite off-putting. I loved the burnt butter merengue blobs but other than that, we both couldn’t finish the dish.
I opted for a fruity dessert: a semi-frozen log of apple-flavoured mousse topped with elderflower jelly, served with a mandarin sorbet and tonka cake. It’s was light, delicate, very refreshing and all the flavours were balanced. It was exactly what I needed to end the meal on a satisfied but not overly full belly.
Overall, I think Adam Handling’s restaurant has massive potential: it’s inventive, it’s exciting, but it’s rooted in tradition and classic flavours that marry well. Service was good – both ladies who served us were absolutely knowledgeable about the menu and the vino and I was super impressed. My concern is its location. I feel like it’s a wee bit wasted where it is now and I’ve not really seen a lot of marketing around it. Nevertheless, food was decent enough and for sure, Adam’s talent is one to hit even bigger commercial success in the future.