This east London restaurant aims to serve ultra-creative cooking in a playful setting. And in some ways, it succeeds. Inside, the dining room is buzzy, all concrete floors and big open kitchen. Outdoors, a huge semi-permanent ‘annexe’ comes complete with a slew of foliage (live bamboo by the tables, dried hops hanging from the ceiling), heaters casting a red glow across the room and a DJ on the decks. Choose a table by the edge and you’ll dine on a swing seat too. It’s certainly memorable. But the food on my visit was awful. Dismal. Full of powders, swirls and flourishes, it was mostly interesting (though occasionally overwrought) to look at. But a pleasure to eat? No. The Frog is owned by celebrity chef Adam Handling (‘Masterchef: The Professionals’, ‘Great British Menu’); perhaps, on my Saturday night visit, he was off at a book signing and had decided the potwasher deserved a turn at the stoves (no disrespect to potwashers – I’m trying to make a point).
Dish after dish showed a complete lack of restraint with seasoning. Several (anything with ‘barbecue’ in its name, from octopus to veal tartare) were disturbingly oversalted, a few (the three-ways beetroot, a dessert of burnt honey with malted ice cream and lemon) were unpleasantly sweet. Only one – a simple yet stunning dish of burnt tenderstem broccoli, its ashen tips offset by a chestnut-toned puree of roasted garlic and the runny yolk of a fried, salted egg – lived up to the hype.
It’s a pity, because the notion of giving ‘fine dining’ a funky, avant-garde edge is the right one, especially in this postcode. But at these prices, substance still has to count, not just style.