Ugly Butterfly in Chelsea: Handling’s bid for sustainability is an enormous contribution to London’s food scene
Adam Handling’s concepts never cease to surprise, and Ugly Butterfly is no different. Being his second restaurant in Chelsea, and his sixth food venture in the capital, this not-so-ugly butterfly in King’s Road differentiates itself from the crowd because of its ingredients and sustainable approach: its menu is built up entirely from food waste. It tastes much better than it sounds.
The first restaurant of its kind in London, following the Shoreditch coffee and beer shop Bean & Wheat, which practices the same concept and philosophy, it offers a menu whose ingredients are directly sourced from Adam Handling Chelsea, only a five-minute bike ride away. The Ugly Butterfly team goes back and forth every day to take full advantage of the leftover produce and craft bites as unique as the Chicken Butter with Banana Bread or the Potato Peels with Veg Hummus – a constant on the menu since bananas and potatoes are used on a daily basis at Handling’s fine-dining restaurant.
This mentality of reusing and repurposing extends beyond the menu. The whole space is decorated with upcycled items, from bottle lamps to paper flowers and rugs made of coffee bags – one can’t help feeling inspired by so much creativity that’s both environmentally friendly yet functional, with a touch of funkiness and elegance reminiscent of the Frog Hoxton. The tables, as well as the wine shelves that cover the walls, are also made from 100% recycled materials, Brighton tumblewood.
As sustainability demands, the menu changes depending on the availability of the ingredients, with several options guaranteed to always be part of the snacks or small plates. We encountered a large variety of sharing portions with hilarious names and even better looks.
We started off the evening with some sips of English sparkling wine, a product of Handling’s group, coming from West Sussex, and a session IPA – a collaboration with a London brewery. Both right choices for any of the food options available.
As mentioned before, Handling’s flair for creating beautiful-looking yet simple, sustainable and can’t-get-enough-of-it-tasting food experiences are the true highlights of the Ugly Butterfly. There are some impressive courses on the menu that we cannot pass over. Beginning with the chicken butter, it proved a surprising but delicious start to our meal, combining a traditional dessert with one of the most classic Frog dishes.
We also had the chance to grab a bite of the veg hummus with potato skins – uncomfortably crispy at times but definitely worth a try: it is not to be tasted just anywhere. Accompanying the brilliant butter were the Zero-waste Croquettes and the Leftover Cheese Board Doughnuts. The latter were pretty faithful to the description – cheddar-filled doughnuts covered in more cheese (grated parmesan on this occasion) – and made for a dream of a snack: melty, cheesy and gone in one bite. The croquettes didn’t disappoint either; the intensity of the codfish was present in the filling, almost resembling a traditional Spanish croquette in flavour, texture and details (like the black garlic aïoli that topped them).
After this, we moved to the small plates, gravitating towards the chicken-rich specimens such as the Chicken Liver, Salted Scones, Fermented Pear and the glorious All the Chicken Gnocchi. Only sounds could express how satisfied we were with the gnocchi; they were unusual in an exotic-island way, from the way the meat was laid out (including pieces of chicken heart, liver and breast) to the sage sauce and the pasta’s consistency – just amazing. We paired them with a portion of fresh burrata.
On our visit, we were lucky enough to catch a dessert that is not usually part of the menu – I should say thanks to the pineapple waste that made it available. The result was a cleverly presented “coconut” filled with coconut mousse and a pineapple’s interior. If texture had a goal, this dessert would be it: creamy and coconutty, similar to the texture of the solids in coconut milk. The contrast between the sweetness of the mousse and the acidity of the pineapple made for a kick of a dessert. On top of this success, we also got to try the Coffee Grounds Mousse, topped with a beautifully crusty meringue, and Handling’s favourite, the classy Salted Caramel and Pork Fat Tart: subtle in the mouth, with a soft consistency and a very familiar taste.
Ugly Butterfly’s bid for sustainability is an enormous contribution to the dining scene in London, not only for its proposition but also because of its accessibility and food quality. We hope this proves the beginning of a food waste restaurants trend in the city.
Photos: Cristiana Ferrauti
To book a table at Ugly Butterfly, 55 King’s Road London SW3 4ND, call 020 7730 7161 or visit their website here.