The French – Midland Hotel, Manchester

“Its food Jim, but not as we know it”

The Flame and I had the very good fortune to experience the phenomenon that is The French. I’m sure many know it is one of the restaurants overseen by chef extraordinaire Simon Rogan. It is set in a grand room within the equally grand surroundings of The Midland Hotel in Manchester City centre. We graced the hallowed theatre a few minutes before our allotted start time of 7pm.

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It was a Saturday night which means your choice is taken away. It is preordained that thy shall have the ten courses listed. Drinks however, are a different matter. You need to plough through at least two handsome volumes to determine what you want to drink. We each settled to a ‘livener’ of our choice. A “down the rabbit hole” and a “Perennial Julep”, both absolutely delish. Whilst The Flame selected a water, I plumbed into the £60 option of a five glass ‘wine flight’. Each selected by the sommelier who explained which tree each glass had come and when. I’m not a wine buff but they were all excellent.

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Soon things got underway. Swarms of ruddy cheeked, young waiters set to the task. Nothing seemed too much trouble, brows were mopped, napkins were folded, glasses re-filled and prongs of cutlery were placed at a prescribed jaunty angle at a pre-set time. They did however struggle to stop the intermittent waft of chilled air that swept over us when the air conditioning kicked in!

But then to the food. I’m not about to wax lyrical about acidity, sweet, sour, crunch and texture. I don’t think my palate knows enough about that, but I know a man who does! Hence the reason we were there. I left all the taste and texture matching to Simon and his team. Suffice to say it was incredible.

The first course was effectively three! A trotter coated in breadcrumbs with ham fat cream and sage, a shrimp, celery and tomato salad on a chick pea crisp and a baked potato filled with soft cheese in a sack of soil made from beetroot dust. What a start.

Trotter, Chick pea crisp, Potato in a sack, The Bread
Trotter, Chick pea crisp, Potato in a sack, The Bread

We then had the only dish that The Flame wasn’t too keen on. It was turnip dumplings, marrow and horseradish with a beef and onion broth. The turnips were so soft they simply melted. The broth so beefy.

Turnip in beef broth
Turnip in beef broth

Next one of the highlights, the raw Ox in coal oil with pumpkin seed, kohlrabi and mustard leaf. The coal oil brought an amazing smoky tinge to the whole dish.

Ox in coal oil
Ox in coal oil

One of the weaker dishes next, a breaded oyster with butternut squash with bacon buttermilk and mint. It was still great though.

Breaded oyster
Breaded oyster

Next up was another surprising highlight. Pickled red cabbage with beenleigh blue cream cheese, some violet mustard, linseed sand and walnut. Texturally this was incredible; it had everything, crunch, soft, sour and sweet. Superb.

A cheese course
A cheese course

Then it’s the fish course. Plaice, barbecued purple sprouting broccoli, chicken fat potatoes and pennywort. I’ve never had potatoes like this, soft and so much flavour. By this time I’m on the third glass of matched wine!

Plaice and potatoes
Plaice and potatoes

The main course. Reg’s duck, roast parsnips, cavolo Nero with old tom vinegar. The duck beautifully soft and pink. A meaty jus spooned over gently by one of the waiters adding the final touch. A robust, red Syrah accompanied.

Duck
Duck

We then got on to the first of three sweets! Beetroot meringue crisps with sheep’s milk parfait, frozen blackberries and chestnut. Absolutely gorgeous.

Beetroot meringue
Beetroot meringue

Sweet number two. Another wine. Quince, pear, ginger and butterscotch set on a slate. Superb. Apologies for the basic adjectives.

Quince and pear
Quince and pear

Last up ‘Sass n soda’. Basically this was a sandwich of sarsaparilla meringue, a sarsaparilla lollipop and sarsaparilla juice to finish. Astounding.

sass n soda
sass n soda

I then snuck another bourbon on at the end just to sooth things down. The Flame had a coffee with chocolates. Needless to say another winner.

The chocolate end
The chocolate end

The food part of the scheme was presented as a gift and cost £170. The drinking part was funded ourselves and added a further £105 to the bill. All in all we are talking the thick end of £300 for two at The French. Whilst not necessarily a once in a lifetime event it is nonetheless a ‘special occasion’ one for us. If you’ve not eaten like this it is an unforgettable experience and one that I urge all to try at least once.

Any ideas when L’Enclume next has some tables free?

 

The French
Midland Hotel
Peter Street,
Manchester M60 2DS

+44 (0)161 236 3333

http://www.the-French.co.uk

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