[Manchester, city centre] Adam Reid at the French

It’s a rare occurrence that we both eat a faultless meal. Not even all of our previous five visits to Adam Reid have ticked that box. But this one did. A skilfully conceived menu which flowed seamlessly from one course to the next, with staff both in the kitchen and front of house at the top of their game. All the more remarkable when you think that they’ve only been open for a couple of weeks after being closed for pretty much all of the “Covid time”. Some things are unchanged – chefs bring their food to you and explain the dish (including Adam on several occasions), front of house remove the finished plates, reset your table and keep your water topped up, a knowledgeable sommelier explains his wine choices, if you’ve taken the matching package, and how they work with the food.

We are no longer fans of the very long tasting menu concept. At nine courses, Adam stays within the bounds of a meal to enjoy, rather than one to endure. But no surprises there – this is all about hospitality.

There’s some snacks to start. A slice each of smoked cod and another of roast ham, with some finely grated Doddington cheese. There’s crackers to load it on to. And pickled and fresh vegetables for flavour and texture. That’s followed by more single bite items – “fish pie” (a tiny pastry case filled with pickled red onion, potato mousse and topped with trout roe). Barley and raw beef wrapped in a sliver of smoked celeriac. And an outstanding cracker cheese sandwich – using Kirkhams Lancashire, it’s characteristic sharpness softened with hazelnuts.

Bread comes next. It’s soft, it’s dark, it’s rich. And there’s beef butter to slather over it. Then the first “proper” course. A single BBQ’d asparagus spear, drizzled with a smoked egg yolk sauce and a grating of summer truffle. This is lovely and bang-on for seasonality.

Mussels were fat and juicy. Adam brought this explaining that they had some debate about using mussels or lobster but felt that, on taste grounds, this was the right decision. There’s a cream sauce, very lightly flavoured with curry spices and a scattering of tiny cubes of pork back fat. Sweetbreads may be the best version that we’ve ever tasted. They are first poached, then quickly fried so they go a little crisp and firm with none of the mushy texture you can come across. It’s dressed with what the menu describes as “dirty mint gravy”. Can’t recall why “dirty” but it’s deffo a well flavoured gravy with a spike from mint. Very clever dish. And what a success

John Dory was the “catch of the day”. Perfectly cooked with a crisp skin. That’s dressed with a pickled elderflower hollandaise. I particularly liked the tang of this – I’m a fan of elderflower cordial and the same flavour is there in the background.

The final savoury course was Rhug Estate organic chicken breast. The skin was topped with herbs and garlic before it was all roasted to the “just cooked through” point. A few new seasons peas were just right as an accompaniment.

The first dessert was a baked custard flavoured with chamomile, topped with still crunchy rhubarb and an apple sorbet. There’s a place for fully cooked rhubarb but crunchy also works, albeit differently – you wouldn’t want it in a crumble but here, it works. The second dessert is “tipsy cake” with whipped cream. It’s a light flavoursome sponge but a bit of faff to eat as they only give you a toothpick. Break a bit off, spear it with the toothpick, dunk it in the whipped cream and scoff. It’s served with a small glass of a very flavoursome cold tea. I’m not a tea drinker but thought this was really rather nice – not at all sweet, so balancing the cake.

And, finally, espresso and petit fours are included in the price. Good coffee. Good petit fours.

We’d had a lovely evening and the fact that the place was pretty much full on a midweek evening bodes well for the future.

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Fabulous - love your description of the meal.

Was it called “dirty” because brown sugar was used, per Martha Stewart?

I’m afraid neither of us can remember the “dirty” bit, Peter. There may have been a bit of sugar in there but it wasnt sweet. Adam described his intent was to get the flavours that you have with a traditional gravy made for your roast lamb Sunday lunch. It worked.

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Sounds like a really lovely meal!

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We’ve been back!

It’s always a special occasion to eat at the French, even if it’s not an actual special occasion. Everything comes together to make it a lovely evening – the room itself and its place in the city’s history, the relaxed but on the ball service, chefs serving you the food they’ve cooked and, of course, the food itself. In its last edition in 2020, the Good Food Guide rated the restaurant as the eleventh best in the country. On the strength of the two meals we’ve eaten there this year, I reckon it’s got even better.

The origins of Adam’s dishes are rooted here in our region. You see that as soon as you look at the tasting menu headed by a dish called “A warm Northern welcome”. It’s thick slices of a wonderful sourdough from the Pollen Bakery just the other side of the city centre in Ancoats. There’s butter of course and a little cup of the most intense onion broth. Game on!

That’s followed by a series of snacks. These have evolved from those we ate earlier in the year but there is a similarity. A single bite fish pie, topped with fish roe. A mousse of Kirkham’s Lancashire cheese smeared on a cracker and topped with chives and a crisp hazelnut praline. And a crisp pastry cylinder filled with braised oxtail and topped with their take on taramasalata. There’s a dish of horseradish cream to dunk it in.

