[Manchester, city centre] Adam Reid at The French


(John Hartley) #1

Although a Michelin star inexplicably continues to elude Adam Reid, he and his team must take some considerable satisfaction that the Good Food Guide ranks the restaurant as 13th in its Top 50 places across the whole country. We’ve eaten at a number of other places on that list and wouldn’t argue with the rating for one minute. It really is that good. There’s much to like about the restaurant. An iconic room in an iconic Manchester building. A style of service that, whilst entirely “proper”, maintains a level of warmth – I like the idea that its chefs who bring you the various dishes and explain them, including on a couple of occasions, Reid himself. It was also impressive that the young woman attending to other matters with our table was only working her first day and did not have a “fine dining” background – you’d never have known. And the sommelier was excellent – there’s an excellent choice of bottles for the wine flight and these were all explained fully. And so to the food which is by way of tasting menu – small, medium or large. That’ll be large, of course, which runs to nine courses.

First up was a little cup of winter vegetable broth. Delicious but overly salty. Salt was also an issue on the next course – a single bite (assuming you’ve a big enough gob) of a squid ink cracker topped with whipped cods roe. By now, we were starting to worry the heavy hand with the salt was going to affect the rest of the meal but, no, it must have been entirely deliberate as everything subsequent was pretty much perfect seasoning.

Next was a bowl of finely diced squid, potato and mushroom dressed in a sauce that merely hinted at a curry flavour. A bit of crunch came from a topping of crisped breadcrumbs. We thought this was really good.

I had their take on tater ‘ash on our last visit. It’s another fine dice affair – raw steak, carrot, onion and potato – taking all the elements of this Cheshire and Lancashire dish but turning it into refined food in a light mushroom sauce. It’s accompanied by a slice of beer bread which was delicious. My partner has an aversion to raw meat so for hers, pearl barley replaced the meat. Both versions were entirely successful.

A fish course featured nothing more than a perfectly cooked piece of halibut. This was farmed fish from Gigha – a small island between the Scottish mainland and the island of Islay, where they also lightly smoke it. It’s dressed with a seaweed butter sauce, that has “pings” of acidity from tiny capers. It’s an inspired piece of cooking and, I think, my favourite dish of the evening.

For the “main course”, there’s thin slices of rare duck breast. They sit on a mix of long cooked duck leg, lentils and beetroot. There’s an interesting sweetness in there, that I forgot to ask what from, that balances the earthiness of the lentils and beet. And there’s crunch from pumpkin (?) seeds. Another really well conceived and well executed plate of food.

Until it arrived in front of us, we didn’t know what Baron Bigod might be. Turns out it’s a Brie type cheese, made in Sussex from the farms own raw milk. It’s served in perfect condition – just short of runny - and is paired with prunes marinated in Armagnac, a scattering of candied walnuts and a light as a feather walnut crisp. You may never eat a better put together cheese course.

We’d had the first dessert last time but it was no hardship to have a repeat. “Easy peeler” looks like a tangerine but everything is edible – a chocolate leaf and stem, a crisp sugary coating and, inside, a white chocolate cream. White chocolate can be a bit sickly but, here, it’s tempered with a heavy citrus hit from sea buckthorn – the sort of flavour you would easily get if you were eating a real tangerine.

The final offering was bang on for seasonality. In the bottom of the bowl, there’s an outstanding custard. That’s topped with a very thin biscuit on which are perched a couple of chunks of new seasons forced rhubarb – cooked through but still fashionably crisp. And, topping that , a rhubarb sorbet. Just fab.

We finished with good coffee and really good chocolate truffles.

I know it’s only February and this was only our seventh meal out of the year, but I have a feeling it’s going to be one of the best we eat (in spite of those other places we’ll go which have their Michelin stars).


#2

I don’t know your case. Usually the small amuse gueules or entrées is more concentrated in flavours, aiming at opening up appetite. I remembered somebody really like a cold tomato soup at Robuchon, as a small starter. The second time she ordered a normal portion, it was just too acid and salty.

February and you have rhubarb?!

Your review made me looking up their site, saw on their menu red deer, would like to try that. Beautiful room, I have to say.

Thanks for the review, very well written.


