[Manchester, city centre] Adam Reid at the French

This was our second visit to the French since Adam Reid took over fully. Yes, I know he was head chef for five years during the Simon Rogan years but this is now definitely his food. There’s less “intricate for intricate’s sake” but still inventive, really enjoyable, cooking. Even the background music was good – one track reminded us we’d heard Bowie sing it at Maine Road. As for the food, it comes by way of tasting menu – when you book you confirm if you want the six or nine courser. That’ll be nine, please.

First up, there’s three snacks. There’s a chef’s preparation area in the restaurant where, last time, you were invited to sit at it to eat the snacks. Not this time, the chefs bring them to the table and explain what they are. There’s a thin slice of toasted topped with dripping and grated tongue – it’s like posh potted beef (and that’s a compliment). There’s a very thin pastry case filled with smoked eel and a cheese and onion sauce – we loved this, again it’s rich but balanced by the smokiness of the eel. And there’s a squid ink cracker, topped with whipped cods roe.

The first proper course was a stunner. Maybe the best course we ate (although maybe not). Reid himself brings this from the kitchen and explains it. It’s a single, perfectly cooked, scallop sliced and topped with trout roe. He then pours on what the menu describes as a “roasted onion broth” and tells us he used to call it “burnt” not “roasted” but he get comments asking why he was serving burnt food. This is the most intense flavour you could get from cooking onions for a really long time. As a final touch, he grates fresh horseradish over it. You might expect the horseradish to overpower the delicate scallop but this is so finely balanced that it works.

Next up, their take on “tater ‘ash”. Very finely diced raw ribeye, carrot, spud and onion. All the elements of the dish your gran used to make. There’s a mushroom sauce and, to go with it, some excellent beer bread and butter. Does it need a little pickled red cabbage to complete the traditonal? Maybe not.

Duck gizzard and heart have been long cooked and diced. They sits on a broccoli puree and are topped with a sauce made from Tunworth cheese and a generous grating of truffle (which means that, unlike many restaurants, you can actually taste it). Oh, yeah, this is good. There’s then a veal sweetbread made from the less common pancreas rather than the thymus. It has a very light curry coating, nothing overpowering the delicate soft flesh. There’s a carrot puree and bits of hazelnut for texture.

The fish course would be competition with the scallop starter for “best” dish. It’s a fillet of brill, baked in what the menu describes as beef butter (nope, no idea). There’s a morel cream sauce and a couple of al dente morels. It’s just delicious.

The final savoury course features duck – pink breast and long cooked leg (?). It’s accompanied by beetroot and pickled elderberry. Made us think this was more an autumn dish but lovely nevertheless. My companion in life is not duck’s greatest fan but reckoned this was the best duck dish ever eaten.

We then enjoyed two desserts, prepared and brought to us by the chefs at the preparation counter. Both absolute belters. And either of them could so easily have been our “best dish” box if it hadn’t been for the scallop and brill. First up, there’s “easy peeler”. It looks like a mandarin or satsuma but the leaves and stem are chocolate. And there’s a crisp coating, enclosing a white chocolate cream and ice cream. White chocolate can be overly sweet but here it’s tempered with the sharpness of sea buckthorn (something that can be terribly sour if overdone). The second dessert was a sharp rhubarb jelly, topped with a thin ginger biscuit, itself topped with a ginger malt ice cream. There was some background sweetness here but the real flavours were coming from the fruitiness of the rhubarb and the creaminess of the ice cream. Both of these were excellent – Adam needs to give his pastry chef a pay rise!

We finished with good coffee and petit fours. Adam Reid came to speak to another table (bloggers or journalists probably – as they didn’t seem to be paying) and then came over to ask how we’d enjoyed the meal. We had, of course. He said that it’s taken him 12 months to get the format of the menu right but that now means that as one ingredient goes out of season, there’s another ready to take its place. Means that the whole menu evolves over time. The only difficulty for the customer with this is that it means you can’t come back too quickly otherwise you’ll eating pretty much the same food. But it’ll be worth waiting for.


There is something deeply satisfying when one’s palate tastes the tartness of cooked rhubarb which undercuts the richness of ice cream. Love it.

Thanks for this! Really interesting since I recently read Masterchef’s David Crichton’s blog post on his visit. It sounds stunning; hopefully will make it there at somepoint.