After a two year gap, it was good to be back at Fraiche. We had been booked to return in spring last year but, of course, Covid intervened. We’ve been coming for years and always enjoy Marc’s food. It’s interesting. It’s imaginative. And, more than anything, it’s delicious. Little has changed. There’s still the giant videos playing on the walls of the bar area. When you arrive, it’s restful ocean scenes – a bit like I imagine it is if you have a fish tank at home. When you come back for coffee, it’s changed to scenes from space, complete with appropriate sound track – Rocket Man, Space Oddity and the like. There’s snacks to be eaten here. Firstly, “Garden” a drink made from cucumber and whatever else Marc has picked from his allotment that day (he told us later that pretty much all the veg he uses comes from the allotment). There’s the usual spiced pecans and some British charcuterie. And a little seaweed and trout roe tartlet. And an onion and Parmesan foam.
When you’re seated at your table, there’s a final snack. A little waffle, each square filled with either feta or cherry tomato. Possibly the best of the snacks.
In what seems a new direction for Marc, several of the dishes lean towards East Asia. The first up is Chawanmushi – a Japanese set custard made from dashi, with the flavour of seaweed and a powerful smokiness from cubes of eel. It seems to be fashionable to serve sweetbreads in a deep fried crisp coating. My partner isn’t a great fan of them but reckoned these were the best ever tasted – a firmer texture than usual. It comes with a little maitake mushroom (Google later told me I’d better know this as “Hen of the Woods”) and a soy based dressing.
Somewhere round here, bread was served. It’s always a course in its own right at Fraiche. And it’s always top notch. This was a light as a feather brioche and there’s butter to slather on it, or olive oil to dunk it in. Both work.
Next, there was a cold “soup” made from crème fraiche. Chopped hazelnuts and a little, very peppery, watercress provide a texture contrast. Then, very seasonal white asparagus comes chopped, along with girolles and courgettes.
I think on every visit to Fraiche, it’s the fish course I’ve enjoyed most and it was no different this time. Sashimi grade tuna is very lightly seared but there’s no sense of rawness here. There’s some baby pak choi and a citrussy ponzu dressing.
For the final savoury course, there’s farmed Anjou pigeon. It’s a milder flavoured bird than wild ones you usually get in the UK. It comes, seemingly quite simple, with a slice of earthy morcilla, Jerusalem artichoke puree and an artichoke crisp. I thought it was lovely and only just missed out on being my favourite course. On the other hand, my life companion didn’t like the texture and left most of it (which, of course, meant I got seconds).
There’s then the first of three desserts. First up, an ice lolly. I do no justice to it by calling it a lolly. This is no ordinary lolly. This is a lolly shaped like lips. Ruby red lips made from Morello cherries, with a hint of lemon and, inside, a little mint chocolate. Then there’s a shot glass of a refreshing strawberry “soup”, topped with slice of earthy truffle. And finally, a honey, chocolate and pineapple mousse again not too sweet.
Well, I say “finally” but it wasn’t. As I mentioned earlier, we were back in the bar area watching the space video. And Marc appears. He presents a “planet”. A metal sphere which he opens to reveal a macaron each. With the cooking over for the evening, he’s able to chat for a little while, telling us he’s been playing with flavours while the restaurant has been shut. He’s soon back with a little tray of chocolate petit fours.
So, all that was left was to get the bill. This isn’t the sort of food we want to eat regularly but it is food we want to eat now and again. So, off we went into the cold and wet of a Merseyside June evening. With a little bag of cookie dough to bake the next day. I think we might have preferred the little cup of hot chocolate that we got one winter visit.