From little tadpoles to fabulous fine dining at Adam Handling Chelsea.
I’ve been following Adam Handling around London since he worked at St Ermin’s Hotel. I went to the launch of his restaurant in Spitalfields and I’ve dined at every restaurant he’s run since. In February 2019 Adam was appointed Chef Patron of the five-star Belmond Cadogan Hotel, Chelsea, a swanky place with the same heritage as the Belmond Pullman and Manoir a Quatre Saisons. Having already experienced a superb afternoon tea in the hotel’s lounge, Cadogan’s by Adam Handling, I was really looking forward to visiting Adam Handling Chelsea. Tea was delicious and innovative with quirky touches like knitted tea cosies made by Adam’s mum making for an intimate experience in a luxurious setting. Dinner promised a similar experience.
Adam Handling Chelsea is spread across two elegant dining rooms on the ground floor of the hotel. There’s an intimate chef’s table experience too across one counter of the semi-open kitchen. Wednesday is Wagyu and Wine night – a unique experience where you can enjoy a Wagyu ribeye with sauces, salad and hand-cut chips together with fine paired wines by the glass. We went along to try the steak and the normal menu too and managed to get our dining out experience in just before lockdown. Very similar, in fact, to the first lockdown – my last meal pre-lock-down then was at Frog by Adam Handling in Covent Garden. It’s a rather fabulous thing to have as your last supper (for a while), though I sincerely hope we don’t get ourselves into another lock-down situation again!
On what had to be one of the wettest nights of the year to date, there were still a few people sitting outside on the terrace. A good awning and heaters made that a possibility though personally I preferred the comfort of the dining room. We snacked on the signature chicken butter with sourdough while we checked out the menu.
Even when it’s not Wagyu and Wine Wednesday there’s a succinct grill menu with steak, fish or smoked cauliflower cheese on offer together with what are described as ‘Millionaire chips’ and a range of sauces. The ‘ALC’ menu (which I pondered over for a while till I realised it was short for A La Carte), has a choice of four dishes at each stage of the meal, with pescatarian and vegetable offerings part of both Starter and Mains and with a cheese course of my own favourite Crozier blue served with pickled celery, sticky grapes and a candied walnut crumb.
My companion picked the ‘Mother’ starter – another signature Adam Handling dish I’ve tried and loved. So named because it was created for his vegetarian mother at short notice, it’s made with celeriac, dates, lime and apple with truffle topping and with a runny egg yolk filling. It sounds weird on paper but I can assure you that everyone I know who has tried it has loved it. My companion was no exception.
Meanwhile, I settled on the crab linguine, a delicate plateful of charcoal and garlic pasta (black and white) with crab, tarragon and mustard leaves and a champagne foam. Utterly delicious, I would happily have eaten this as the main course had it been available. My starter was matched for me with Fritz Haag 2016 Reisling Trocken from Brauneberg in the Mosel, a deliciously fragrant and light wine with notes of apple and citrus and a great minerality that didn’t overwhelm the delicate crab. I seldom pick German wines for myself but loved this pairing.
We agreed one of us would try the wagyu while the other ate from the main menu. Always a sucker for venison, I picked the venison, artichoke and blackberries which was very fine indeed with a sticky game jus and perfectly pink venison on a Jerusalem artichoke puree with blackberries and what I think was a beetroot reduction topped with a nice crumb. Seasonal and packed full of autumnal flavours I’d order this again too. My venison was paired for me with E Guigal Côtes du Rhône 2016, a 50% syrah and grenache blend which was rich, lively and spicy, making an excellent mouthful to complement the meat.
The wagyu was meltingly tender and my companion enjoyed the millionaire chips and a small plate of leaf salad along with a peppercorn sauce. If you prefer simpler dishes I suspect Wine and Wagyu will suit you – as will anything from the grill menu.
For dessert, the apple tarte tatin with fennel, pine and celeriac was a kind of deconstructed affair with a fine pastry topping on the caramelised apples and an accompanying rather dramatic dish of fennel and celeriac ice served in an apple surrounded by pine branches and a cloud of pine smoke.
My chocolate, bourbon, miso and rye was an altogether tamer offering – a rich dark mousse with accompanying malty ice-cream and croquant. Paired with an Apostoles 30-year-old sherry, I drifted into utter contentment.
To finish the meal we enjoyed coffee with Halloween chocolates – and staggered out of the door to mask up and make our way home. Truly a delightful meal that had all the trappings of an Adam Handling special with the finesse that comes from a five-star setting. We loved our sommelier pairings and service throughout the meal was truly impeccable.
Adam Handling Chelsea
75 Sloane Street
London, SW1X 9SE
(0) 20 3117 1505