Adam Handling at Caxton: The Master Chef
On Sundays, there's a 10 course sharing menu including Champagne for £50 per person, and if that isn't value for money, then I don't know what is. I have followed this young chap from when he was a finalist on MasterChef: The Professionals in 2013. He has since gone on to scoop awards and get raving reviews from the critics, and the lovely thing is that, from what I can see on social and the other projects he's involved with, Handling just seems so down to earth.
As far as buzz goes, the St Ermin's buzz, or lack of, doesn't gel with Adam Handling's hugely personable vibe. Fair enough, it is Sunday evening, but the dining room is not wildly inspiring, nor is the soundtrack. However, hearing the first bottle of Champagne pop is music to my ears.
Fresh bread is served with generous dollops of chicken skin butter, on stones, of course. I'm still waiting to find gluten free bread to beat the Dairy, and this isn't a contender for that gong; it probably shouldn't see the light of day. A beetroot tuile, so thin, it melts when you touch it, is filled with sweet beetroot puree and dusted with, you guessed it, more beetroot. The challenge is to take it down in one, trying to keep it from breaking, so the pungent pink puree doesn't go all over your dove grey dress. Less hazardous and even more delicious is cured mackerel and yuzu on a crunchy cracker.
I'm a huge fan of this style of tasting menu, until chicken liver parfait is served with yellowtail tuna. Sure it's a sharing menu, but creamy chicken liver and spicy fresh tuna just don't go together. The parfait is fun to eat, with orange and ginger adding sweetness, but I can't resist getting the giant tweezers, supplied by Caxton to save you reaching for your make up bag, into the tuna and avocado. My dish of the evening, right there.
Plates of wild bass with balsamic and asparagus with matcha appear next, and these dishes do work beautifully together. The bass is scored sort of like you would do with cuttlefish, and the contrast of the balsamic on the plate, makes for a very eye catching thing indeed. The little pile of asparagus is a delight, and after the weekend I've had, a gallon of matcha wouldn't make a dent in putting me right. Pop goes another bottle of Champagne.
Surf and turf comes in the form of black cod and beef. Someone's clearly had a field day with the smoking gun, the cod almost has a peaty taste, which is a shame. The beef comes to the rescue with artichokes and du jour crispy kale. Yes there is a lot of charring going on here, which some peeps aren't into, but I'm down with it, and besides, the meat is cooked wonderfully on the grill.
A pre dessert of candy floss clouds with passion fruit dust is unnecessary, but a yuzu meringue makes up for it. He loves a bit of yuzu, does our Adam Handling. We divvy up the selection of Petits Fours and finish off the Champagne before setting off into the balmy Sunday evening.
Whilst Handling's dishes are polished to pristine perfection, there's no pompousness about them at all. This early Sunday supper was Sherwin's idea, so I can't take the credit for such a roaring success, but I just have to say, go!
Five Very Kerri things about Adam Handling at Caxton
- Value for money
- Inspired plating
- Champagne on tap
- Big on flavour
- Comfort food with a posh accent