The final snack is a take on leftovers – “Yesterday’s dinner”. There’s a chunk of hot smoked salmon, a slice of ham and a slice of Doddington cheese. There’s oat crackers to load it onto, grain mustard and a dish of lightly pickled vegetables. It’s a serving that makes you smile.

Then it’s on to “Tonight’s tea” – Adam using the word that many of us round here still call our evening meal. There’s raw scallops to kick off this section. Delivered daily from Scotland, served with thinly sliced local turnips. Then what the chef who brought it described as “a salad but not a salad”. There’s celeriac puree and chunks of the vegetable, a powerful mushroom gravy and a drizzle of a melted British Camembert style cheese (Tunworth?). A fish course of perfectly cooked monkfish comes with a strand of wilted greens, a fried mussel and a most fantastic sauce made from roasted squash and a very light touch with curry spices. Serve me that sauce and the Pollen Bakery sourdough bread for dunking as my last meal and I’ll die a happy man.

The final savoury course features North Wales venison. Fallow deer loin and fillet, both perfectly cooked to rare, come with the earthy sweetness of beetroot and a slight bitterness from crispy cavolo nero. It really is autumn on a plate.

Then it’s dessert time or, as the menu has it “And for afters”. The first one is as light as a feather – baked custard and a little poached pear. The second is a much more butch affair – and an improvement on the version served earlier in the year. Then it was served almost as a petit four. Now, it’s a proper helping. The chef cuts the cake in half for us, plates it, adds whipped cream and a drizzle of rum, to enhance the not insignificant quantity that’s been baked into the cake.

And, to finish, there’s real petit fours to go with the espresso that’s included in the menu price.

As mentioned earlier, front of house service was spot on. And I must mention the sommelier – always a key feature for us with tasting menus. I don’t drink alcohol and my life companion does. That makes the easiest thing to do is for her to take the wine flight, rather than ordering a bottle. The guy here is at the top of his game – selecting an interesting range of glasses to go with each course. All delicious and none of them wines she would have ordered in the ordinary course of things.

Great evening.

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Nice!!

That’s exactly what we used in Australia, too, where I grew up. Sometimes, it can be awkward - I still remembered one incident, way back in the mid-1980s, when my mum invited a couple of Fijian friends over for tea, and they turned up at 3.30pm. :joy:

Sounded like you had a wonderful evening. Wished I could be there!

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In which case, did you also call your midday meal lunch or dinner? Here, “dinner” would have been traditional, in the sense of it being the main meal of the day. It’s usage lingers on in general culture. The “feast” on Christmas Day is always called “Christmas dinner”, even though it’s tradiitonally eaten at lunchtime. And the catering staff in school canteens were always “dinner ladies”.

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We always use lunch for the mid-day meal in Australia (and New Zealand, too). Dinner was used only to refer to a formal meal.

Maybe a regional thing? When I grew up in NSW it was always called dinner, not tea.

Possible, because when I was in the country towns in Western Australia - Manjimup, Pemberton & Esperance, they seemed to use dinner there on more occasions than tea. But tea would be the common term in Perth itself.

I remembered how “different” people from the Eastern States could be when, back in 1987 when Perth was hosting the America’s Cup, the first time it was held outside the US, there was an influx of American visitors/tourists to Australia for the first time.

There was a current affairs programme from one of the Sydney-based stations where the two presenters were at pains to play down stereotypes of Aussies which Americans may have. One of them said, “For example, we Aussies don’t say G’day all the time when we met each other.”
I was absolutely flummoxed, because we do say G’day to everyone we meet - all the time - where I was. I was wondering then if people in Sydney (or other Eastern States folks) do behave like West Australians!

I don’t know what they are talking about, in the 1980s plenty of people in Sydney said g’day to everyone!

But we NEVER talked about putting shrimps on the barbie!

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But then “don’t come the raw prawn with me” is perhaps my favourite Aussie expression.

Now you have to explain what that means. It sounds useful!

An explanation for you here:

I think I first heard the phrase said by Aussie comedian/actor Paul Hogan. Apparently, in one of his films, it had to be changed to “shrimp” for better understanding by Americans. Yanks have shrimp (not shrimps). Aussies have prawns. Brits have shrimps (not shrimp) and prawns - shrimps are very tiny things - the sort that the colour blind French call crevette grise but Britons call brown shrimps.

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Thanks. I’ll try to work that into my vocabulary.

Not as easy as working ABBA song titles into the discussion at a business meeting as a colleague of mine once did.

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They must have been emulating Colin Powell, who was a well-known ABBA fan.

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