(John Hartley) #3

Yep, we have rhubarb. It’s grown and only lit when the pickers are working and, then, only by candlelight. Very much a specialist product - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhubarb_Triangle

The hotel is/was very much the “grande dame” in Manchester. It’s where Mr Rolls and Mr Royce met to agree going into business together and I fancy they had lunch or dinner in the room (it may not be apparent in the photo but the room is actually oval). My grandfather, Herbert, was in the cotton business in Manchester, before and after the Great War, and I like to think that he’d also lunched in the room.


#4

Interesting about the forced rhubarb, I didn’t know you can grow like this indoor. I never dig up the root to move them indoor, I guess it was because you are colder.

I don’t think they served the same type of food as today. Usually a historical place serves more classical food, great to see they are serving a creative menu that you had.


(John Hartley) #5

Indeed so. The restaurant has always been called “The French” and until about 2012 served manily classic French (or French style) dishes - their chateaubriand used to be excellent. It was the first restaurant in the UK to be awarded a Michelin star - although that’s long ago and they didnt hold it for long.


(EMLYN WILLIAMS) #6

Hello John

Well that is spooky. Was just considering taking the lady out for a Not Valentines lunch or dinner in our inferior sibling city next weekend.
Looks like the Midland is still top of your Manchester list ?
Did you visit for lunch or dinner and is there a discernible difference if you have done both ?
Oh and what about dress code ?I know you Mancunians always like to dress up, but is it sniffy at all ?

Many thanks and come on Chelsea !
E


(EMLYN WILLIAMS) #7

On second thoughts, where is second on your list ?- no lunch availability and six pm latest for dinner on saturday !


(John Hartley) #8

Never been for lunch but my guess is that there won’t be a significant difference in style.

Place is “proper” but not sniffy. It’s one of the welcome changes from the Rogan years when the place was still up its own arse (back in the old times of the original Midland French it was very formal - although I never recall it being a “jackets required” place)

Smart casual does fine as a dress code - I do smart chinos and a buttoned shirt.

As a second choice, you might want to be Hungry Onion’s pathfinder for fellow scouser Aiden Byrne’s return to Manchester House as “Restaurant Mcr”. Not been and, to be frank, I’m not that keen on the current offerings of the tasting menu (I wouldnt expect snails and frogs legs on the same menu even in France). That said, it’s had a good write-up on Manchester Confidential. https://www.restaurantmcr.com/

Of the rest, we thoroughly enjoyed Mamucium the other week. Not exactly your romantic setting but bloody good eats. https://www.mamuciummcr.com/

By the by, I keep coming across mentions of Roski at your end of the motorway. Any thoughts?


(EMLYN WILLIAMS) #9

Thanks John

Don’t like the look of ‘Mcr’. Even the name has a degree of tw*ttishness about it I find hard to get on with.
Is Manucium inthe Indigo Hotel ? What did you eat ? Did you go at lunchtime ? looks like it might be a bit lively at night.
Not been to Roski as yet. The Rayner review going on about the pot plant/soil pudding raised my scepticism levels too high. I should try it out though.
Now considering a different tack - any wonderful restaurants with rooms withing a couple of hours drive of here you would recommend ? Not Northcote though, as I know its a favourite of yours.

Cheers


(John Hartley) #10

Yep - at the Indigo. Went for dinner. Here’s the review - [Manchester, city centre] Mamucium

Restaurants with rooms - Sat Bains in Nottingham (second mortgage territory) and Tyddyn Llan just south of Corwen.

Hotels with good nosh - Forest Side and Gilpin, both in the Lakes

All four places are Michelin starred.

Speaking of the Lakes - how about either Lake Road Kitchen or Old Stamp House, both in Ambleside - and stay in one of the hotels in town. We did both of these over a long weekend, staying at the Salutation which was fine.


(EMLYN WILLIAMS) #11

Cheers John
As ever, we end up staying somewhere further north in Cumbria. Melmerby to be precise. Penrith kind of way.Blurb i have been sent says

Melmerby has a wonderful village pub called The Shepherd’s Inn which is located just a short walk across the Village Green and is very welcoming & serves delicious food. There are also two great local country pubs in the nearby village of Kirkoswald called The Fetherston Arms and The Crown which we recommend unreservedly for their food and ambience and the Shepherd’s Inn in Langwathby is also nearby and has excellent food.

Ever heard of any of these gaffs ?
Any places up that way you rate ?

Cheers


(John Hartley) #12

Trips are usually to near Windermere, so I’m afraid I’m no help for further north

Decent pub food round Windermere - Punch Bowl at Crosthwaite, Drunken Duck at Ambleside and the Brown Horse at Winster.