[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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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold