The French is a fine dining restaurant at The Midland hotel in Manchester city centre. We’ve been wanting to go since it opened under new direction in 2013. Simon Rogan (L’enclume, Fera) has overseen the restaurants transformation. We were lucky enough to visit L’Enclume with its two michelin stars a few years back. Click here to read the review, it should definitely be on any foodies bucket list. We couldn’t wait to experience the French, but with its popularity trying to get a weekend table with a pilots last minute roster is somewhat a challenge.
I received an advert from them about their Chefs week. The head chefs of L’Enclume, Fera, The French and Simon himself would all take control of the restaurant for one evening. Luckily my wife and I and a few others could make it one evening. That said evening was last night. We were set to be wined and dined by Adam Reid, who has been head chef of The French since its opening three years ago.
So, without further ado, lets talk food. Sadly the amuse bouches/canapes came and went so quickly as we all chatted I didn’t get any photos of them. Crispy trotters, cured pollock plus the best piece of truffled asparagus I’ve ever had. They set the tone for the evening to expect unique flavour and texture combinations.
Raw scallop, smoked cod roe and caviar with a broth of summer herbs. Lets be honest, anything that has caviar instantly becomes truly amazing. It seasons any dish perfectly and adds such a depth of flavour to everything. The dish without it would have been lacking, but the aromatic herby broth and raw scallop all tied in perfectly.
Rose veal loin, smoked tongue, fried seaweed, cowberries and kohlrabi. The thinly sliced smoked tongue was very delicate, which brought the other elements of the dish together. The seaweed added a texture and some earthiness to the very fresh tasting loin and kohlrabi. The cowberries added an amazing sweetness which amalgamated the whole dish.
Macerated Cheshire tomatoes, toasted bread and compressed leaves with herbs and lovage salt. I was really looking forward to this, as I know what amazing things Simon Rogan can do with vegetables. Try this cabbage recipe for example. This dish left me a little flat, despite all the effort that goes into it, ultimately it just tasted like some nice tomatoes with ketchup on the bottom. I think there was too much chat on our table to fully appreciate the subtlety of this dish.
After this we were all served a Manchester stout brown bread. Not too dissimilar to the honey wheat bread you get at the Outback in US. This wasn’t missed by our American diner. I mentioned you don’t get the most amazing bone marrow and smoked onions to go with it! The British argument was won.
Cornish Mackerel pickled with preserved rhubarb, celeriac, apple and nasturtiums. Back on form, this entire plate was so clean and zingy. Eaten together it was a taste sensation for the mouth. The mackerel was super fresh without to much pickle, the rhubarb added some tartness and acidity to the dish. Some complained that the mackerel was a little undercooked. I begged to differ as it was cured the balance of half cooked flesh and raw was superb.
Loin of Herdwick lamb, grilled courgette, peas, beans and ramson dressing. This dish would have been 10/10 had it not been for the piece of lamb we’d all been served. I think the photo is larger than actual size. The meat had a lovely aged taste and cooked perfectly, but it was tiny and served with its inedible fat on the side. Maybe its just me, but I don’t find any pleasure on eating flabby tough fat. By all means render it down and crisp it up. I’ll be first in the queue for that, but not in this present state. Which is a shame as the jus and vegetables were perfect accompaniment.
Macerated berries, green apple and frozen mint, cherry blossom and berry juices. I remember a few years back reading a post by Giles Coren of the The Times. He absolutely despises desserts and had a rant saying that they are only there as a huge sugar rush to pick you up after drinking to much wine all night! As not having a great sweet tooth myself, I had to partly agree with his nuances. Desserts are always a work of art though. Well this dessert should be sent to Giles, as it was bursting with summer fruit flavours, the berry juice by far the best liquid I’ve tasted in a long time. All the fruit tasted like nothing else, plus the crunch of the dehydrated meringues made this dessert a show stopper. Everyone was in awe of this dish. I’d eat this everyday and never get bored. By the way the funny looking strawberries (inside out) are actually pineberries. Yep they taste of pineappple with a strawberry texture. I know you can buy them in Harrods, I think they’re about £10 for 100g.
To round off our evening off we were invited to the kitchen to talk to Chef Adam himself.
Overall, dinner was superb. Manchester have been crying out for a great restaurant like this in a beautiful hotel. It is impressive consistent cooking, which will leave you open minded by the time you leave. This meal was great with some amazing touches, and just one real criticism. If you want to get into this restaurant at the weekend, I wish you good luck. It’s booked out for months to come. You can always try midweek though like we did last night.